Getting Transition Right - The Role of Law and Policy

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Nov 03, 2013
by Louise Hallman
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Getting Transition Right - The Role of Law and Policy

Rule of law is vital - but so is policy Marwa Sharafeldin lists many of the different aspects of Islamic family law

The Role of Law...

Friday’s discussions touched on the need for a culture of respect for human rights and of trust in the rule of law in order to protect and embrace diversity in the transitional MENA region. But the question today was: what law?

International human rights conventions have been signed in most states, but this doesn’t guarantee their implementation.

The newly drafted constitutions still show a preference for the implementation of Islamic Law, but how can this ensure diversity and inclusivity are embedded in society if Islamic Law is so often (rightly or wrongly) considered to be in conflict with human rights law?

“If Islamic law is to be used as a source of law, then it must be subject to demands of the revolution: bread, dignity, social justice for all,” insisted one Fellow.

Free and open public discourse surrounding the application of both Sharia and Fiqh must be allowed and encouraged if it is going to form the basis of governments’ interactions with their citizens.  Greater "intellectual bravery" is needed, stated another Fellow.

Regardless of whether a person is a Muslim or a non-Muslim subject to Islamic Law, everyone should realize that they have the agency to discuss the application of Islamic Law.

“If you can’t handle Islamic law to be debated, then take it out of the public sphere."

...And the Role of Policy

Policy formation involves much more than just passing laws, Fellows heard today.

Policy is the plan to achieve an end goal, be that greater freedom of speech, better public health, or ending female genital mutilation. This plan then uses all available tools; one of these tools is enacting legislation, but it is by no means the only one.

Given officials’ reluctance to truly engage with their citizens (see adjacent story on Libya), civil society have a great role to play in driving policies that address not just political and civil rights but also economic, social and cultural rights.

But capacity building is needed to help these burgeoning groups identify and utilize all available tools, from surveying public opinion, writing policy briefs and engaging with media as well as politicians.