Sierra Leone hosts inaugural commercial law summit

27 March 2017

Organised by the UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network (UKSLPBN) and the Sierra Leone government with support from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Standard Chartered and ROLE UK, the Sierra Leone Commercial Law Summit 2017 brought together senior legal and judicial officials from Sierra Leone, UK and Ghana to address gaps in commercial law and the justice system in order to formulate practical reform proposals to strengthen economic growth and sustainable development of Sierra Leone.

The summit invited delegates from the judiciary, local government, the diplomatic and development communities, the business sector (local and foreign), and the legal profession.   SL Chief Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm, Attorney General Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, High Commissioner to SL, Guy Warrington, judge in charge of the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Blair and Former UK Lord Chancellor and first Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer, delivered key speeches promoting the rule of law and judicial independence.

In addition to the speeches and networking opportunities, the event featured workshops on:

  1. Dealing with foreign investors
  2. Taking legal advice
  3. Public private partnerships
  4. Court process: sharing best practice
  5. Arbitration
  6. Corruption and anti-bribery
  7. Land tenure issues

Alongside the summit, several commercial law and justice sector events were hosted across Freetown, including: knowledge and skills sharing sessions between Sierra Leonean judges and their Ghanaian and UK counterparts who provided their services pro bono; clinics and resource development for local law libraries with support from two pro bono specialists from the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL); and a key follow up by David Mackie QC on his previous mission to Sierra Leone in 2015 that identified ways to improve the Fast Track Commercial Court.

ROLE facilitated this summit and the global, collaborative exchange by supporting eight pro bono UK and Ghanaian legal and judicial specialists to share best practice and strengthen cross-border relationships by leading workshops, delivering trainings and formulating recommendations for reform.

ROLE’s lesson learning and knowledge generation work from 2016 highlights sustainability and co-ordination as two core principles that must underlie rule of law technical assistance.  To build on these principles, ROLE additionally supported HSF and the UKSLPBN to design and deliver an ‘Implementation Day’ after the summit to help plan for the summit’s recommendations to be translated into meaningful and co-ordinated local action. Providing expertise in designing and facilitating such sessions is one of the practical ways in which ROLE is supporting and strengthening technical assistance work in addition to providing training on political economy analysis and monitoring and evaluation.  

“What we are seeking is a kind of virtuous circle that looks for the certainty and transparency that comes with a stronger Rule of Law, supported and respected by responsible business, helping to create the environment for the kind of sustainable growth that all countries need.”   

- Justice William Blair, Keynote address on Judicial Independence, Sierra Leone Commercial Law Summit, Freetown, 14 March 2017

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