Past Development Projects

Sydney Law School has been involved for many years in research and teaching related to law and development. Over the past five years, funding from programs such as AusAID’s Australian Leadership Award Fellowships (ALAF), now called the Australia Awards Fellowships (AAF), has allowed Sydney Law School to increase the delivery of training and capacity building programs to visitors who can achieve change in their own countries.

The ALAF/AAFs are part of AusAID’s Development Awards program providing short-term professional development for senior and mid-range government officials in developing countries. They aim to provide enhanced leadership, knowledge and training skills, and are an important part of the Australian Government’s efforts to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.

The Faculty remains strongly committed to the field of law and international development through research projects, postgraduate programs and participation in aid-funded research and executive training programs, such as AusAID’s ALAF/AAFs.

The following are brief descriptions of AusAID funded programs conducted by Sydney Law School since 2008.


Cambodia: Capacity Building in Commercial Law for Cambodian Legal and Judicial Practitioners

The Royal Government of Cambodia had announced its intention to establish a Commercial Court in Cambodia to enhance the quality and effectiveness of judicial services in the commercial field. Part of this strategy included the establishment of a commercial chamber within each court of first instance, with jurisdiction to resolve commercial disputes. However, commercial matters had not yet been appropriately integrated into the curriculum of the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions which was established in 2005 to provide the training of legal and judicial practitioners.

This six week Australia Awards Fellowship, funded by the Australian Government through AusAID, the Sydney Law School provided specialised training to 15 Cambodian judges and prosecutors chosen by the Royal Academy of Judicial Professions who were involved in commercial law matters in Cambodia. The training covered aspects of contract law and private law in international commerce, commercial finance law, investment law and commercial arbitration, and international business law and cross-border litigation. Part of the Fellowship was designed to train the participants to be able to train others in the subject matter. The course was conducted by leading Australian academics which also included interaction with relevant institutions such as the Federal Court of Australia and the Judicial Commission of NSW.

Myanmar: Improving Capacity in International Tax

As Myanmar experiences unprecedented economic and social change as a result of economic liberalisation and democratic reform, the country is seeing a significant increase in the level of foreign investment across all sectors, particularly in the area of natural resources. Increased tax revenues resulting from such foreign investment are essential in bringing about a lift in living standards. The Fellowship was designed to contribute to economic growth in Myanmar by improving the capacity of the Internal Revenue Department to protect Myanmar’s tax base from international tax minimisation practices.

The Australia Awards Fellowship, funded by the Australian Government through AusAID, promoted a clear understanding of how multinational enterprises had structured their global operations and the drivers in those structures, and provided exposure to global best practice in international tax enforcement and tax treaty negotiation. Training covered principles in international taxation, tax treaties, transfer pricing, tax planning and tax enforcement was conducted by leading Australian academics and experts in the area of international tax.

This was one of the first international tax programs that Myanmar tax officials had undertaken outside of Myanmar and to show there important contribution to capacity building in the tax administration.


Myanmar Constitutional Reform Project

Formed in June 2013, the Myanmar Constitutional Reform Project sought to ensure Myanmar had the benefit of the highest quality advice as it weighed up constitutional options. It evolved from the inaugural Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Workshop, Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Workshop, organized by a team of scholars led by Professor Wojciech Sadurski, held in Yangon from 8–10 May 2013, and was driven by the team of academics and practitioners responsible for that initiative. The workshop brought together for the first time all major political parties, military officials and representatives from the judiciary, academia and civil society to discuss and debate the Myanmar’s constitutional reform agenda. The talks culminated in a cross-party agreement to introduce significant changes to the current constitution.

The Myanmar Constitutional Reform Project was an international collaboration among five universities: The University of Sydney, The Australian National University, National University of Singapore, The University of New South Wales, and University of Victoria.

Members of the project included: Janelle Saffin, Patron; Professor Wojciech Sadurski, Director; Catherine Renshaw, Deputy Director; Associate Professor Simon Butt; Professor Adam Czarnota; Dr Melissa Crouch; Professor Martin Krygier; Phillip Smyth; Daniel Rowland; Eugene Quah; Professor Veronica Taylor; and Professor Jeremy Webber.

Mongolia: Improving Capacity in International Tax Enforcement

Mongolia has seen an extraordinary increase in the level of foreign investment in recent years as a result of rising global integration. This has highlighted, firstly, the vulnerability of some of its tax treaties to treaty shopping and their inadequacy in ensuring that Mongolia receives a fair share of the tax revenue arising from foreign investment; and secondly, the need for improved capacity in the tax administration to enforce Mongolia’s tax laws in relation to international transactions. The Fellowship is directed at contributing to economic growth in Mongolia by, firstly, improving the capacity of the Ministry of Finance to negotiate tax treaties that have stronger source country taxing rights and limit exposure to treaty shopping; and secondly, the revenue authority to protect the Mongolian tax base from international tax minimisation practices.

The Australia Awards Fellowship, funded by the Australian Government through AusAID, brings together academic, and public and private experts in the area of international tax, particularly in the application of tax treaties, transfer pricing, tax administration and knowledge transfer. The training and knowledge gained by the officials from the Fellowship will help the Government of Mongolia put into place enforcement practices that not only better protect the Mongolian international tax base, but also ensure that the practices adopted are consistent with international norms and do not unnecessarily impede investment in Mongolia, thereby facilitating economic growth.


Prosecution capacity building in West Africa (Institute of Criminology)

This program was designed to improve capacity and strengthen general and specialist prosecution skills among mid-level prosecutors in West Africa. The Fellows were from the West African countries of Ghana, Cameron, The Gambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The three week program included a training course delivered by experts addressing foundational skills (including prosecutor guidelines and disclosure), national issues (including corruption) and transnational issues (including mutual legal assistance). Fellows also gained practical experience from work placements, with two short professional attachments at relevant Australian agencies. The program assisted Fellows in long-term liaising and networking on a regional basis.

The program also focused on leadership in “training the trainer” to improve capacity and effectiveness in the public sector by building human resources critical to Africa’s longer term development. Fellows led discussions and gave presentations on key issues regarding prosecution and developed a work plan to implement upon their return to West Africa, including sharing knowledge learned within their organisations through structured or informal training, mentoring and leadership.

Following completion of the program, the Institute of Criminology committed to an ongoing mentorship scheme to support the Fellows in accessing further opportunities for development and in establishing long term linkages.

Legislative drafting capacity building in Africa (Emeritus Professor Peter Butt)

In many African countries a shortage in legal drafting skills has been a major constraint on the implementation of development policies. Underpinning the reform necessary to aid countries in achieving economic and social stability and in meeting their Millennium Development Goals is good governance. One foundation of good governance is well-drafted legislation with clear and effective rule-based regulatory systems.

This program, designed for Fellows from Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and Cameroon, involved theoretical and practical training in best practice legislative drafting techniques. Leveraging the training, the Fellows undertook a professional attachment with an Australian Parliamentary Counsel Office and completed a research project. Training in effective leadership was designed to strengthen the program’s sustainability, assisting Fellows to transfer knowledge and drive change.

Vietnam: Improving capacity in international tax enforcement

The program was designed to improve the capacity of Vietnam’s revenue authority to enforce Vietnam’s tax laws in relation to international transactions and to strengthen capacity to counter international tax minimisation practices.

Under the program, academic expertise in the area of international tax was complemented by practical knowledge from leading practitioners from both the public and private sectors. The program promoted a clear understanding of international tax enforcement through short-term training, a research project of relevance to Vietnam’s international tax system, and professional development and interaction with Australian international tax experts.

Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI): Developing the New Tax System (Professor Lee Burns)

The Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) has been facing serious fiscal challenges with declining external grants, increased debt servicing, and potential loss of trade taxes. A recent report of the Pacific Islands Forum estimated that there could be a loss of 25 per cent of total tax revenue in RMI as a result of the impact of trade agreements.

In addition to these fiscal challenges, the tax system has been under pressure due to a number of serious weaknesses, including its inequities, inconsistency with international best practices, and limited administrative capacity. The adverse impact of these challenges on economic growth was obvious. The RMI authorities established the Tax and Revenue Reform and Modernization Commission (TRRMC) to review the tax system. The RMI Government accepted many of the recommendations of the TRRMC and commenced a tax reform agenda to improve economic growth in RMI. The program attended by Fellows from RMI aimed to support these reforms.


Balancing climate change laws and policies with the needs of forest communities in Indonesia (Professor Rosemary Lyster)

Professor Rosemary Lyster together with Dr Tim Stephens and Dr Simon Butt brought 4 Fellows from Indonesia for the following puropsoes: to attend the Human Rights Advocacy Course run by Ms Irene Baghoomians; to spend time as interns at the Environmental Defenders’ Office and at the Land and Environment Court; and to undertake further research skills training in the Law School. The program welcomed back to the Law School one of our PhD graduates, Dr Laode Syarif, who is now Chief of Cluster for Security and Justice at the NGO Kemitraan – The Partnership for Governance Reform. Dr Laode’s work includes corruption eradication and environmental law enforcement, part of which was supervised by Emeritus Professor Ben Boer.

Legislative Drafting Capacity Building in East Africa

The program addressed the shortage in legal drafting skills in Rwanda and Uganda. This has been a major constraint in many African countries for the implementation of development policies. The implementation of clear and effective rule-based regulatory systems is essential in achieving development goals in key priority areas for the ALA Fellowships, such as food security, health, human rights, natural resource extraction, gender equality, and trade and financial systems.

The program provided a clear understanding of the development and implementation of legislative drafting through short term training, a research project on an issue relevant to the Fellow’s country and a professional attachment with Parliamentary Counsel Offices around Australia.

Regulation and Management of Extractive Resources (Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Africa)

Delivered jointly with the Graduate School of Government, the objectives of this ALAF program were to strengthen public sector mining institutions and contribute to the sustainable development of the sector, to examine the design, implementation and evaluation of policy by government as regulator, service provider and law maker in extractive industries, and to strengthen the regulation and management and tax instruments of the sector resulting in a contribution to economic growth in the countries concerned.

The program achieved these objectives through a series of learning activities including tailored modules in the following: public policy, delivering public value, public sector leadership, strategic management, mining tax law, management of mining revenues, mining contracts, issues management, infrastructure planning and development, funding infrastructure, and disputed territories and sustainable development in extractive industries.

Mining Course 4 – Sustainable Management of Revenue Flows

In partnership with the Graduate School of Government, Sydney Law School delivered this AusAID funded Australia Africa Awards program to two cohorts of Fellows from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Togo, Gabon, Mozambique and Liberia from government and one from civil society.

The programmes ran for six weeks and covered topics including the following: public policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, transparent management and reporting of revenue flows, development and implementation of financial policies and tax instruments, EITI, future sharing, mining tax law, occupation health and safety, infrastructure development and fiscal benefits, contract negotiation, project management, global oil and gas contracts, issues management, sustainable development in EI, environmental impact studies and audits, public sector leadership and corporate social responsibility. It included site visits and briefings from relevant government and non-government agencies in Western Australia and New South Wales.


Extractive Resources: Regulation and Management; Extractive Resources: Sustainable Management of Revenue Flows.

Delivered jointly with the Graduate School of Government, these two AusAID funded programmes to 20 fellows from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Mali ran for two months and covered subjects including the following: global oil and gas contracts and issues, public policy, mining tax law, issues management, project management, public sector leadership, and environmental impacts and audits. It also included site visits and briefings from relevant government and non-government agencies in Western Australia and New South Wales.

Tax Administration Capacity Building in Samoa (Professor Lee Burns)

The Tax Administration Capacity Building Fellowship Program transfered key skills and knowledge in international tax, tax enforcement and tax information exchange to a senior tax official from the Inland Revenue Services Department, Samoa, for the purposes of assisting the Government of Samoa to develop a better understanding of international tax rules in the context of the global economy, to design improved enforcement practices and to implement transparent tax practices. Through strengthening public sector capacity in this area, the program increased the skills of the Inland Revenue Services Department to develop and implement more effective international tax enforcement policies and to undertake meaningful exchange of tax information with key trading partners, such as Australia.


Tax Administration Capacity Building in Vanuatu (Professor Lee Burns)

The Tax Administration Capacity Building Fellowship Program transferred key skills and knowledge in tax enforcement, transparent tax practices and development of tax instruments and policy to a senior tax official from the Department of Customs and Inland Revenue, Vanuatu, for the purpose of assisting the Government to develop better enforcement practices, consider new sources of revenue, and implement transparent tax practises. Through strengthening public sector capacity in this area, the program increased the skills of the Vanuatu Department of Customs and Inland Revenue to develop and implement a more effective tax audit policy and to meet its obligations to the international community to engage in transparent tax practices. Further, the program increased the Government of Vanuatu’s ability to address issues of economic growth and financial management through developing new tax rules to ensure ongoing and expanded sources of Government revenue.


Strengthening Extractive Industry Governance in Eastern and Southern Africa

Delivered jointly with the Graduate School of Government this programme saw 5 Mining Commissioners (or their delegates) undertake a 3 month programme which assisted them to develop innovative ways to build a public sector capacity for increased fiscal and accounting transparency in the mining sector in their countries. The program covered issues management, public policy and mining taxation, and included site visits and briefings from relevant government and non-government agencies in Western Australia and New South Wales. The program covered related issues such as royalty and taxation resource regimes, public policy and production sharing, energy security, sustainability, workplace safety and mine closures.

Tax Administration Capacity Building Tonga (Professor Lee Burns)

Tonga has traditionally relied on trade taxes to support its revenue base. In recent years, Tonga signed the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations (PACER). Further, Tonga’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was approved in 2005 and was implemented in 2008. The signing of PICTA and PACER, and WTO membership resulted in a substantial reduction in trade tax revenue. In response to this, Tonga embarked on a major tax reform project to replace the expected reduction in trade tax revenues. The Fellowship developed capacity and provided knowledge transfer in key areas by delivering short term training and professional development to a senior tax administrator of the Revenue Services Department.