Because the shadow of the law plays a part in most disputes, the ability to access law is essential for negotiators and (some) dispute resolution practitioners. Otherwise, the legal merits of a dispute cannot be assessed as one of the measures by which parties decide whether or not to resolve their matter in a particular way.
In Australia, AustLII provides an open access platform from which anyone can access legislation (both Acts of Parliament and subordinate legislation), case law from all jurisdictions (including many tribunals), and a plethora of secondary materials such as journal articles. There are alternative reporting services that many researchers who are affiliated with a university can access via a paid subscription service.
In the small states of the Pacific, the Pacific Islands Legal Information institute
(PacLII) provides the equivalent open access database of legal materials. There are no comparable or comprehensive subscription services. If PacLII was diminished, there would be dire consequences for academics, legal and dispute resolution practitioners, and people who want to research the law in Pacific Island jurisdictions.
At the Australasian Law Teachers’ Association Conference in July in Wellington, New Zealand, University of the South Pacific (USP) lecturer and new Director of PacLII Anita Jowitt spoke to conference delegates at the closing session. Anita alerted us to the fact that from 1 July 2016 PacLII’s funding is no longer assured. Whilst USP is continuing to support PacLII, options for the future sustainability of PacLII need to be explored quickly, and sustainability strategies implemented. Anita noted that the Pacific Islands are in many senses a frontier of law, and support for PacLII also includes becoming part of the community of people who research and publish on Pacific law.
What to do
This post is intended to raise awareness of the problem. Readers are encouraged to consider how they can contribute to providing support for PacLII. Options might include:
- Making a financial contribution or starting fundraising to contribute to PacLII;
- Joining new research networks that PacLII is launching (the Pacific Constitutions Research Network paclii.org/pcn/index.html is now open);
- Contacting Anita and exploring other options such as tasking or sponsoring students with some of the work required to maintain PacLII (through internships etc).
Anita made it clear in her presentation that she wants to take a problem solving approach to the situation. She is open to ideas.
Anita can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org