By Amy Flick
Our summers at Emory start with numerous requests to help faculty and their research assistants get started with large summer projects. I had a request from a professor in May to help her research assistant find legislation on the public health systems, and information on the ministries of public health, for several African countries: Ethiopia, Liberia, Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Nigeria.
I have fielded several requests for Nigerian law in the last few years – and I thank Yemisi Dina for her help with the first of these – and I included Nigeria as an option for students for the final project in my Foreign and Comparative Legal Research class. So I started with some sources for Nigerian legislation, including some found by my students that I didn’t know of before my class. Resources for the other countries in the faculty request were less familiar.
I started with making a list of resources to investigate:
- The Foreign Law Guide database, since it has subject headings including Health. It had citations for public health laws for all the countries on my list, but the only working legislative link was for Nigeria.
- Law Library of Congress Guide to Law Online, with links to Parliaments and Official Gazettes. This added sources to my list for Madagascar’s laws (on the National Assembly website, in French) and to Mozambique’s legislation listed by “sectores” (on the government portal, in Portuguese).
- GlobaLex Research Guides added sources for legislation to my list for Liberia and Ethiopia, as well as some ministries and government portals. I also checked Julienne Grant’s Research Guide on Global Health Law for more sources to try.
- Global Legal Monitor from the Law Library of Congress, to look for recent news under their Health topic. I did find a 2017 story about a 2017 Liberian bill, as well as the 2014 Nigerian National Health Law.
- Also on my list, but not helpful for this particular project: ILO NATLEX (includes laws on Occupational Safety and Health), FAOLEX (laws on Food and Nutrition), and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (which did have some articles on the Nigerian 2014 law).
- Google, which I used to fill in the health ministry websites that I hadn’t found through the Guide to Law Online or GlobaLex. Mozambique’s Ministry of Health turned out to be an additional source for their health laws and regulations.
But what you really want is the sources for those countries’ legislation for when you get similar requests. So, here’s my list:
- Ethiopian Legal Brief, “a blog about Ethiopian law.” Not an official site, but it has a collection of laws and codes archived from an older site. It’s all that I could find for Ethiopia – links I found for official sources no longer worked.
- Guinee Juristes Lois Organiques has an archived collection of Organic Laws, although nothing on public health. Guinean Codes are also available, as PDF documents in French, but the Code de la Santé had a heading without a document.
- Although it is not up-to-date, the Liberia Legal Information Institute has Liberian codes and laws, including the Public Health Law.
- Madagascar’s Assemblée Nationale has a nice collection of their laws in French, including their 2011 law adopting the Code de la Santé.
- Mozambique’s Portal do Governo has major legislation arranged by sector. It includes the Civil Code and a law on HIV.
- Mozambique’s Ministério da Saúde has laws and decrees on public health, as downloadable PDFs of the Boletim da República.
- Nigeria’s National Assembly has legislation, including the 2014 National Health Act.
- The Centre for Laws of the Federation of Nigeria has laws arranged alphabetically, plus laws of the 36 states.
- Another resource for Nigerian legislation is the Nigerian Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre.
As I have found with other projects dealing with the law of other countries, it took multiple portals and research guides to find the legislation I was looking for, as well as multiple websites compiling laws for some countries. I found a lot of dead links along the way, and many collections were not current. And for some countries, I could not find public health laws at all. Google Translate helped for navigating sites, but for reviewing the documents themselves, I needed a few phrases to look for in French and Portuguese. Final lessons: 1) do not expect foreign law to be readily available or easy to find, 2) do not expect foreign law to be readily available or easy to find in English, and 3) assign students projects that might come in handy for my own work on faculty requests!