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A Law and Development Innovation Lab

NML was established in 2010 to house a systems approach and set of research tools for leveraging law and regulation as a tool for sustainable and inclusive economic development. It is the only organization of its kind: a law and development innovation lab dedicated to generating and disseminating data-driven research, tools, and approaches focused on equitable and inclusive economic law and regulation. NML’s systems approach focuses on areas of law that are critical to economic development but are also heavily regulated – including trade, agricultural markets, services, standards, and the digital economy – and which also have significant implications for social development and human rights. NML’s systems approach and research toolkit have been developed over fifteen years of programs and projects, and the organization has become known as an independent center for comparative economic legal expertise.

NML’s methodology is grounded in practical realities, making high-level law and policy more attuned to real opportunities and challenges and bridging the gap between the law on the books and its application in practice. Internationally, NML’s research incorporates a range of international legal instruments and institutions, as well as soft law like the SDGs. At the national level, NML uses empirical methods and stakeholder engagement to assess how rules are designed and implemented in order to improve livelihoods and economic rights across sectors.

Systems Approach to Law and Regulation Designed to Leverage Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Development

NML has successfully applied its model across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, with increasing work in Latin America, building unique comparative experience in economic law and regulation. NML’s institutional partners have included USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CGIAR Centers, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and think tanks and corporate foundations. By virtue of its own network and the reach of its partners, NML’s research and fieldwork contribute to more inclusive and sustainable law and regulation, better implementation of economic laws, public-private engagement in rulemaking, improved rule of law, and enhanced legal capacity.

NML is also upending traditional models for law and development through a globally diverse and entrepreneurial team, many of whom are young lawyers from around the world with a different vision for the role law can play in economic development. NML was founded by Professor Katrin Kuhlmann, a lawyer and law professor whose career in international law has been focused on forging a path that link law and economic and social development. After working as an international lawyer in private practice, a trade negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, and a senior non-profit leader, she focused on addressing the fundamental disconnect between high-level economic agreements and on-ground development needs, founding NML to bridge this gap and help other lawyers contribute to using law as a tool for development. Alongside NML, she has developed a unique in-class and field-based curriculum on law and development, which she has taught at Georgetown University Law Center, where she is currently a Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School, and other universities. She is joined at NML by a network of lawyers from around the world, with current and past experts from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, the European Union, the Gambia, Ghana, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Ukraine, and the United States.