Statement delivered by UNDP Resident Representative, Matthew Kahane during the inaugural ceremony of the Conference on Justice System and the Constitution

08 Sep 2007

Statement delivered by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Matthew Kahane on the Conference of the Justice System and the Constitution
8 September, 2007

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to welcome you all to this important event that UNDP is organizing in collaboration with the International Commission of Jurists, and the Nepal Bar Association who is working with the Canadian Bar Association, with financial assistance of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

As you may know, this is a fourth of a series of five national conferences organized by UNDP as part of our support to various partners who play key roles in Nepal’s constitution making process. The first conference held in March this year focused on the process ofconstitution making, and the others have taken the most important substantive issues that will need to be dealt with in a new Constitution of Nepal, such as restructuring of the state and federalism, diversity, human rights and social justice. The final one which is expected to be held next month will be on the system of government, with an emphasis on strengthening the institutions of democracy. The objective of this conference series is to assist in the stated objective of the Interim Constitution – that the people of Nepal should make their own constitution through the Constituent Assembly.

Therefore for these conferences, we have specifically adopted an approach of trying to involve a wide range of members of Nepali society, and to stimulate discussions on the technical issues involved in drafting a new constitution from various points of views. Perhaps, this conference which is starting today is the most narrowly conceived as it involves a limited topic and most of the participants are lawyers or people with involvement with the law. However, the topic of this conference – Justice System – is especially important because of the absolutely crucial role of the courts in upholding a new constitution.

Some issues of special importance which will be discussed in the course of the conference are: the independence of the judiciary; the accountability of the judiciary; access to justice; and a system of prosecutions that is independent and effective. The focus will be of course what a constitution can and should do to achieve these.

Just as in the other conferences of this series, we have asked many Nepali experts to set the scene and share their views and opinions throughout the conference. In addition, I am pleased to share with you that we are fortunate to have two very distinguished resource persons from overseas here with us – Professor Peter Russell from Canada, and Dr. Rajeev Dhavan from India. I am certain that their contributions will further enrich the discussions for the next three days.

Finally I would like to touch upon UNDP’s old acquaintance with the Judiciary of  Nepal—

It’s now been more than five years that UNDP Nepal has been working in the realm of the legal and judicial sector reforms—in the year 2000/2001 when the Rule of Law Programme jointly with the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and the Reform of the Judiciary Programme jointly with the Supreme Court were launched. These projects aimed at supporting Nepal Government's strategy by addressing some key issues related to rule of law and judiciary, to enhance access to and improve the quality of justice for all citizens, particularly women and members of disadvantaged groups. I am proud to say that the impact of the court cases mediation programme led by the UNDP/Access to Justice Programme is now well known among the relevant stakeholders.The Programme conducted Media Campaigns, Settlement Fairs and Mediation Fairs to raise civic consciousness for reducing the number of backlog cases in courts. And, the Supreme Court has demonstrated ‘judicial activism’ in the adoption of legal provisions for the ‘court referred mediation’ in Nepal.

In our experience, the Nepalese Judiciary is determined to go for necessary changes and improvements to meet the people’s expectations and has been proactively working in that direction.

I would like to assure you all that support in legal and justice sector remains high in our agenda and I look very much forward working with you in the future.

Lastly, on behalf of my UNDP colleagues I would like to express my gratitude for the strong support that has been received from the judiciary and from the profession. Without such support and commitment, this event would not have been possible.

Thank-you.