• Road to Rio: Empowerment, accountability and the rule of law | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

    07 May 2012

    4 students of the University of Juba, South Sudan
    In South Sudan, UNDP is supporting legal education and research to lay a strong foundation for a united, peaceful and prosperous society. Photo: UNDP

    Sustainable development is about ever-widening inclusiveness and transformation of impoverished people into empowered and informed citizens.  It is about governments being held accountable for the decisions they make.

    The three strands of sustainable development must go hand in hand along with civil and political rights.

    From our perspective, sustainable development must entail human development and democratic governance. 

    Why is it so crucial?  Because it is the poorest in the world who will bear the brunt of unsustainable practices, as their livelihoods and welfare are most closely linked to natural resources.

    Sustainable development boils down to the fundamental question of whether people have the opportunities to know their rights, claim their rights, voice their concerns and influence their future, and whether decision makers can be held accountable for policies that impact communities, their environments and livelihoods.

    ‘Triple win’ development policies can regenerate the global commons by integrating social development with economic growth and environmental sustainability.  Governance is the glue that binds together the three strands in policy and practice.

    Law and regulatory reforms should serve as a means to resetting the balance between economic efficiency, social fairness and environmental sustainability. This requires that legal and regulatory frameworks be assessed from a sustainability and pro-poor perspective.

    Laws and regulations have limited relevance, if institutions -- whether formal or informal -- at the national and local levels do not have the capacity to implement the law.  People must be made legally aware, be legally empowered and have effective access to the processes and remedies essential for the recognition of their rights and entitlements.

    Rio +20 offers an unprecedented opportunity to recognize the importance of the rule of law dimensions of sustainable human development. Inclusive green growth with people’s voice, accountability and the rule of law is essential to the future we want.

    Let us know your thoughts: How can we strengthen the rule of law and legal empowerment for sustainable development?