Jordan Ryan: Speech at the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center, Qatar

Feb 12, 2012

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Attorney-General of Qatar, H. E. Dr. Ali Bin Fetais Al Marri, not only for his kindness in arranging what I hope will prove to be a most timely visit to Qatar, but especially for this wonderful opportunity and privilege to speak before such a distinguished audience at this new Anti-Corruption and Rule of Law Centre. 

This Center is a positive and tangible example of the partnership between Qatari and the United Nations. It demonstrates Qatar’s commitment to promoting national integrity and resilience through strengthening governance and the rule of law. The center provides an important venue for my organization, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with strong and consistent Qatari involvement, to engage in work across the region that is vital to build peace and prosperity for citizens and work to combat corruption and foster rule of law.

At the outset, and for those of you who might not know, as the UN can be pretty complicated, UNDP is the part of the United Nations that focuses on two simple concepts: “empowered lives” and “resilient nations”. We are led by the by the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ms. Helen Clark, and the Bureau for Arab States, is headed by the Assistant Secretary-General, Ms. Amat Alwoswa. I head the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR). We work in countries, and with partners, to bring a development perspective to nations and people who are confronting critical issues of peace, stability, as well as humanitarian and disaster crisis.

Qatar’s role

The world today is characterized by the rapid onset of turbulence much of which leads to fundamental transformation. Over the past two years, this region has experienced many of these changes. Yet, such transformation, especially when it is accompanied by violence, does not lead to progress on its own. It requires sustained leadership, involvement of citizens and long-term commitment. This is especially true in the Arab world, where accelerated social, economic, and political changes have upended the established certainties of a whole generation of leaders.

Qatar is among those nations stepping in to fill the gaps that have been created.  It is providing vital assistance for countries undergoing transition as they reform their governance. Qatari mediation has generated momentum and hope in Darfur and in Yemen, and in many other situations of deadlock or conflict. In a region where the violent resolution of disputes has been all too common, Qatar’s far-sighted leadership has provided the space for negotiated solutions to conflict, and for the rule of law to begin to take hold. Qatar’s consistent advocacy of basic freedoms, and especially the freedom of expression, has been exemplary in a region that has often seen otherwise. Finally, Qatar’s growing advocacy for helping societies improve their capacity to adapt in the face of climate change contrasts with the tepid support from other sources.

Qatar-UNDP Collaboration

The primary areas of Qatari interest and engagement in promoting a peaceful and sustainable world also form a part of the core work of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). From our own work, we have learnt many lessons and developed many better practices. It is encouraging to learn that Qatar’s diplomats and experts have been doing the same.

As we begin what I hope will be a substantive partnership aimed at ensuring safer, freer and more empowered lives for the citizens of Arab states as well as the wider world, an important first step will be to examine these lessons and  practices and to share experiences and ideas that can help us as we proceed.

After more than twenty years of my involvement as a development practitioner, I have learned that real progress is made when countries, institutions, and people learn to cooperate as true partners. This means that they focus on the issue and its solution, rather than being concerned primarily about flag waving or positioning or advancing personal egos. That is why I am so hopeful for a strong Qatari-UNDP partnership—because of the concern to bring solutions to issues that have for far too long been seen as intractable.

I want  to highlight three specific areas:

The first is to assist countries undergoing transition to reform their governance institutions. Perhaps no other set of institutions impacts so significantly on the daily lives of the population  as the judiciary and the police. Reforming them, however, is always  complex and often highly divisive.  In the United Nations we believe that if the seeds of rule of law and accountability take root and are nurtured well then – just as with the Qatari Sidra tree - citizens should be able to gather under their shade in peace and stability. The establishment of the rule of law and equal access to justice is essential for a flourishing society and engaged citizenry.  They are also essential for  economic growth and  stability.

The second area is to ensure the peaceful prevention, resolution and management of conflict. In our view, the key priority here is to assist our partners to identify and implement their own solutions to violence, tensions, or deadlock. This is especially critical given that ongoing transitions in this region have generated as many conflicts as they have resolved.

The third area is to assist developing nations, especially those  prone to natural disasters such as Nepal or Bangladesh, to build the capacities and resilience that would help them better adapt to climate change.  For many countries, adapting to and recovering from natural disasters has become one of the foremost challenges.   Without that capacity, development, peace and stability are undermined.  

There are multiple challenges.   Climate variability and climate change are putting water, environment, agriculture, health, and food security under stress in many regions of the world.  Just as important, the impacts of  climate change are now evident  through the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events.  These are not just hypothetical matters.   Many of the on-going conflicts and crises across several countries, especially in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region, can increasingly be linked to climate change.

Let me say a bit more in each of these areas, highlighting some of the challenges and the better  practices for their resolution.  These remarks will offer  some starting points for further collaboration.

Rule of law:

In the course of the Arab Spring, the roles of the key institutions of governance—the judiciary, the police and  security services, and parliaments—have been the subject of heated public debate, many demonstrations and clashes, intense  criticism for their inability to represent and serve all citizens equally.  The outcome has been that a number of  good practices have been seen to emerge.

Qatar itself has led the way in this area, and its example offers much that the region could learn from. In addition, the Palestinian National Authority has committed itself to deliver efficient, responsive and accountable justice and security services, as it prepares itself and its people for statehood. UNDP has directly  supported the Palestinian National Authority to build an effective and responsive justice system.  Specifically,  we have supported the Ministry for Justice, the High Judicial Council, the Attorney General’s Office, the Palestinian Civil Police, the newly-established Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Corruption Crimes Court as they build their capacities in order to deliver high quality services to the Palestinian people.

Needless to say, we have had to be more creative in Gaza.  In this sensitive political environment, UNDP works with Palestinian civil society groups, universities and the Bar to empower the  people of Gaza through access to justice and the law.  Legal aid and assistance was provided to 4,000 Palestinian men and women in 2011, and four legal libraries were established in diverse locations across Gaza.

In UNDP we believe  that this type of work is critical in unstable and under-resourced environments.  It is not simply a question of equipping governments to write better laws - although this is  important - but we need  to support a whole range of institutions and groups – from Ministries, through to the lawyers, judges, prosecutors, police, corrections services, human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and community groups – so that they provide public services  competently, equitably and legitimately.

I am also pleased to say we work closely with the Islamic Development Bank in helping to create jobs both in Gaza and across the West Bank for people whose lives have been shattered by conflict. It is wonderful to see women and men, and even young children whose lives have improved by their hard work, with help that is focused, supportive and timely. And so too, work to advance the MDGs, especially in relation to the Horn of African and the Sahel, is so timely now. UNDP and OCHA are bringing together an unprecedented joint effort on these issues. We hope Qatar as a visionary State can find a way to become even more innovative in the future to assist both the humanitarian and development sides of the UN become collectively even more effective where it matters- on the ground.

It is especially critical to transform power structures that have arisen during armed conflict. “War lords” who retain their influence through criminal networks, and militias or armed groups can transform into criminal gangs once the conflict is over. In South Sudan for instance, the power of traditional leaders to solve disputes peacefully has been challenged by armed criminal gangs whose existence and loyalties date back to the wars with Sudan.  This has resulted in large-scale killings and  destabilization.  Similarly, the availability of weapons from the Libyan conflict is creating havoc in  northern Mali and the rest of the Sahel. It is therefore essential to accompany weapons control measures with support to police services, local governments and communitie,s so that they can  ensure the safety of their members. 

And by “equip” I am not just  referring to hardware like courts buildings, civil servant’s offices, or uniforms– each  of which is   essential - but also to the human “equipment” and capacities. Government staff and community leaders need the education, strategic support and guidance to enable them to function effectively.  Prevention of armed violence requires realistic social and economic incentives to ensure that young people have alternatives to armed gangs.

When communities are stabilized and protected from armed violence through the legitimate authority of the state, people begin to gain confidence in re-establishing peaceful social and economic activity.  When justice and police services have the commitment and capacity to properly fulfill their responsibilities in a way that reinforces the rule of law, then citizens and communities will gain the  confidence and trust in  these services to  resolve, rather than cause, problems. 

These processes should create virtuous circles, which gradually bring about peace and stability.   Given the complexity and depth of these tasks, strong national, judicial and security institutions that underpin a healthy and stable democracy are not built overnight. For instance, in the aftermath of independence, Timor Leste rebuilt its justice sector from the ground up – but it has taken over 10 years.  In the aftermath of the 1999 referendum much of the country’s infrastructure was razed and there existed an almost complete human resource vacuum.

Through the determination of the national government and citizens, and with the support of UNDP, the first Timorese judges, prosecutors and public defenders were sworn in in 2007. The criminal code was comprehensively revised and updated. A Legal Training Centre was established and courts, prisons, an independent prosecution service and a public defender’s office were created. Today, Timor-Leste continues to expand and professionalize the justice system with mobile courts, and increasing numbers of judges and lawyers. In doing so, Timor-Leste continues to further cement the social contract between its Government and its people and lessen the chances of insecurity and violent conflict.

Transforming, reforming or rebuilding justice and policing services is a long term effort. The recent World Development Report noted that “it takes a generation”. This is why we believe efforts should start earlier, rather than later. UNDP’s support in other conflict settings, from Somalia, to Eastern DRC, to Colombia highlights again the fact that accountable, competent and legitimate national institutions that are capable of delivering justice and security – without discrimination – are the critical foundations for the rule of law, peace and stability.

The people of the Arab region are voicing this demand for good governance, and I believe that, given our joint experiences, the potential for collaboration between the state of Qatar and UNDP in addressing these demands, and in other crisis and conflict-affected countries around the world, is indeed very strong.  

Conflict prevention and mediation

Violent conflict today is increasingly different from what we have been used to dealing with:

First, it happens at many levels of a society. As the situation in Libya and Yemen shows, it is not enough to get an agreement among members of a small group at the national level, important as those  agreements might be.  Conflicts among clans, tribes, and those whose religious affiliations differ will continue, often at the local level.

Second,  in societies undergoing rapid transition, violent conflict or prolonged deadlock may become a recurrent phenomenon, especially as the transition continues and generates new issues and tensions. This is already evident in Egypt, a country that faces the daunting challenge of a fractious new parliament negotiating with an internally divided military council and liberal leaders of street protest groups to develop a new system of national governance.  Yet, few of the actors have tools other than mass mobilization or repression at their disposal.  Sectarian schisms already plague Libya and Syria, and all parties in Bahrain and Yemen are hampered by the incapacity  to engage in sustained dialogue or constructive negotiation.

Many conflicts and deadlocks are occurring at levels that are often  inaccessible to external mediation. Most countries are also unlikely to invite such mediation. Sadly, many of these countries are  missing  knowledge of “process.” For most of them,  processes such as consultation, multi-stakeholder dialogue, and non-partisan consensus are novelties. Members of Egypt’s new parliament, many of whom are educated lawyers and professionals, can “google” the six best constitutional models available.  However, they regularly lack  proficiency  in reconciling the different viewpoints on this subject, and bringing about a consensus on an appropriate  fit for Egypt. As they are unlikely to ask for external mediation, support has to be provided from within.

So how do we provide this support?

In addition to technical assistance, on-going transitions in the Arab States region will require the support of “process specialists,” or individuals or institutions that are not seen as representing outside intervention. They need to be  available to gently accompany and guide the different processes of reform from within, and to ensure that deadlocks are resolved through consensus and constructive negotiation.

For example, two such specialists, both from the region and Arabic speakers, were deployed for Tunisia with UNDP support and helped moved the national dialogue  forward in 2011. The “Common Space” Initiative in Lebanon provides such support on demand, including through a web-based platform.

In our view, trained process specialists or “insider mediators,” preferably from the country itself but perhaps  from within the region, can  facilitate the confidence-building, dialogue, and conflict resolution that are critical for  stable transitions. UNDP, working discreetly and within the parameters of national ownership, has successfully assisted credible individuals and institutions to play such roles in over twenty countries over the past decade. The  results have been highly encouraging and have ranged from peaceful elections to the resolution of specific deadlocks and violent conflicts.

I believe that Qatar and UNDP can and should engage in a systematic dialogue over the best means to assist our national partners to acquire their own capacities for mediation and conflict management. Together we could help bring “insider mediators” and “process specialists” from around the region, and from other areas of the world, to explore how such capacities can be built and applied, especially in the Arab states region. And given the increasingly important role Qatar is taking around the world, I would very much look forward to see Qatar host and lead such a dialogue.

On disaster risk reduction

Finally, let me spend a few minutes on the question of natural disasters and climate change. I should like to applaud the fact that Qatar’s own National Development Strategy (2011-2016) mandates “aligning economic growth with social development and environmental management”. The main outcome under the Environmental Development pillar of the Qatar National Vision is to achieve “a balance between development needs and protecting the environment”. This is being sought through “a proactive and significant international role in assessing the impact of climate change and mitigating its negative impacts.”

The path of promoting carbon neutral development while protecting natural resources and ensuring equitable development  included in the Qatar National Vision and the National Development Strategy is truly  significant and visionary. The fact that Qatar is party to the international conventions pertaining to biodiversity, climate change, Kyoto Protocol, desertification, endangered species, hazardous wastes, laws of the sea, ozone layer protection, ship pollution, and several other conventions  shows that issues of risk reduction and mitigation, and especially the impacts associated with climate variability and change, are considered as fundamental to  national development and the country’s international responsibilities.   

UNDP shares these commitments,  and has been working to address the risks and impacts of climate change through climate risk assessments, strengthening climate data and information and its analysis, devising strategies for mitigating the impacts on socio-economic and development sectors of national life, and creating the institutional and human capacities for climate risk management. 

We would be especially interested in exploring with Qatar the possibilities of promoting South-South cooperation in promoting greater resilience to the impact of climate variability and change.

Qatar is well-positioned to play a leading role in promoting this form of cooperation, particularly with countries it has strong economic and cultural links. Among the key contributors to the Qatari economy are the expatriates from South and South-East Asia. Countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Philippines rank among the most vulnerable to natural hazards, and are projected to be disproportionately affected by climate variability and change. Some of the adverse impacts are already visible with increasing  intensity of  floods, droughts, and cyclones.  Qatar would have much to offer if it were to take a more pro-active role in supporting the communities in these countries to adapt better to protect their lives, livelihoods and environment and to withstand and recover from their impacts.

UNDP is known as the part of the United Nations that is there for the long haul; development takes time. We want to continue that long-term  process of  working with the people, communities and governments in both vulnerable countries and the poorest  to help them address their development challenges.  We would be particularly gratified if we could join  with the Government of Qatar to support them more constructively.


Let me finish by congratulating the Qatar leadership and government on successfully winning the bid to host the 2022 Football World Cup. It is indeed a singular honor for the Government of Qatar and well-deserved recognition of its  constructive international contribution to  peace and development. I recall some of the words spoken by His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a man of few words but inherent dynamism, on the occasion of winning the bid. He said: “Thank you for believing in change…”

And in yesterday’s paper, I note that HE Sheikha Moza has launched the 2020 bid for the Olympics, with the slogan, “Inspiring Change”, which is a wonderful reflection of Qatar’s vision.

We, too, believe in the power of change.  In UNDP, and especially in the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), we strive for positive, sustainable change in the lives of the people and communities with which we work. Like the Government of Qatar, we are committed to supporting the institutions that promote peace and stability for it is only through peace and stability that sustained human development can become the reality that we all seek. 

Now is the time for both Qatar and UNDP to do so much more to inspire change, cooperate for change and indeed work together to make change happen for the better of all.

Today, with the committed, innovative and visionary Qatari government and people, as so ably represented by yourself Mr. Attorney General, and your colleagues, with you as trusted partners, we in UNDP, from the Arab States Bureau to the Crisis Bureau to the Administrator herself, are excited to take on the challenges of today and tomorrow and move together on that exciting road forward.  

Thank you.

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