Helen Clark: Opening Speech on the occasion of the Rule of Law and Post-2015 Global Dialogue

Sep 26, 2013

Opening Speech for Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UNDG, on the occasion of the Rule of Law and Post-2015 Global Dialogue

United Nations, New York

I welcome you all to this Global Dialogue on the Rule of Law and the post-2015 Development Agenda.  

I wish to express my appreciation to the speakers this morning and to the participants who have traveled far to engage in this important dialogue. I particularly thank Secretary José Antonio Meade Kuribreña of Mexico, Minister Christian Friis Bach of Denmark, Minister Me Sidiki Kaba of Senegal, and Minister Yilmaz of Turkey for joining us to co-host this meeting, and for their work to advance the understanding of the role of rule of law in development. 

It is a year since the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels. The Declaration from that meeting recognized that application of the rule of law is critical for reducing poverty, preventing conflict, building peace, and advancing sustainable development. It expressed the conviction of member states that this interrelationship should be considered in deliberations on the post-2015 international development agenda. 

Yesterday, at the UN Special Event on the MDGs - all member states agreed on an outcome document calling for “a single framework and set of goals which includes the promotion of peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.”

The emerging vision for rule of law post-2015 

This Global Dialogue takes place as member states, development practitioners, and concerned citizens around the world are considering what the future development agenda might look like. UNDP and the wider UN development system have been facilitating public consultations on post-2015. Through the internet and social media, and by convening global, regional, and national meetings, we have been able to bring a wide range of voices to the conversation.

From these voices, we have heard how highly people value “honest and responsive government”. The rule of law is fundamental to having such governance.

Earlier this year, the report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on the Post-2015  Development Agenda, “A New Global Partnership”, called for a “fundamental shift” in development thinking to ensure that “peace and good governance are core elements of well-being, and not an optional extra". 

This thinking is taken further in the UN Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly on MDG Progress and the Post-2015 Agenda, in which he calls for "transformative actions" to eradicate poverty and ensure sustainable development. The report lists peace and governance as part of the emerging vision for the next agenda, noting that they represent “outcomes as well as enablers of development". It notes that achieving this will require the action of all countries to "build peace and effective governance based on the rule of law and sound institutions."

In my comments today, I will reflect further on the role of the rule of law as an outcome of and an enabler of development. I will cite examples of UNDP’s work on the rule of law and how insights from that could inform the next global development agenda. I will conclude with key points for your consideration as you take forward this discussion over the next two days.

Rule of Law and Development  

UNDP works around the world to strengthen justice systems, support security sector reforms, enable legal empowerment of the poor, and strengthen good governance based on the rule of law. We promote access to justice, support communities to improve citizen security, confront discrimination and inequality, and work to reduce poverty. 

Wherever they exist, conflict, armed violence, and injustice are major obstacles to development. The 2011 World Development Report of the World Bank on conflict, security, and development notes now critical re-establishing the rule of law is for recovery from conflict and violence, and for preventing its recurrence. Participants at a Post-2015 Thematic Consultation on Conflict and Fragility earlier this year concluded that violence is devastating for national governance systems, and erodes the social contract between the state and its people.

Where the rule of law is not firmly established, poverty, suffering, and marginalization are exacerbated. The poorest and most vulnerable need to be able to secure their rights, access legal protection, and participate in decision-making affecting their communities.  More can be done to ensure that they benefit from legal and justice practices which expand their opportunities and choices.  The 2011-2012 report, “Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice”, illustrates how good law and justice systems make a real difference to the lives of women.  The rule of law is a key driver of inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development, and empowers people to seek and obtain justice. 

Yet, there can be many barriers to accessing justice, especially where there are high levels of poverty, marginalization and insecurity. Laws and justice institutions - formal and informal – may be biased or discriminatory. Justice and security systems may be ineffective, slow, and untrustworthy. People may lack knowledge about their rights. Often legal assistance is out of reach, leaving people with little recourse to formal mechanisms for protection and empowerment. There may be a culture of impunity for criminal acts. Other injustices and abuses in the family, or through deprivation and labour exploitation, may go unaddressed.  

Making connections post-2015  

Recognizing that development progress is assisted by the rule of law, many states are already working to strengthen legal protections and their justice and security institutions. UNDP and the broader UN system are firmly committed to supporting this work. 

In places where violence has jeopardized development, UNDP supports Member States’ efforts to increase citizen security. 

For example, 

In Timor Leste, UNDP has supported a decade-long process to establish new justice and security institutions. With these important measures to uphold the rule of law in place, Timor-Leste’s development has been underpinned. 

In Guatemala, UNDP has focused on citizen security.  Three consecutive years of decline in murder rates in Guatemala show beyond doubt that it is possible to reduce armed violence.  

The Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Post-2015 has recommended inclusion of a specific target in the renewed development agenda on reducing the number of violent deaths worldwide. The Panel also highlighted the need for justice systems to be accessible, independent, and well-resourced, and to promote a culture of respect for due process and citizen’s rights.  

UNDP has done a great deal to support the building of more responsive and effective justice institutions, including by advancing knowledge of laws and rights within societies. Our aim is to see gaps between the justice needs of communities and the justice dispensed by authorities eliminated.  Last year, the Secretary-General designated UNDP and DPKO jointly as the UN global focal point for supporting the rebuilding of police, justice, and corrections institutions in crisis and post conflict countries. 

In all its work to build better justice systems,  UNDP keeps a focus on ensuring that poor and marginalized groups can seek remedies for their claims and peacefully settle their disputes – across criminal, family, administrative and economic matters. Our work targets women, people affected by conflict and violence, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and others who may be marginalised. 

Some examples of efforts underway include: 

In India, UNDP works with the Ministry of Justice on “fast track courts” for rape cases. The aim is to make court processes more women friendly – although I would note that women the world over are often further victimized by the conduct of rape cases against those who raped them. More than 7,000 paralegals in India have been trained to assist marginalized women, including those who head households, women from minority groups, and women living in urban slums.

In Indonesia, UNDP has supported the formulation of a national access to justice strategy, which has resulted in increased citizen awareness of rights and new government services, such as legal aid, to improve the quality of justice.  

In Pakistan, we have supported the recently inaugurated mobile courts to bring justice services closer to the people in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and prevent a rule of law vacuum from continuing to undermine peace and development there. 

UNDP observes that development outcomes are not sustainable unless they generate trust across all social groups. That’s why we work with countries to increase public confidence in the rule of law by improving the integrity and transparency of justice and security systems.  In Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, and many others, we support the recruitment and training of justice and police officials. In Bangladesh, for example, more trust in the police is being built through UNDP-supported community policing forums, training, and improvements to services for victims. In Armenia, Algeria, India, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere, we have promoted e-judiciary initiatives to enable people to access information about their cases, and improve judicial accountability. All this work aligns with the target proposed by the High Level Panel to enhance the capacity, professionalism, and accountability of security forces, police, and judiciary.  

Gender-based inequality, exclusion, discrimination, and abuse are interrelated challenges which severely compromise development. Many women in our world are denied the right to participate in social and economic life on an equal basis with men.  Laws based on equality and justice are needed to help women secure their rights and have them upheld. The High Level Panel has recommended that women are guaranteed equal rights to own and inherit property, sign a contract, register a business, and open a bank account.

Gender-based violence and, in particular, violence against women and children continue to be a global challenge, a fundamental rights violation, and a pernicious means by which inequality between men and women is perpetuated. Countries which have often experienced war and conflict have often seen the social and economic fabric of their communities destroyed and levels of brutal acts of rape and sexual abuse soar.  In such countries, UNDP works on securing women’s access to justice to bring perpetrators to account.

Three out of ten women in our world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.  Worldwide, up to fifty per cent of sexual assaults are committed against young women and girls under the age of sixteen.  Gender inequality and violence hamper countries’ efforts to reduce poverty; health care, judicial, and social services must meet survivors’ needs, and perpetrators must be punished. 

Let me address one more issue which is important for establishing the rule of law: that of legal identity of persons. Poor and marginalized groups, including those displaced in humanitarian emergencies, are the most likely to lack access to basic forms of identification. They are therefore less likely to have their rights respected, receive basic services, or be able to open a bank account or register a business. 

In this regard, UNICEF is undertaking a global campaign to support countries to strengthen birth registration systems and ensure the issuance of free birth certificates for every child. UNDP’s complementary efforts have included supporting 9,000 school age children in the Dominican Republic to obtain birth certificates, and raising community awareness of the rights and entitlements which flow from securing legal identity. The High-level Panel recommended that states provide free and universal legal identity, so that citizens can access and enjoy a range benefits to which that entitles them.  

From Global Dialogue to Renewed Agenda 

Since the Millennium Declaration of 2000, understanding of the relationship between the rule of law and development has come a long way, raising the prospect of a renewed global development agenda post-2015 incorporating elements related to the rule of law. 

During this Global Dialogue on that agenda, you may wish to consider the High-Level Panel Report’s suggestions on how to reflect the rule of law. Their proposals include:

  • targeting a reduction in the number of violent deaths worldwide;
  • targeting decreased violence against women and children;
  • increasing the proportion of justice institutions which are accessible, independent, and well-resourced; and
  • providing all people with a free legal identity, to help them claim their rights, settle disputes, and register businesses.

Gathered here today are leading practitioners and experts on the rule of law from around the world. As a group, you are well placed to consider how universal goals relating to the rule of law can be advanced and measured in specific countries and contexts. As you explore targets and indicators, consider also how progress can be tracked across all social groups and in the poorest and most insecure places in the world. Specific research gaps and capacity development needs also. 

I hope that the outcomes of this Dialogue can be of assistance in advancing the rule of law within countries and as a priority for the post-2015 agenda. 



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