Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at the Rule of Law Annual Meeting: Strengthening the Rule of Law for Sustaining Peace and Fostering Development

Jun 14, 2017

Strengthening the Rule of Law for Sustaining Peace and Fostering Development, Rule of Law Annual Event 2017 (Photo: UNDP/ Freya Morales)

Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen

Let me start by thanking our distinguished chair and previous speakers for sharing their experiences and for their trust in our partnership to strengthen the rule of law and human rights in their countries.

I would also like to convey UNDP’s appreciation for the important support provided by Member States to our rule of law and human rights work. We are particularly grateful to the Government of the Netherlands, for its multi-year partnership with UNDP on rule of law.

Let me also welcome my colleague, Alexandre Zuev, in his new role as Assistant-Secretary General for the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions in DPKO. I envision even greater results coming out of this new relationship.


UNDP’s Global Programme on Strengthening the Rule of Law and Human Rights for Sustaining Peace and Fostering Development (2016-2020)  is designed to enhance justice, security, and respect for human rights in contexts affected or threatened by crisis, conflict, and fragility. This new phase is strategically positioned to deliver risk informed assistance for addressing the drivers of instability.

Although the world became by some measure, more peaceful in 2016 , it is still considerably more convulsed than it was 10 years ago.

Scars of violence remain with new conflicts multiplying. We face more interconnected challenges, with the threat of violent extremism and its recent manifestations - be it in Afghanistan or London.

The number of internally displaced persons and refugees has doubled to 65.3 million . The total number of deaths from internal conflict rose from 36,000 in 2006 to over 285,000 in 2016.   
Beyond the devastating effects of violent conflict, humanity is facing other unprecedented challenges that are global in nature: climate change and rising inequalities, amidst a volatile state of the world’s economy are some of those. Finding solutions to these challenges requires fundamentally new ways of thinking, and more, not less cooperation.

New Ways of Thinking

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the concept of Sustaining Peace serve to guide the UN under a common framework that links development, climate, peace and security, and human rights to the idea of expanding opportunities for all.

The resolutions on Sustaining Peace place great emphasis on the need for inclusive efforts and the essential role of women and youth; and on prevention, addressing the root causes of conflict before it happens. The 2030 Agenda seeks to do just that: address the root causes of conflict by furthering inclusion, equality, access to opportunities and protection of rights.

SDG 16 explicitly commits Member States to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies by promoting rule of law and access to justice. It is in many ways a new normative horizon for the development community: not because it singles out a peace goal as exceptional in a sustainability framework, but precisely because of the opposite: it integrates peaceful coexistence within nations, justice and political inclusion as part of what development means to people. Those traditionally left behind should be allowed, as should all, to influence the decisions that affect their lives, and these decisions should be implemented by inclusive and accountable institutions – the famous “government of the people, by the people, for the people” of the Gettysburg address.

The 2030 Agenda further aims to reduce risk and vulnerability and demands from humanitarian and development actors to contribute to a common vision. Addressing development priorities needs to be the logical complement of delivering on political, diplomatic, security and humanitarian priorities.

Research shows that the defining characteristics of countries in conflict that have become peaceful societies were a well-functioning government, low levels of corruption, a regime of respect for human rights and good relations with neighbors; here Security and the rule of law are essential factors as pillars of stability, reconciliation and justice.  

Partnerships and Cooperation

Yesterday, a partnership was the icing on the cake. Today, partnerships is what we do – and one would need to justify why going it alone almost in any area of the UN’s work. UNDP’s Global Programme is a vehicle of partnerships across the whole UN and its membership - be it through the Global Focal Point arrangement or, as we heard earlier today, through our partnership with OHCHR and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, with partner and programme countries, with public, civil society and private partners.

We continue to develop new and innovative coalitions around the SDGs. Through the Global Alliance on Goal 16, we bring together Governments of the global ‘North’ and ‘South’, and non-governmental allies, to work on the pathways towards peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

The GFP, co-led by UNDP and DPKO, brings together the expertise of OHCHR, UN Women, UNODC and UNHCR. I understand ASG Alexandre Zuev will elaborate on the work of the GFP – suffice to say that it was probably the first successful partnership on the rule of law between very different UN entities, with results on the ground that speak for themselves.  

Our 2016 Annual Report of the Global Programme illustrates our field work on prevention and reconstruction:

In Colombia, the government and the FARC signed a peace agreement which included a ground breaking decision to establish a Special Jurisdiction for Peace. The peace process itself has been historic in involving victims, including women, indigenous peoples, and afro-descendants, at negotiators of peace. We focused on making sure that the victims’ voices would be heard, their participation secured and reparations granted.  

In Iraq, our priority was the immediate increase of security for populations. In Lebanon we are supporting community security to strengthen capacities of municipal police as the first respondents to tensions, especially within refugees’ host communities. In Tunisia, our assistance was directed towards reconciliation: the Truth and Dignity Commission began its hearings as for the first-time, Tunisians publicly confronted the abuses of the past authoritarian system in a formal process. We assisted the hearings and testimonies from victims, with a registration of nearly 62,300 applications, a quarter of them from women.

In Sri Lanka, UNDP has been supporting national partners on addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). At the community level, we partnered with CSOs to provide legal assistance and psychological counseling to 480 survivors of SGBV.  

The list goes on. What matters, in each case, is to strengthen individual rights, institutional capacities and the credibility of the social contract. A complex endeavour where success in the outcome requires national actors to be in the lead.   

Even in the wealthiest nations, building a fair, just and effective rule of law architecture is not an easy task; in poor countries awaking from a conflict, it is a long-term endeavor that requires active cooperation and solidarity. It is a pleasure to be able to recognise, and thank, our partners for their continued support. Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States have shown significant commitment to one of the most difficult areas of work in development nowadays: the construction of peaceful societies capable of sustaining a well-earned peace.

Thank you.

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