Our Perspective

      • International justice begins at home

        21 Nov 2012

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        Timorese Judges being sworn in and taking oaths. Credit: UNDP Timor Leste

        The restoration of justice and the punishment of those who commit human rights abuses can be vital first steps in peacebuilding; both for countries recovering from conflict, and for societies trying to overcome the trauma of violence. In March this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent criminal court mandated to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity, handed down its first judgment since being established in 2002. Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was found guilty of using children under the age of 15 in armed hostilities. This judgment inaugurated a new age where the ICC acts as a court of last resort. This notion, called “complementarity,” forms the founding principle of the ICC, which believes that the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes rests with national authorities and states. If countries are willing and able, justice is best delivered where the crimes occurred. However, many post-conflict countries do not have the capacity to conduct such investigations. Even if the political will exists, domestic judicial systems often lack adequate witness protection services, prison facilities, and other resources to conduct fair trials. To realize the complementarity principle, there needs to be a closer relationship Read More

      • Democratic transition demands courageous leadership | Olav Kjørven

        09 Nov 2012

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        Tunisia Constituent Assembly Elections 2011

        Of late, we have witnessed dramatic change in many parts of the world. Autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North Africa have been ousted or forced to resign. Myanmar has embarked on a determined path towards reform. Economic, social and political reasons triggered these societal changes. Hence people’s call for “bread, freedom, dignity” in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, where we saw that political transition can – if rarely - happen almost overnight. But autocratic regimes leave legacies, economic structures, incentive systems and institutions that do not disappear as a dictator steps down or aside. Political rights, human rights, progressive social and economic policies, fair jobs and the primacy of the rule of law do not automatically follow moments of significant political change. One of the first choices the leaders of transition must make, therefore, is to be inclusive as they start to define their future.  For legitimacy and longevity, there must be sustained channels for dialogue and decision-making with all people – civil society and academics, the business elite and the military, the politicians and the public, especially the marginalized. This is the only way to renew trust and rebuild a nation’s social contract. This is most difficult. At the very Read More

      • Remembering Sandy’s many victims

        09 Nov 2012

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        Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Nicaro, Mayarí municipality, Cuba. UN Photo/UNDP/AIN FOTO/Juan Pablo Carreras

        Hurricane Sandy, which caused mayhem when it made landfall here on 29 October, killed over 110 people in the United States. The cost of damage has been estimated at over US$ 50 billion in the US and the lives of millions of those in New York, where I live, have been disrupted. North America however, was in fact the last of many stops on Sandy's tour of destruction. Sandy was one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record. The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and many other countries have suffered terrible losses. In Haiti, which has yet to fully recover from the 2010 earthquake, more than 54 people were killed and over 200,000 are now homeless. Health workers are scrambling to ensure that the storm damage does not hasten the spread of infectious diseases, including cholera. In Cuba, nearly a million people have been directly affected; the roofs of more than 43,000 homes have been ripped off by the high winds; at least 375 health centres and 2,100 schools have been damaged and many roads and bridges are impassable. Some 30,000 people have been displaced in the Dominican Republic. Here in the New York/New Jersey area, there is much to Read More