Jordan Ryan is the Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, UNDP New York
26 Sep 2013
In places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where women face the constant threat of sexual violence, or in Guatemala where a failure to address the injustices of the past puts reconciliation at risk, the story is the same – a lack of access to justice and security breeds a culture of impunity. In the long term, this can destabilize countries, increase the chances of hostility and hinder the progress toward development goals.
I believe that improving justice and security services; modernizing prosecution mechanisms; increasing the number of available lawyers and judges, and training them to make better decisions; making police more accountable and trustworthy; and providing protection and support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence is vital to support crisis-affected countries and help them become more resilient to violence. And to ensure that this work has a lasting impact, people need to understand and have access to both the legal system and the protection provided by security forces.
Much has been achieved through the support of UNDP and its partners, even in just the last year. For example:
• In Guatemala, homicide rates declined for the third year in a row after dramatically rising in the previous decade;
• In the Guldura district of Afghanistan, a 60 – 80 percent increase in the number of girls enrolled in 10th, 11th
and 12th grades resulted from a dialogue between community leaders and the police to ensure security; and
• In Colombia, over 24,000 victims of conflict received legal aid and reparations.
But many challenges remain in strengthening the rule of law in crisis settings.
First, strengthening the rule of law must be part of broader attempts to promote resilience. This means enabling societies to address corruption, listen to dissenting voices without suppressing them, and withstand political turmoil without descending into violence.
Second, supporting societies to establish the rule of law should not be a mere technical effort to build institutions and improve skills. We must also facilitate trust and confidence between the state and society, change political culture, and community leaders must commit to transformation.
Finally, more must be done to ensure that women assume positions of responsibility. In crisis countries, women’s leadership can help to prevent marginalization of vulnerable groups.
To succeed, we must continually seek international support -– not according to our own agendas, but rather to achieve the aspirations of people in communities facing injustice and insecurity.