Inclusive social contract is key to creating lasting systems in crisis, post-crisis countries, UNDP expert says

18 Sep 2012

Washington — Broad national consultations play a key role in establishing governance and rule-of-law systems that will endure in countries emerging from conflicts and crises, according to a senior UN Development Programme (UNDP) expert.

“Because we work in crisis areas, we are often present when a national conversation about the type of society people want is possible. Poor people want better opportunities and everyone wants the conflict to stop,” Sheelagh Stewart, leader of UNDP’s Governance and Rule of Law team in the Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery, said in remarks at the US Institute of Peace.

“This is the moment when a conversation about rule of law and justice, about the social contract that holds it all together, is possible. Our job is to facilitate that conversation,” she said.

“We don’t impose our notion of fairness, but we do ask stakeholders what they all want out of a new system. People don’t mind not getting a great deal, but they do mind not getting a fair share of what’s out there.”

Modern technology can help broaden the conversation and expand access to justice. In Libya, thousands of people were able to comment online on a draft Constitution and make their views knows. In Timor Leste, international experts deployed Skype connections in remote areas to allow witnesses in legal proceedings to testify remotely.

“Wherever you find conflict, you also find a lack of access to justice, which suggests that when people cannot access justice they may turn a blind eye to militant responses and in some extreme cases even resort to more extreme measures themselves,” Ms. Stewart told an expert roundtable.

“UNDP focuses on addressing the legacy of violence. We work on ensuring that people are safe and their property is secure. When people are safe and secure, they can look after their own development—growing cash crops, knowing that they will be able to get them to market and earn a living,” she said.

“When they are not safe, it is more difficult to take care of the future. Poor people who worry that their daughters will get raped on the way to school don’t send them. And the resulting impact on education leaves people less well placed to look after themselves and their future.”

UNDP works to ensure that national governments have the people, skills, and resources to provide security and access to justice.

“We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and must recognize that supporting states to deliver does not mean importing blueprints, best practices, or standalone models for state-building processes. Rather, these aims must be rooted in what is practical and achievable within the local context.”

In Colombia, UNDP provided support to the development of a comprehensive national framework for victims’ rights is set to provide reparations for approximately 400,000 victims by 2014. By April 2012, 75,000 victims had already been provided with compensation. This includes allowing victims of paramilitary violence access to land they lost in the conflict. UNDP has supported 796 civil society organizations that represent victims of conflict, including 83 women’s groups. As of January 2011, 121,000 hectares of land had been handed over to 38,000 rural workers.

In Tunisia, UNDP supported the drafting of new laws with the full participation of non-governmental organizations. UNDP worked with representatives from more than 50 political parties to promote collaboration and support a more consensus-based transitional process.

In Somalia, UNDP supported local government in producing the first annual development plans, in consultation with the communities that they represent. This resulted in the rehabilitation of health centres, water boreholes, irrigation systems, roads, marketplaces, and garbage collection points and benefited 140,000 people. UNDP has also facilitated the training and recruitment of more than 14,000 police officers and the creation of mobile courts, legal aid centres, and sexual assault referral centres.

In Afghanistan, UNDP supports the remuneration of the 137,000-strong Afghan National Police force and pioneered the development of the force’s first community security initiatives.

In the DR Congo, where sexual and gender-based violence is rife, UNDP provided support to the justice system, resulting in the conviction of 193 members of the Congolese army and police for crimes related to sexual violence. This was a major step forward in tackling impunity for these crimes.

In El Salvador, UNDP’s community security programmes have brought together police and community leaders in 20 of the most violent areas to help reduce violence. In 2011, this resulted in a reduction of homicide, theft, and assault in some of the most dangerous municipalities—with a 40 percent drop in homicides in one area. In early 2012, the programme was extended to 30 municipalities.

In the Palestinian territory, UNDP has facilitated access to legal aid for more than 17,000 men and women in the West Bank and Gaza.

In Guinea (Conakry), UNDP’s support to the security sector facilitated the retirement of some15 percent of the army and development of comprehensive reform plans for the entire security sector – two critical elements for long-term stability in the country.