Strengthening rule of law key to ending crises in CAR and South Sudan

29 May 2014

The head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called on international donors to bolster justice, security and rule of law for countries in conflict, singling out both South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) for immediate attention.

“To end cycles of violent conflict, technical assistance to strengthen justice and security systems is important - but insufficient,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at UNDP’s Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations, which wrapped up at UN headquarters in New York today. “It must go hand and hand with the kind of engagement which promotes reconciliation, builds trust between groups, and helps establish inclusive institutions.”

Ms. Clark emphasized the need to ensure that international rule of law assistance is effective, as well as the unique role of the UN in facilitating transitional justice, the protection of civilians, and accountability in crisis countries, mentioning both South Sudan CAR specifically.

“To address the legacy of conflict and the impact of ongoing violence in South Sudan, great support for the fragile peace process is now needed,” she said. “It will be important to ensure that rule of law assistance is used in ways which advance national objectives to establish responsive institutions and improve service delivery for all. Achieving sustainable peace and development in South Sudan will require concerted political and technical support from the UN, regional organizations, Member States, civil society, and other actors.”

“Development actors need to work collaboratively with national partners to strengthen national institutions, facilitate inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation, and tackle extreme poverty,” she said in reference to the Central African Republic. “These are essential building blocks for peace and development.”

“For the rule of law to take hold, CAR will require international support to build an independent and functioning judiciary. The justice system will need to be made accessible to all people, be seen to be fair, and end impunity for human rights violations. A professional police service, which protects the communities it serves, is another prerequisite.”

In both CAR and South Sudan, where the rule of law has broken down, ongoing violence has resulted in thousands of deaths, forced hundreds of thousands to flee and created a burgeoning humanitarian crisis in both countries.

The Annual Meeting brought together high-level government officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Yemen, as well as Permanent Representatives, and the UN to discuss opportunities and challenges for transforming crisis-affected societies through the rule of law all around the globe. It also provided a platform to launch the 2013 Annual Report on UNDP’s Global Programme to Strengthen the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations.

H.E. Ms. Wivine Mumba Matipa, Minister of Justice and Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah, Consultant Master and Registrar for the Sierra Leone Judiciary, and H.E. Ms. Hooria Mashhour Ahmed Kaid, Minister of Human Rights, discussed the connection between rule of law, peace and security, the importance of national support for international programmes in their countries, and the continued need to address major issues facing women and children such as access to justice and support for those who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence on a panel chaired by H.E. Ms. Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the UN.

UNDP’s rule of law programme in crisis countries carries out a range of activities in four key areas that help national partners:

•    Deal with the legacy of violence;
•    Increase safety and security for all;
•    Build confidence through accessible, effective justice and security institutions; and
•    Improving the delivery of justice and security for women.

For example, in Iraq, more women have gained access to security and justice services through the UNDP support to Family Protection Units, as well as the regional Directorate for Combating Violence against Women in the Kurdistan region. In 2013, more than 14,600 cases were reported to these services – a significant increase on the previous year, when 4,600 cases were reported, indicating that there is increased awareness of services available to survivors of gender-based violence, as well as growing confidence that victims will receive redress for crimes committed against them.

In Sierra Leone, UNDP support helped to entirely eliminate the backlog of sexual and gender based violence cases in the Magistrate Court in Freetown in 2013 through regular Saturday Courts that provide faster delivery of justice.

After nearly a decade of partnership to strengthen the justice system of Timor-Leste, 2013 saw the majority of civil cases in the country transferred to national, rather than international, judges.

In Tunisia, UNDP supported the development and drafting of the ground-breaking Law on Transitional Justice, which was adopted by the National Constituent Assembly in January 2014. The Law will serve as a foundation for Tunisia’s transitional justice process moving forward, which will contribute to peace consolidation and reconciliation.