Helen Clark calls "rule of law" critical to peace and stability

24 Sep 2012

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New York — UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark today urged UN Member States to focus on strengthening rule of law, which she described as critical to sustained development and stable, accountable government.

"The rule of law enables citizens to invest in their own futures and exercise their rights. It enables governments to govern better, respond to emerging challenges, and advance human development," Helen Clark told a High-Level Meeting on Rule of Law at the 67th UN General Assembly.

“Improving rule of law is a good investment because it helps protect other hard-won development achievements. Advancing rule of law protects human rights and economic health, fosters political stability, and decreases the chances for conflict or the escalation of violence.”

The General Assembly today holds its first-ever high-level meeting devoted to rule of law, one day before the general debate opens. It will consider a report from the Secretary-General, “Delivering justice: programme of action to strengthen the rule of law at the national and international levels.”

"I hope Member States will agree to work in partnership, and to support nationally led processes to strengthen the rule of law. Inspiration can be found in the impressive strides made by many nations who have made the rule of law a national priority."

UNDP plays a key role in stabilizing countries emerging from crises or conflicts, supporting security and access to fair and predictable justice. It also supports programmes in more stable, emerging countries, where transparency and rule of law encourage international trade, investment, and commerce, supporting livelihoods, creating opportunities, and alleviating poverty.

"In places where poor and marginalized citizens know their rights and can have wrongs redressed, there are less discrimination, fewer human rights abuses, and more effective service delivery. Where citizens overall are free from the debilitating fear of violence or intimidation, then strategies for inclusive growth, and other components of sustainable human development can flourish."

UNDP works on rule of law in more than 100 countries and has played a key role in strengthening rule of law in more than 40 conflict-affected developing countries in the last decade. Programmes range from supporting justice and security institutions and improving service delivery to promoting access to justice, providing legal awareness, establishing community-based violence prevention initiatives, and supporting legal systems that encourage international trade and investment.

Building justice and security institutions

UNDP provides support to countries to improve oversight and accountability of their justice and security institutions and services, in addition to expert advice, training, and necessary infrastructure such as information technology systems and new courthouses and police facilities.

  • In Afghanistan, UNDP has provided critical support to the establishment of a 138,000-member national police force and pioneered community policing initiatives.
  • Following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, UNDP helped quickly re-establish basic justice and security, including renovation of courts, creation of mobile courts, and training of new police cadets; within two years of the earthquake, UNDP support resulted in the establishment of 18 legal aid centres and the National Observatory on Violence and Crime, which published a national report on crime.
  • Recognizing the systemic weaknesses and lack of resources throughout Somalia’s justice and security sector, UNDP has supported building courts and police stations, training police units and members of the judiciary, and establishing nine mobile courts and numerous legal aid clinics. UNDP also supported the appointment of 14,000 police officers, substantially increasing the capacity and reach of the police force.
  • In South Sudan, UNDP has helped establish 50 police posts in remote areas where crimes such as cattle theft have become the major cause of conflict. UNDP-backed training of more than 1,000 police recruits and swearing-in of more than 500 police, prison, customs, and fire brigade officers have significantly improved the country’s justice and security infrastructure.
  • In Timor-Leste, UNDP assisted the Ministry of Justice to train the first Timorese judges and lawyers, strengthen the national police force, and establish a comprehensive land registry.

UNDP supports free or low-cost legal aid and legal education for poor and marginalized people as well as those living in conflict-affected communities. UNDP also helps governments and concerned organizations to draft better legislation in areas such as domestic violence, gender-based violence, and trafficking, and to improve the institutional response to these crimes.

  • In Iraq, UNDP helped facilitate adoption of the domestic violence law in Kurdistan and improved the legislative framework protecting women’s rights. UNDP support to judicial and security infrastructure there has also resulted in the establishment, including IT equipment and training, of three pilot courts in Baghdad, Basra, and Erbil and the creation of the Iraqi Legal Database, containing more than 27,000 legal texts and consulted by an average 30,000 people a month.
  • In Viet Nam, a three-year UNDP programme introducing public consultations has given more than 10,000 people in 16 provinces and cities the opportunity to express their views on government decisions and policy in public fora. As a result, many provincial proposals and decisions have been changed to better reflect the needs, rights, and hopes of ordinary people.
  • More than 450,000 poor and disadvantaged people facing legal problems have benefited from a legal empowerment and assistance project supported by the Government of Indonesia and UNDP.
  • In Somalia, UNDP helped people access legal assistance through local communities, sharply increasing those using the formal justice system.
  • In China, UNDP supported the national scaling up of a legal empowerment network of 31 organizations with more than 150 full-time staff, 70 percent lawyers. This network has settled more than 19,000 cases for migrant workers resulting in recovery of more than US$40 million in salary, workplace injury compensation, and other compensation. UNDP support to the country’s largest government-sponsored non-profit organization, the All-China Environment Federation, resulted in a massive public awareness campaign about pollution tainting Lake Poyang, the largest freshwater lake in China. Provincial officials suspended production at nearby textile plants, pending a full investigation. The Federation also filed an environmental lawsuit.

 Support to rule of law in the Arab region

UNDP is working with newly formed governments in the Middle East and North Africa as they begin the difficult process of transition. Re-establishing trust in the judiciary, security services, and police will be critical to help found stable democracies that respect human rights.

 In Tunisia, UNDP aided more than 50 political parties in 2011, working with their representatives to promote collaboration and support for a more consensus-based transitional process.

Along with general electoral support in the run-up to Libya’s July 2012 National Congress election, UNDP provided expert advice and support for a security plan for the country’s first democratic vote since 1952. UNDP also trained lawyers and judges on how to plan, develop, and deliver an electoral dispute resolution mechanism.

Contact Information

Christina LoNigro, Press Secretary and Communications Advisor; T: +1 212.906.5301 christina.lonigro@undp.org