Ministers and UNDP urge world leaders to secure rule of law in next development agenda

Sep 26, 2013

In Timor-Leste, decades of UNDP support have seen the country establish new justice and security institutions. UN Photo: Martine Perret

New York-- Ministers of four countries, as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have underlined that despite remarkable progress in achieving development targets, growing inequalities in developing countries, and weak justice, security and rule of law could undermine these gains.

Their words come just a day after UN Member States called for the next global development agenda to “promote peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.”

In the lead-up to 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire, countries are beginning the process of re-negotiating international development targets.

Agreed upon in 2000, the MDGs include a range of indicators that developing countries and the international community committed to achieving. But almost none of the low income countries affected by widespread violence, conflict or lack of security will achieve any of the MDGs by the target date of 2015, says UNDP - partly because targets relating to justice, security and the rule of law were left off the original agenda. Much more needs to be done to improve justice, security and rule of law around the globe as many countries still lag far behind.

“Where the rule of law is not firmly established, poverty, suffering, and marginalization are exacerbated,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at a side event to the UN General Assembly co-hosted by Mexico, Denmark, Senegal, and Turkey today, where countries discussed ways of integrating rule of law into the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

For the UN, establishing the rule of law is crucial to ensuring that governments are transparent and effective in promoting sustainable development, protecting human rights and maintaining peace in conflict-affected countries, where weak access to justice can increase the risk of violence.

 “There can be many barriers to accessing justice, especially where there are high levels of poverty, marginalization and insecurity,” added Clark. “Laws and justice institutions - formal and informal – may be biased or discriminatory. Justice and security systems may be ineffective, slow, and untrustworthy. People may lack knowledge about their rights. Often legal assistance is out of reach, leaving people with little recourse to formal mechanisms for protection and empowerment. There may be a culture of impunity for criminal acts. Other injustices and abuses in the family, or through deprivation and labour exploitation, may go unaddressed.”

This sentiment was echoed by the representatives of many countries at the General Assembly in recent days.

“Our development cooperation is grounded on a human rights based approach,” said Christian Friis Bach, Denmark’s Minister of Development Cooperation. “We believe that access to justice, universal legal identity, and women’s empowerment enables governments to better meet the rights and needs of their populations and deliver sustainable development solutions.”

The need to strengthen the rule of law to ensure sustainable development is reflected in recent global surveys that asked people about their priorities for the next development agenda.

“The demand to counter injustice and insecurity is strong among the youth and marginalized across the African continent,” said Sidiki Kaba, Minister of Justice of Senegal at the event. “A better future for our youth means that building infrastructure, increasing commerce, and improving health and education must be accompanied by good governance and the rule of law,” said Cevdet Yılmaz, Turkey’s Minister of Development.

“The vision of an understanding that justice and development are complementary to each other resulted in Turkey becoming the 16th largest economy,” he said at the event. "Taking the principles of rule of law, the virtue of Justice, into account in all layers of development, which can be formulated as peace, democracy and social and economic development, is a basic requirement for achieving sustainable growth and inclusive development.”

UNDP says that strengthening the rule of law can help place societies on a more sustainable trajectory.  For instance, in Timor-Leste, decades of UNDP support have seen the country establish new justice and security institutions; and in Guatemala, UNDP assistance to the police and government has helped murder rates fall for three consecutive years.

“The rule of law plays a critical role in both poverty eradication efforts and the protection of fundamental rights of those marginalized and in greater need in our societies,” said Roberto Dondisch Director General for Global Affairs at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also at the event. “Moreover, it is also a driving force of progress for all countries – developed and developing alike and crucial to achieve success in reaching the current MDGs and countering social injustice. The next development agenda must tackle the hard questions related to rule of law if the development gains are to be maintained and if we are to build together a more sustainable, peaceful future.”

Notes to editors:

The Global Dialogue on Rule of Law and the Post-2015 Development Agenda took place at the One UN Hotel in New York. Present were:

  • Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Christian Friis Bach, Minister of Development Cooperation, DENMARK
  • Roberto Dondisch, Director General for Global Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MEXICO
  • Mankeur Ndiaye, Minister of Foreign Affairs, SENEGAL
  • Mr. Cevdet Yılmaz, Minister of Development, TURKEY

The Global Dialogue builds on previous consultations held in 88 countries to determine what should replace the current Millennium Development Goals framework as they expire in 2015. The inclusion of the issues of government transparency and accountability, access to justice and citizen security will be intrinsic to this new development agenda.

About the Global Dialogue – The Global Dialogue brings together more than 70 participants from Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States to discuss over the course of two days the connection between rule of law and development and how it can be included in the post-2015 development agenda.

Photos and interview opportunities may be available on request

Contact information

Damian Kean:

UNDP Around the world