Helen Clark: UNDP Global Programme for Strengthening Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected & Fragile Situations

Jun 6, 2012

Keynote Speech for Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
UNDP Global Programme for Strengthening Rule of Law in
Crisis-Affected & Fragile Situations,
Annual Partnership Meeting
New York
9.10am, Wednesday, 6 June 2012


I welcome everyone to this annual partnership meeting, and especially acknowledge our distinguished colleagues from Liberia and Nepal who have travelled so far to be with us today:

Minister Christiana Tah, Minister of Justice, Liberia;
Honorable Justice Kalyan Shrestha of the Supreme Court of Nepal.

UNDP is firmly committed to supporting nationally-led efforts to establish the rule of law.  For this reason, we are honoured today to hear from our government partners about their achievements and challenges, and learn from each other’s experiences.

This meeting, on the importance of helping countries affected by violence and conflict establish and strengthen rule of law mechanisms and institutions takes place just a few months before the General Assembly’s High Level Event on the Rule of Law in September.

Today, more than one and a half billion people around the world are living in countries affected by armed conflict and fragility.  The establishment of the rule of law is critical there as countries build paths to peace. It is an essential pillar of democratic governance and a pre-condition for sustainable human development. Just and equitable countries are also more stable and secure. 

As the United Nations Secretary-General himself has stressed: “Peace, security, and development are interdependent.”  Armed conflict and violence are often both the symptoms and the cause of breakdowns in the rule of law.  In this sense, promoting the rule of law in the aftermath of crisis is not only an important objective in its own right, but also is central to building stability, consolidating peace, and securing development.  For this reason, UNDP invests in strengthening justice and security in close partnership with others – most importantly national governments.  I am delighted, therefore, that so many of our UN colleagues and Member State partners could join us today. 

In the aftermath of armed conflict and crisis, the needs of countries and populations are often overwhelming –there can be great damage done to physical infrastructure; ongoing insecurity makes movement dangerous; and judicial and policing capacity, and social cohesion and trust in governmental structures is likely to be low. Therefore, concerted efforts are being made to bring together UN actors in delivering rule of law assistance so that our interventions can be as strategic, effective, and efficient as possible in these challenging circumstances.

UN peacebuilding missions and relevant UN Agencies, Funds, and Programmes all have a critical role to play in this work. Peacekeeping and development approaches need to be closely linked so that the UN does maximise the impact of its support.  The political voice of a Security Council-mandated mission complements the national capacity-building and results-oriented approach of UNDP.  For these reasons, together with UN missions, we are implementing joint programmes on the rule of law, justice, and security in peacekeeping settings including in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and South Sudan.

We also work closely with key donors whose technical and financial contributions have been invaluable. I thank the Netherlands, the single largest supporter to date of UNDP’s Global Programme on strengthening the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and also the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Australia, Spain, France, Switzerland, Canada, and Ireland.
My remarks today will concentrate on three areas:

First, I will briefly highlight why promoting the rule of law in crisis-affected and fragile contexts is central to the work of UNDP.

Second, I will present some of the achievements of our Global Rule of Law Programme during 2011.

Third, I will provide an overview of our plans for the second phase of the Global Rule of Law programme.

The Rule of Law in Crisis Affected and Fragile Contexts

The rule of law, when upheld in accordance with United Nations’ principles, results in  legal and physical protection for people and their property, equality before the law, freedom from discrimination, and redress for crimes and human rights abuses. It is essential for cementing the social contract between the state and its citizens, and is critical for conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery.

In the tumultuous events associated with the Arab States uprisings over the past year and a half where citizens have been demanding change, rule of law institutions – the judiciary, the police, the security forces, and the law-makers – have frequently been the focus of their grievances. Where such institutions and their personnel are perceived to be corrupt and unable to represent and serve all citizens, they are also at the centre of grievances voiced by citizens in other regions. 

Through UNDP’s work around the world, we see citizens demanding assurances that the state - and especially its justice and security institutions – will serve the people. 

At a minimum, the legitimacy of such institutions requires:

  • police and security professionals performing their functions uncontaminated by corruption and discrimination, and without brutality and use of excessive force;
  • courts providing timely and impartial access to justice; and,
  • prison systems adhering to human rights principles.

In countries recovering from crisis, people very much want security for themselves and their families. Freedom from fear is essential for being able to live in dignity. Citizens want the freedom to move without fear of being attacked, raped, and/or intimidated, and they want security for their homes and belongings. 

People also demand justice and reject impunity. In general, they will expect the human rights abusers of previous regimes and the violent criminals in their communities to be held to account, and subjected to investigation and trial. They are also likely to want peaceful resolution of disputes over land and other property.

UNDP has been able to support strengthening the rule of law as a critical pillar of conflict prevention, to mitigate the risk of relapse into conflict, to help establish trust between state and citizen, and to combat criminal violence.

In countries in transition from conflict to peace, UNDP works to support the establishment of legitimate and resilient institutions as foundations of peace and stability. An early imperative for countries in transition is the clear political commitment to investigate and act on past crimes and abuses.  Where gaps appear between popular expectations of justice and the state’s ability to deliver solutions, public confidence will be shaken.

Transitional justice processes – from truth and reconciliation commissions to criminal processes - provide opportunities to examine and redress broader injustices. For example, a legacy of exclusion and of discrimination against marginalised groups, including women and youth, could be addressed.

UNDP also supports countries emerging from conflict to strike a balance, on the one hand, between the ‘quick wins’ which can demonstrate commitment to change - like kick-starting service delivery reforms – and, on the other hand, approaches which promote long-term institutional development, such as commencing sector-wide planning processes. 

The Global Programme achievements

Since UNDP launched its Global Programme on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations in 2008, it has provided technical, operational, and financial support to its Country Offices and partners in 38 countries.

From Afghanistan to Colombia, from Nepal to Somalia, the Global Programme has boosted the ability of courts, police, lawyers, and government ministries to deliver effective services. Our work has also enhanced legal aid provision and security sector governance.

By focusing on the core police and justice capacities of the state, we have achieved significant results. In countries such as Chad, Liberia, Somalia, and South Sudan, UNDP was asked to address and help fill gaps in core state functions.

In Chad, with UNHCR, UNDP assisted police units responsible for providing security for Internally Displaced Persons, refugees, and conflict-affected communities. In Liberia, UNDP trained and helped deploy 682 Police Support Unit officers in the lead up to the presidential elections.  That resulted in a reduction of crime, and contributed to a largely peaceful election.

Unlike most other rule of law assistance providers, UNDP is able to support community-level, legal aid provision, while also strengthening institutional capacities. In Somalia, this dual approach has resulted in an impressive increase in the numbers of people accessing the formal justice system.  In Somaliland alone, the number of cases being processed increased fivefold between 2006 and 2011.  Similarly in Sierra Leone, ‘Saturday Courts’, which aim to expedite cases involving female complainants, have resulted in 73 per cent of the gender violence case backlog being put before the court for adjudication. 

I am especially pleased to emphasize UNDP’s work on security and access to justice for women in conflict settings. Together with partners in the UN Action network, we support the Team of Experts working on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1888 and other commitments on women, peace and security, paying particular attention to sexual violence.

We are working closely in countries like Democratic Republic of Congo with the peacekeeping mission there to ensure comprehensive rule of law support. In 2011, that contributed to the conviction of 193 members of the Congolese National Army and Police for crimes relating to sexual violence. This may be a small step, but it is a necessary beginning.

UNDP has also prioritized building strong partnerships around state- building with newly independent nations emerging from years of protracted conflict.  In South Sudan, UNDP has provided comprehensive support for improving all the core capacities of government, including strengthening justice, security, and other institutions, after independence. UNDP was a key partner of the new Ministry of Justice in the finalization of rule of law aspects of the very first South Sudan Development Plan, which place the rule of law at the heart of the development agenda.

Similarly in Timor-Leste, UNDP has assisted the Ministry of Justice to establish a Legal Training Centre to train the first Timorese judges, lawyers and prosecutors; strengthened the capacity of the national police; and established a comprehensive land registry which is helping 50,000 Timorese get their land rights recognized.

Our support for transitional justice processes aims to restore conditions for peace and development. In countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, and Solomon Islands, we have worked on large scale reconciliation exercises, reaching out to thousands of victims and establishing the frameworks for support and reparations. In Colombia UNDP supported the adoption and implementation of the “Victims and Land Restitution Law”, a comprehensive act which includes the right to reparations and land restitution for Internally Displaced People.  By February 2012, 75,000 victims had received reparations.

The World Development Report of 2011 highlighted the importance of working in countries with excessively high levels of criminal violence, especially armed violence.  UNDP has been a key supporter of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, and has contributed substantively and normatively to this international agenda.

But of equal importance is the work we do on implementation at the country level. Our emphasis is on how to reduce violence where its scale has been seriously undermining the social and economic fabric.  In El Salvador, for example, we have supported community security initiatives in a number of the most violent municipalities.  In 2011 an average reduction in homicide rates of twelve per cent was recorded in those locations.  These are results we take pride in, but so much more needs to be done as criminal networks spread out beyond the region.

Looking forward

As UNDP commences implementation of the second phase of its Global Programme, there are many successes on which to build.  Countries, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, show how it is possible to make progress towards building peace, even after the most destructive conflicts.  Ongoing transitions in the Arab States region provide opportunities to build more equitable and inclusive societies.

Transforming, reforming, or rebuilding to establish the rule of law and promote social and economic justice is a long term endeavour, requiring sustained effort and investment.  Short term international efforts to establish security have failed in the past.

Establishing the rule of law needs to be seen as an integral part of overall development strategies. It helps build resilience, improve governance, and advance inclusive growth. It is not something only to be initiated as a short term response to national or local crises, and neglected thereafter.

Stronger legal systems help countries comply with international law and standards, and are a foundation for sustained economic and human development.  

UNDP brings to the long term developmental task of establishing the rule of law, its global architecture of knowledge, policy development, and rule of law programming in more than 100 countries. We facilitate South-South co-operation and knowledge-sharing within and across regions on security, justice, and legal empowerment. Just one example: partners from Somalia are studying how Timor-Leste embedded informal justice systems into its national rule of law architecture.

UNDP can do more in this critical area. But doing more does depend on the timely and dependable support of donors. Our Global Programme cannot function as intended without firm multi-year commitments.

UN-wide we can also do better, as has been called for through the Civilian Capacities Review process.  The challenges require a stronger and reinvigorated UN response.  Through the Global Programme UNDP has been committed to promoting a partnership approach from the outset with the UN and Member States.

I am personally committed to improving the UN’s ability to work together to achieve stronger coherence in rule of law assistance.  Peacekeeping missions and development actors together can increase efficiency, impact, and value for money from supporting the establishment of the rule of law. I am delighted to say that we have now agreed on how the UN system can work together at the global level through the Civilian Capacity review process. USG Herve Ladsous and I will elaborate on this shortly.

UNDP as a leader of the co-ordination of the UN development system is also committed to ensuring that the strengths of UN Country Team members are drawn on and well aligned. 


While our work to establish the rule of law is of critical importance for development and building resilience, it is essential that it is complemented by efforts to empower people and communities, establish inclusive social and political dialogue, ensure effective public service delivery, and build economic opportunity.  

The High Level Event planned for the UN General Assembly in September can help focus greater attention on the place which establishing the rule of law plays in development for countries facing conflict, fragility, or other key challenges. That Event also comes at an opportune moment after the Rio +20 Conference, before the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of the UN’s operational activities for development, and while discussion ensues on the post-2015 development agenda. 

The MDGS have demonstrated the advantages of setting specific, time-bound, development goals, but we are all aware of the difficulties conflict-affected and/or fragile states have in achieving them. By supporting the establishment and the strengthening of the rule of law, we can undoubtedly help accelerate MDG and broader development progress. 

Once again, I thank all present for participating in this annual partnership meeting and wish you all a constructive exchange on supporting establishment of the rule of law.

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