Helen Clark: Speech to the Annual UNDP Meeting on the Rule of Law 2013

Jul 2, 2013

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Speech to the Annual UNDP Meeting on the Rule of Law 2013
Strengthening the Rule of Law for Peace and Development
– One Year On
Tuesday 2 July 2013, 10:15am

I am pleased that you have joined us for this important UNDP Annual Meeting on the Rule of Law. It offers the opportunity to take stock of our joint efforts to strengthen the rule of law in crisis-affected and fragile contexts, and to advance the partnerships which make this vital work possible.

The importance of our topic is reflected in the distinction of the speakers who shared their reflections with us this morning. I gratefully acknowledge the contributions of two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Laureates Aung San Suu Kyi, Member of Parliament and chair of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar, and José Ramos Horta, former President of Timor-Leste and current Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau. Both have done an enormous amount to bring democracy, human rights, and the rule of law to their countries.

As Aung San Suu Kyi reflected, the rule of just law is a new public good for the people of Myanmar, laying the ground for what we all hope will be a peaceful, free, equitable, and prosperous future. The United Nations is committed to accompanying and supporting the efforts of all those who work for justice, security, and opportunity for all.

UNDP delivers on that commitment through its programmes and initiatives. We are active in more than 100 countries to help strengthen justice and security systems and establish the rule of law, including in almost all the forty or so countries which are seen as crisis-affected or fragile.

Demand for this kind of support is increasing. Countries are requesting our support to confront vulnerabilities stemming from climate change, the fallout from economic and financial crisis, organized crime, governance failures, and recovery from conflict and disaster. We aim to help countries to strengthen their resilience and address underlying challenges. Our integrated support aims to improve governance, strengthen security and justice systems, confront discrimination and inequity, and reduce poverty.

The results are visible – and in many cases they are transformational. They are also the product of teamwork. To achieve results in challenging contexts, it takes pooled efforts, diverse expertise, and the strong and generous support of partner countries. To sustain these results, national actors must be willing to lead, contribute, and engage. I acknowledge our national and donor partners for their contributions and achievements, and thank our key UN partner, DPKO, for its collaboration with us.

Over the last year, our collaboration with DPKO has taken place in the context of the UN Global Focal Point for Police, Justice, and Corrections. This new arrangement is leading to improvements in the UN’s ability to deliver rule of law assistance where and when it is needed, and to do so effectively and efficiently. I will comment on these improvements, highlight the results achieved through our on-the-ground efforts, and end with some reflections on the rule of law and the post-2015 global agenda for development. 

Global Focal Point – one year on

One year ago, Hervé Ladsous, USG for Peacekeeping Operations, and I jointly committed to improving UN assistance to help countries mired in or emerging from conflict to strengthen justice, police, and corrections systems, and the rule of law. To realize that, UNDP and DPKO have over the course of the year implemented a Global Focal Point mechanism which has been endorsed by the UN Secretary-General.

Under this mechanism, UNDP and DPKO, as cluster leads, bring all relevant UN actors together – including OHCHR, UNODC, UN Women, UNICEF and DPA – to plan, support, and deliver rule of law results. The central Global Focal Point mechanism is designed to enable us to make expertise and human resources available, drawing from across the UN system and beyond, wherever and whenever significant needs arise in the field.

This marks a change in the way we do business. Assistance from headquarters is quicker to arrive, delivered with more flexibility, streamlined across the UN, and driven by demand from the field. Field level demand is, in turn, being expressed more clearly and strategically.

In crisis and post-crisis settings, the SRSG or Resident Co-ordinator now has full responsibility for defining and driving the UN’s strategic objectives in a country for rule of law assistance. This means that, in all cases, UN objectives are being defined at the country level in order to respond to the unique national context. Using the focal point mechanism, relevant parts of the UN can be aligned with these objectives, to make flexible teams of world-class expertise available to support senior UN managers and operations in the field, when and as they need it.

In Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia, for example, governments and communities are receiving joined-up and strategic UN support to strengthen the rule of law. The Government of Libya is benefiting from co-ordinated UN support as it works to manage political transition. Joint UN efforts are helping Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste to ensure that their state-building and development initiatives can continue long after the Security Council-mandated missions depart – as that in Timor Leste already has. 

The new Global Focal Point arrangement has helped the UN plan for its new engagements in Mali, and Somalia. It is helping UNSOM in Somalia to secure the staff and technical assistance it needs rapidly to design and implement integrated UN approaches to police, justice, and corrections. These teams are backed up by colleagues in HQ who work with them to ensure that the nascent Somali authorities have the assistance they need in this fragile period.

The recent spate of horrific killings and bombings in Mogadishu has affected UNDP. A UNDP staff member and people who worked with us were killed in the recent attack on the compound in which we were based. I note that since 2006, among many victims of violence in Somalia, 23 legal professionals, nineteen court staff, and the Deputy State Attorney have been killed. These tragedies remind us how critically important peace and the rule of law are.

Our aim for the Global Focal Point mechanism is continuous improvement. To enhance the new arrangements, we are reviewing and expanding our rosters to ensure the best expertise from around the world is available, including national expertise. Over the coming year, we will seek to engage more closely with Member States, the World Bank, the European Union, and others to improve co-ordination and augment our collective ability to deliver. UNDP is proud to be co-leading this work, and we will continue to invest and build on the new arrangements.

Demonstrating UNDP’s added value: Rule of Law results in 2012/2013

The Rule of Law results UNDP has achieved in 2012/13 reflect improved ways of working in support of the efforts of national partners to establish the rule of law, expand access to justice, and provide for the safety and security of people. Our support is available to all countries, including those affected by conflict or crisis.

We look for high-impact rule of law programmes which strengthen national capacities and can help initiate transformational change. From experience, we have learned that in crisis and fragile settings, four basic elements are essential :

First, rule of law programmes need to deal with the legacy of violence. That means establishing a political culture of accountability which enables people and their communities – especially victims - to put conflict and violence behind them.  This work is neither easy nor fast, but it is essential that it is done.

An example:

UNDP has worked alongside national partners in Guatemala on transitional justice.  During the conflict, UNDP efforts had enabled the safe storage of millions of historical archives of the National Police. These are now available to enable truth and accountability. We have backed the efforts of Guatemala’s Attorney General, who is present at this meeting, to fight impunity by conducting thousands of exhumations of victims. The evidence collected has shed light on clandestine cemeteries, helping families achieve psychological “closure”, and advancing a culture of accountability.     

Second, to be successful in rebuilding from conflict and fragility, rule of law assistance must help reduce the threat and/or impact of armed violence. Until people feel safe in their daily lives, they do not invest in their futures. In situations such as those in South Sudan, Yemen, and Cote d’Ivoire, the continuing prevalence of weapons undermines citizen security. Individuals or groups whose grievances cannot be solved peacefully can all too easily revert to violence.

Work in this area can include building an understanding of the damage which high levels of weapons inflict on a community. In Kenya, we worked with the authorities, including the police, and citizens on that, which laid the ground for stricter gun rules and enforcement of them. More restrictions led to fewer guns. Fewer guns led to less violence, including in the lead-up to Kenyan elections this March. 

A third basic element of successful rule of law assistance is promoting women’s security and access to justice. We have learned from our experience that women are very powerful drivers of peace and development in their communities and countries. They are also disproportionately the victims of conflict, rape, and injustice. Empowering and enabling women through the rule of law is critical for jump-starting recovery from conflict and fragility.  

In such settings, UNDP has supported creative ways of making justice more accessible; introducing mobile courts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Saturday Courts in Sierra Leone. These courts have provided the survivor-friendly environments, which are so vital. Thousands have come forward with cases of sexual and gender-based violence which need to be dealt with through the justice system.

To process cases of gender-based violence in Iraq, UNDP has supported the establishment of sixteen Family Protection Units. These Units specialize in helping women escape from domestic violence, including aiding them to seek police protection, advance divorce proceedings, obtain alimony, and retain custody of their children. In 2012 alone, the Units processed 4500 cases.

Fourth, to be successful, rule of law assistance must put in place national justice and security systems capable of protecting people and upholding the law. That means having institutions able to solve crime swiftly and offer redress, resolve disputes, and make decisions on issues which could otherwise trigger conflict, such as disputes over land tenure or water rights. To succeed, the courts, the police, and other institutions must be trusted and widely perceived to be fair. This is a momentous undertaking anywhere. In fragile and conflict settings, it is one which requires sustained effort and support. 

UNDP takes a comprehensive and multi-year approach to its Rule of Law programming. In 2012, in Guinea-Bissau, more than one hundred prosecutors, judges, and lawyers graduated from the National Judicial Training Centre which UNDP supports. These results are not achieved over night. We have a long term commitment to strengthening the capacity of justice and security institutions, and advancing respect for rule of law in the country.

Long term commitment is also critical in Somalia, where we are helping to lay the foundations for an effective civilian police force by supporting its efforts to set standards and to train, recruit, and oversee officers. 

Wherever we work, we aim to stay the course in establishing the capable systems and empowered societies needed to uphold the just rule of law. As detailed in the draft of our new Strategic Plan, we are committed to this priority work, and we look to all our partners for the support needed to achieve this. 

The rule of law and post-2015

Last September at the UN High Level Segment on the Rule of Law, Member States adopted a resolution recognizing the importance of the rule of law in reducing poverty, preventing and resolving conflict, building and maintaining peace, and advancing sustainable development. They suggested that the rule of law should be considered in deliberations on the post-2015 global development agenda. 

Last month, the High Level Panel on Post-2015 released its Report to the Secretary-General. It called for a “fundamental shift” in thinking: away from seeing governance and peace as unrelated to development, and towards seeing both as essential parts of development. In the Panel’s words: “peace and good governance are core elements of well-being and not an optional extra .”   

This suggests that the rule of law, justice, and security are development outcomes in their own right, and, as such, need to be central to work to eradicate poverty and advance sustainable and inclusive development.

This view is reinforced by what we have been hearing in the UN-facilitated consultations. Hundreds of thousands of people from across 194 countries, have voted on their priorities for the future in the global My World survey. Support for "honest and responsive government" has ranked very high. That can only be achieved where the just rule of law prevails.

The High-Level Panel Report includes examples of how the rule of law could be reflected in a renewed global development agenda. They suggest that possible targets could include:

  • reducing the number of violent deaths worldwide;
  • decreasing violence against women and children;
  • increasing the proportion of justice institutions which are accessible, independent, and well-resourced; and
  • providing all people with a free legal identity, which would help them variously to claim their rights, settle disputes, or register a business.

UNDP sees around the world that access to justice, the reduction of violence and the just rule of law are best advanced when they are firmly embedded in development policies and initiatives. Member States could build that insight into the future development agenda – confident that it is based on knowledge of the progress being made by Member States on embedding the Rule of Law.

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