Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group.
Helen Clark: Lecture at University of Auckland Law School on the Role of the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Development
Administrator, United Nations Development Programme
Reflections on the Role of the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Development
University of Auckland Law School
Auckland, New Zealand
My thanks go to the New Zealand Human Rights Lawyers’ Association and the Centre for Human Rights at Auckland University for inviting me to speak on how the establishment of the rule of law and access to justice relate to development. This is an especially important topic at this time as the UN’s Member States are working on a new global development agenda which will define global development priorities for years to come.
These days I head the United Nations Development Programme. UNDP is a development agency, and, as such, does not have either a normative or a monitoring role in human rights and international law.
Yet access to justice and the rule of law are at the very heart of our work on poverty eradication and human development. Human development has been defined since the first UNDP global Human Development Report in 1990 as a process of enlarging people’s choices, freedoms, and capabilities to lead lives they value. Many people around our world live without the protection of the law, leaving them vulnerable to a wide range of abuses, and limiting their choices and freedoms.
As development practitioners, we see daily how the poor and marginalized are often:
• unable to access quality basic services;
• living in unsafe communities and precarious conditions;
• working in informal environments without protection from abuse and exploitation; and
• unable to seek redress for injustices perpetrated against them.
We see women around the world exposed to sexual and gender-based violence in their homes and communities, and specifically targeted during conflicts; people living with disabilities who are excluded from the daily life of their communities; and whole groups facing discrimination, if not outright persecution, because of their ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation – to name just a few factors which can define exclusion in societies.
These challenges are exacerbated where there are bad laws – or adequate laws which are poorly enforced, poor governance, and/or inadequate attention to or political will for removing barriers standing in the way of inclusive growth and development.
The rule of law and a well-functioning justice sector support such growth and development, by, for example defining property and tenure rights, enabling contracts to be enforced and disputes settled, and tackling corruption.
The rule of law can also work against the mismanagement of the exploitation of natural resources which has so often been associated with growing inequality, political instability, and conflict. Since the livelihoods of the rural poor are largely dependent on access to natural resources of the land and/or sea and fresh water, competition for the use of these from rapidly expanding extractive or other commercial activities, and the impact of environmental degradation often associated with those activities, are of particular concern.
For UNDP therefore, promoting good governance, access to justice, and the rule of law are fundamental to accelerating human development, addressing the needs of the poor and marginalized, and lifting countries out of fragility.
Where societies are emerging from conflict and/or social and political upheaval, strengthening the rule of law is particularly important in making the transition to a more peaceful and cohesive future which would enable development to get traction.
My lecture tonight draws on the experiences of UNDP around the world in strengthening governance, security, and justice systems based on the rule of law, and in supporting legal empowerment of the poor.
But first, allow me to comment briefly on how discourse around the relationship of the rule of law and access to justice to development and peace is evolving.
Outcomes on the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in UN fora:
The United Nations Charter, written in 1945, established three pillars for the organisation’s work: peace and security, development, and human rights. Advances on each of these pillars are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Underpinning each is the role of the rule of law and access to justice.
In 2000, the Millennium Declaration, which I signed on behalf of New Zealand as Prime Minister, outlined six fundamental values which world leaders considered at that time to be “essential to international relations in the 21st century.” The first was freedom, and the second was equality.
On freedom, it stated that: “Men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice. Democratic and participatory governance based on the will of the people best assures these rights.”
On equality, it stated that: “No individual and no nation must be denied the opportunity to benefit from development. The equal rights and opportunities of women and men must be assured.”
In a later section, the Millennium Declaration stated: “We will spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development”.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which followed and were largely based on the Declaration did not, however, specifically capture the elements of it related to good governance, the rule of law, and justice. Rather, the MDGs and their targets were set around economic and social indicators, and did not address the role of factors like governance, the rule of law, and access to justice as enablers of development.
Despite significant progress worldwide on achieving the MDGs, poor and marginalized people continue to face significant obstacles to empowerment and human development. For example, vulnerable employment has decreased only marginally over the past two decades, and extreme poverty and hunger remain global challenges
In UNDP’s work to support countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, a key lesson learned has been that weak governance, ineffective or unfair justice systems, security institutions which do not serve their people, and lack of stability are all barriers to development progress.
This is most striking for the 1.4 – 1.5 billion people living in those countries which the World Bank and the OECD define as being affected by conflict, violence, and fragility. According to the OECD’s report, Fragile States 2014: Domestic Revenue Mobilization in Fragile States, “Although 35 fragile states have made significant progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and will be able to meet at least one by the 2015 deadline, progress towards the MDGs has been much slower than in other developing countries. Of the seven countries that are unlikely to be able to meet any MDG by 2015, six are fragile.”
In its 2011 World Development Report, “Conflict, Security and Development”, the World Bank noted that those “living in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organized criminal violence” are twice as likely as people living in other developing countries to see their children die before they reach the age of five, and more than three times as likely to be unable to send their children to school.
More broadly, the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, which was supported by UNDP, noted in its 2008 report that marginalized groups often depend on informal employment for their livelihoods and informal housing for their habitat. They often lack legal identity and access to justice. All these factors compound the problems they face in getting protection under the law of their assets and personal security, or access to the basic services and social protection to which they are entitled under the law. The Commission's final report argued that: "a process of systemic change through which the poor and excluded become able to use the law, the legal system, and legal services to protect and advance their rights and interests as citizens" is essential for social justice and equity.
Right now, the Member States of the United Nations are discussing what the global development agenda should look like beyond the MDGs which run their course at the end of next year. The post-2015 development agenda will set both a vision and priorities for global development for years to come. An understanding of the links between sustainable development and the rule of law and access to justice will make this agenda stronger. It is reassuring, therefore, that in more recent inter-governmental discussions and decisions, U.N. Member States have been raising these issues as drivers of development. For example:
• The outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in July 2012 noted that: "We acknowledge that democracy, good governance and the rule of law, at the national and international levels, as well as an enabling environment, are essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty and hunger".
• The same year, the U.N. General Assembly held its first ever High-level Meeting exclusively devoted to the rule of law. Its Declaration (September 2012) reads: "We are convinced that the rule of law and development are strongly interrelated and mutually reinforcing, that the advancement of the rule of law at the national and international levels is essential for sustained and inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and hunger and the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, all of which in turn reinforce the rule of law, and for this reason we are convinced that this interrelationship should be considered in the post-2015 international development agenda."
• The outcome document of the leader-level special event to follow up efforts made towards achieving the MDGs in New York last September reinforced this view, noting that the agenda should have a “single framework and set of goals – universal in nature and applicable to all countries, while taking account of differing national circumstances and respecting national policies. It should promote peace, and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality, and human rights for all.”
• Many UN Member States now suggest that the rule of law and access to justice should be reflected in the Post-2015 development agenda as enablers and/or outcomes of development. The Report of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Post-2015 called for: "a fundamental shift – to recognise peace and good governance as core elements of well-being, not an optional extra."
Similar messages around the need for good governance and the rule of law emerged as high priorities in the global conversation facilitated by the UN development system on the post-2015 agenda. Some 1.8 million people from more than 190 countries have already engaged through national consultations, consultations on major themes which could be included in the new agenda, and through the global MY World survey which asked people to rank their priorities for the new agenda. "An honest and responsive government" is ranked as fourth of the sixteen priorities, with more than half of all participants ranking it in their top six priorities. “Protection against crime and violence” is ranked as number seven.
To date, however, despite the widespread recognition of the importance of access to justice, the rule of law, good governance, and peace to development, there is no consensus around how to reflect these issues in the post-2015 agenda. Members of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (note: SDGs are expected to be at the heart of the new agenda) established by the UN General Assembly have supported including a focus on peaceful and non-violent societies and capable institutions, including by delivering on the rule of law and responsive justice systems, but there are reservations being expressed on this. Some countries have voiced concern about possible implications for national sovereignty and/or about new conditionalities on development assistance being introduced through this agenda.
How are the rule of law and access to justice advanced through practical development work? Let me address that question by referring to examples drawn from UNDP’s extensive portfolio of work in this area.
A. Building responsive and inclusive justice and security systems
UNDP supports societies to find their own way to establish the rule of law and citizen security and to ensure access to justice, based on the guiding principles established by the United Nations. We do not take a “cookie-cutter approach - there is a great variety of legal systems across and within the countries in which we work. We help build the systems and capacities needed in each context to address inequalities, support stability and peace-building, and achieve sustainable social and economic development. These are best built through inclusive approaches where the authorities are prepared to engage with civil society around a shared vision. This is especially important when societies are emerging from conflict and/or an authoritarian system and the institutions of state and society are being created anew.
• In Somalia, UNDP is assisting the Government to assess the justice and security needs of the country, through consultations with ministries, citizens, and civil society. Working on the basis of the “Somali New Deal Compact” which reflects the broader priorities of Somalia in peace-building and state-building for the next three years (2014-2016), a national plan specific to justice and security, with a single funding mechanism for donors to pool contributions to it, is being finalized. In partnership with the United Nations Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), UNDP’s efforts to incorporate the rule of law, justice, and security in national development planning, as well as implement specific transformative projects such as access to justice for women and internally displaced persons, can help Somalia achieve development and durable peace.
• In Timor Leste, UNDP has been supporting the establishment of justice and security institutions since the country achieved its independence in 2002. Timor-Leste is now sharing its experience in these areas with other countries endeavouring to make the transition from conflict to peaceful and sustainable development.
• In Lao PDR, UNDP helped the government develop a comprehensive Legal Sector Master Plan, which supports building the capacity of justice institutions, including through a new Judicial Training Institute, and increasing access to quality legal aid for people, particularly the poor and marginalized, to help them claim and protect their rights. With support from the United States, France and the European Union, UNDP is now helping the authorities to implement the plan and establish a fund to increase civil society participation alongside government and other stakeholders in implementing legal and justice reform.
UNDP also supports countries to remove specific barriers to access to justice and to reach underserved communities, including those where the rule of law has been effectively absent due to poverty, insecurity, or discrimination in service provision. For example:
• In Mozambique, UNDP supported the decentralization of justice services to rural areas with the establishment of local Palaces of Justice where the legal aid office, the police, the prosecutor, and the court are co-located. This “one-stop-shop” model offers services five days a week, improves communication and cooperation between officials, increases the efficiency of court proceeding, and reduces the time spent by the accused in pre-trial detention. Capacity has also been built through the training provided to around 1,000 judges, prosecutors, and criminal investigation and prison staff.
• Similarly, in Bangladesh, UNDP has been supporting the justice system in rural areas by training local public officials and community members on criminal and civil proceedings and on alternative dispute resolution methods. This "Village Courts" initiative has reduced the time, expense, and hassle which plaintiffs often associate with conventional court systems.
By empowering citizens to resolve their disputes at the local level, the village courts system is improving access to justice for the poor and marginalized, and is reducing the huge case backlog in the higher courts. Resolution of cases in the village courts is now taking an average of 28 days, whereas in the traditional court system such cases can take as long as a decade to be resolved. Since 2010, of more than 32,000 cases reported to village courts across Bangladesh, almost 25,000 cases have been resolved. Nearly seventy per cent of the petitioners and respondents in these cases have expressed satisfaction with their experience.
• In Pakistan, UNDP is trialing access to justice for communities outside major urban centres by supporting the country’s first-ever modern mobile court to provide justice swiftly to litigants who cannot afford to travel. In the latter half of 2013, the mobile court began its work in the outskirts of Peshawar, and had resolved more than 170 cases by the end of the year. UNDP aims to expand the mobile court system to other insecure areas this year - if security conditions permit.
B. Support for National Human Rights Machinery
UNDP has worked in more than 100 countries to strengthen the capacity of national human rights and ombudsmen institutions, and to support them where they are being established. For National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), this is done in partnership with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we also have a relationship with the International Co-ordinating Committee for National Human Rights Institutions.
• In Croatia, UNDP supported the establishment of the Croatian People’s Ombudsman (CPO) as one of the main institutions providing a redress mechanism for citizens. UNDP helped to clarify the institution’s mandate and responsibilities, improve its internal and external co-ordination, and increase its visibility and accessibility as it worked to uphold new anti-discrimination legislation. In conjunction, UNDP also assisted the national government to develop a witness and victim support system in Croatia, primarily focused on the conflict-affected population. This system has become a model for the region.
• In the Philippines, the National Human Rights Commission has been a main implementing partner for UNDP’s rule of law and human rights programmes. With capacity support from the UN, the Commission was able to influence government policy in favor of human rights- based approaches to development, and develop a pool of trainers who can support human rights activities through government and partner projects.
• Just last week, in Libya, UNDP organized a seminar on "Strengthening the Independence of Libya's Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights," drawing on experiences from other National Human Rights Institutions, including those of Morocco and South Africa.
From our work, we know that many NHRIs and ombudsmen institutions continue to be short of resources, capacity, and expertise – including legal expertise – despite the important role they play. In the Asia-Pacific region, UNDP and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in partnership with the Asia Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions, developed a methodology for capacity assessments of NHRIs, and undertook assessments in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Malaysia which helped identify areas for targeted support.
A regional workshop on the establishment of human rights mechanisms in the Pacific was held in April 2009 in Samoa. Following this workshop, UNDP, OHCHR, and the UN family as whole provided technical and advisory support, such that in December 2013, Samoa established and launched its national human rights institution, with a mandate to protect and promote human rights in the country.
UNDP also works in support of the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN Human Rights Council, through its partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We support governments to strengthen their capacities to complete their reports, and then to follow up on the recommendations made by the Human Rights Council. Such support has been given to a diverse range of countries from Yemen to Ecuador, Rwanda, Turkmenistan, and Laos.
Beyond engaging with human rights machinery and strengthening national systems of human rights, UNDP is also very active in supporting transitional justice arrangements.
C. Supporting Transitional Justice arrangements in countries emerging from conflict or otherwise in transition
UNDP supports the establishment of justice and reconciliation processes in post-conflict and transition settings. In societies emerging from conflict, it is critical to address the impunity so often associated with human rights violations. Transitions are also a good time to address particular gaps in rights and areas of exclusion in society, and to establish equality for all under the law. Through this work we support communities and governments to build or re-build states where justice is done and seen to be done.
• In Tunisia, since 2011, UNDP has supported its national partners to conduct wide-ranging consultations around the design of a transitional justice process. This process engaged victims and their families and whole groups affected by past abuses to ensure that their views could be taken into account. In December last year, the new law on transitional justice was successfully adopted by Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly, and, pursuant to that, an Independent Commission on Truth and Dignity will soon be established.
• Similarly, in Colombia, UNDP is helping the government, the police, and the judicial system to examine past human rights violations by providing technical help in the investigation and prosecution of the accused, and helping to draft new laws which protect witnesses and victims. As of the end of 2013, over 58,000 past abuses have been recognized through the truth and reconciliation process and legal aid has been provided to nearly 10,000 victims. UNDP is also working to strengthen the capacities of victims’ organizations, through management and leadership training, and continues to provide care, including psychosocial support, and guidance to many people seeking the remains of “disappeared” family members.
D. Expanding citizen security
Even in countries not commonly perceived to be in a state of conflict, citizen security can be undermined by high levels of crime and violence. Citizen insecurity undermines progress development and inhibits people from investing in their futures.
UNDP has supported countries to draw up comprehensive policies on citizen security, establish “observatories” which collect and analyze data on crime and violence to support decision-making processes, design local security plans, and design laws to regulate weapons. For example:
• In El Salvador our work contributed to a significant reduction of crime rates in some of the most violent cities in the country, through support for local governance, upholding the rule of law, and specifically addressing citizen security. Critical to success was the organization of local crime prevention committees which designed citizen security plans. It also helped that the two most prominent gangs in the country signed a truce in March 2012. The country has been seeing a steady decrease in rates of violence and homicide. UNDP continues to assist authorities through local security planning, and by working directly to provide alternatives, including skills training, for at-risk youth who are living in gang territories. Through these initiatives, close to 200 young people received livelihood skills training in 2013, and are now either employed or engaged in entrepreneurial initiatives.
• In Nicaragua, UNDP has supported measures to control and regulate access to light and small weapons, ammunitions, explosives, and other such material.
E. Meeting the specific needs of women and girls
At UNDP, we believe that meeting the specific needs of women and girls requires differentiated and targeted measures within broader rule of law assistance. Gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual violence during conflict, is a fundamental rights violation and a pernicious means by which inequality between men and women is perpetuated.
Thus we are active in helping countries prevent and respond to GBV by ensuring that legal frameworks specifically protect women from violence, give equal rights in family matters, and ensure that women's specific needs are listened to, understood, and addressed as an integral part of rule of law assistance, rather than as an “add on” or token gesture.
This includes getting more women police officers and justice system officials. The presence of female police has been shown to be associated with greater reporting of sexual assault; yet women make up under ten per cent of the world’s police officers and only a quarter of the judges.
In Bangladesh, the Police Reform Programme supported by UNDP assisted the Bangladesh Police to more than double the proportion of female police officers in the force from a very low base of 1.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent. In Yemen in 2013, UNDP supported 27 women police officers to be deployed in leadership and strategic planning positions. These were the first senior women in such posts in Yemen. In Somalia, UNDP supported the training of the first woman prosecutor to become Chief Prosecutor. Clearly there is still a very long way to go to boost the number of women in these sectors, but the work to do that is underway.
In South Pacific, UNDP provided technical advice on the drafting of new family laws which improve gender equality in the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
In a number of countries, we have provided support for the creation of dedicated services for women exposed to violence:
• In Iraq, we support the federal Family Protection Units, and also the Directorate for Combating Violence against Women in the Kurdistan Region. In 2012, over 4,600 cases were reported to these services, but in 2013 the number increased dramatically to 14,650 as women became aware of the range of services made available to survivors of violence, including psycho-social support and medical aid. We believe that the improved reporting demonstrates greater confidence among women that it is worth pursuing redress.
• A similar system has been established in Burundi, where the UNDP-supported Centre Humura serves as a one stop-shop for victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Medical, psychosocial, and legal assistance is provided through close collaboration with four government ministries. Established in June 2012, Centre Humura has now assisted 2,544 victims of SGBV. To complement that support, UNDP has worked with the national authorities to establish a network of 85 specially-trained magistrates to address SGBV crimes, and to establish a system of more effective data gathering to track these cases.
• In Sierra Leone, UNDP support helped to eliminate entirely the backlog of cases in the Magistrate Court related to sexual and gender-based violence in Freetown last year. Through regular sittings of ‘Saturday Courts’ in Freetown, Bo, and Kenema, justice was delivered more speedily to the survivors of such violence. As well as dealing with individual cases, this effort sent a powerful signal to women that the justice system was committed to addressing women’s security as an important part of the transition to peace for the country as a whole.
F. Empowering vulnerable and marginalized communities through access to justice
We see in our work that it is not enough to focus just on the 'supply side' of justice – making the institutions more efficient and fair is vital, but it is insufficient on its own. If the poor and marginalized are unaware of their rights, lack skills to access services, or feel that their specific needs are not understood, then there will be low 'demand' for justice services and inequitable outcomes for the poor and marginalized. So our work to empower vulnerable communities must complement our work to reform institutions. For example:
• In India, UNDP partners with the Ministry of Law and Justice to enable poor and marginalized people to access the entitlements they have under law and government policy. Innovative legal literacy initiatives have generated awareness of their rights among two million marginalized men and women in seven of India’s poorest states. More than 7,000 legal aid lawyers, paralegals, and elected women representatives from minority communities, have been trained to help marginalized people seek both their entitlements and redress through the justice system. In 2012, UNDP and the Ministry produced a training manual for judges on Laws and Issues related to Marginalized Communities as part of the judicial education programme in India.
• In China, in 2007, UNDP supported the establishment of fifteen specialist migrant workers’ legal aid offices, bringing together pro bono lawyers to work with migrants. Without awareness of their legal rights, or with no capacity to access a justice system, migrants around the world face challenges related to underpayment, delayed payment, or even no pay at all for their work; lack of compensation for workplace injury; and exposure to dangerous working conditions. Based on the initiative’s success, migrant legal services in China are being scaled up. By the end of 2011, there were over thirty specialized organizations providing these services, reaching at least 1.5 million migrants and their families and reaping approximately US$40 million in financial benefits for workers assisted to claim what they were owed.
• In Georgia, UNDP has worked with legal aid lawyers and a public television channel on campaigns to raise awareness among displaced persons and ethnic minorities of their legal rights. This initiative is part of the work of the Legal Aid Service of Georgia, which now has eleven offices and three consultation centres located within reach of people in all parts of the country. Based on its experience, the Government of Georgia has been a leading sponsor of the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems which were recently adopted by the General Assembly in New York.
G. The Role of the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Sustainable Natural Resource Management
Bearing in mind that the post-2015 development agenda will be a sustainable development agenda, it is important to highlight the role of the rule of law and access to justice in natural resource management. For UNDP, inter-generational equity is of great importance, and justice systems have a key role to play in ensuring environmental sustainability.
This was recognized as early as 1992 in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development which states: "Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. […] Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided."
More than ninety countries have references in their constitutions to some form of environmental right, often in relation to health. For example, Section 24 of South Africa’s Constitution states that everyone has the right "A. to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and B. to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures."
• In the Philippines, the fundamental right to a healthy environment is enshrined in the Constitution. UNDP supported the Supreme Court of the Philippines to strengthen accountability for resource management, to enforce environmental laws, and to promote public awareness and prevention of environmental damage. The legislature adopted the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, a groundbreaking instrument which represents significant reform in legal protection for the environment in the Philippines. The Rules empower the courts to issue environmental protection orders, and have now been used by the Supreme Court in a range of cases. UNDP continues to work to raise awareness within the country’s judiciary on environmental rules and regulations in order to strengthen their enforcement.
A related issue is that more and more developing countries are exploiting their oil, gas, and mineral resources. This can bring great benefits to a country if there are financial returns to the country which are invested in development and if the industries concerned build a legacy of skills and infrastructure and operate in an environmentally responsible way. Yet so often an endowment of such resources has been a curse for countries, with their exploitation associated with environmental degradation, growing inequality, corruption, political instability, and conflict. Peace, good governance, regulatory systems, and sound long-term development planning can change that.
• In countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNDP has already provided advice to governments in contract negotiations with extractives sector companies on getting more favourable contracts. Limited information and lack of bargaining skills can make these negotiations very unequal. We can support governments either to renegotiate unfair contracts or to negotiate new ones in line with international standards.
In presenting a number of UNDP programmes operating in diverse settings around the world, I have set out to show the links between the rule of law, access to justice, good governance, peace and security, tackling inequalities, and achieving sustainable development.
As UN Member States move to define the post-2015 development agenda, the role of the rule of law and access to justice in development will need to be acknowledged. The question is how.
Improving access to justice, reducing the incidence of violence – including of violence against women, promoting human rights, and ensuring that institutions are effective, fair, and accountable are salient issues not only for developing states. There is room for improvements in these areas in all countries, which is why it is important that the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will be a universal one, applying to rich and poor countries alike.
It is also important to remember that achieving progress in these areas has always been a fundamental purpose of the United Nations. Here, let me recall the opening words of the UN Charter, where “the peoples of the United Nations” voiced a determination:
• “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
• to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
• to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.
Those words are as relevant today, as they were in 1945.
In closing let me acknowledge the many legal academics, practitioners, and students here this evening, and encourage you to see the post-2015 development agenda as highly relevant to extending the rule of law and access to justice around the world.
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