Helen Clark: Speech at the Annual UNDP Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law

May 27, 2014

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Speech at
Annual UNDP Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law
United Nations, New York

This important annual meeting with UNDP’s partners on our rule of law work is a good opportunity to take stock of our efforts to date, and consider how we can jointly strengthen our support for the rule of law in crisis-affected and fragile contexts.

Once again, we are joined at this annual meeting by an eminent panel of speakers. I welcome, in particular:
•    the Honourable Madame Wivine Mumba Matipa, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
•    the Honourable Hooria Mashhour Ahmed Kaid, Minister of Human Rights of Yemen; and
•    Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah, Consultant Master and Registrar for the Judiciary in Sierra Leone.

These three are among those working to promote the rule of law and human rights in some of the world’s most insecure places. Each has demonstrated a particularly inspiring commitment to empower women, including through their own personal example. Their work in women’s rights and the rule of law is testament to their personal courage, as well as to their understanding that the fate of justice, the rule of law, human rights, development, and peace are inextricably interlinked.   

At UNDP, we believe that where people have a say in the rules which affect them and are able to seek a better life, defend their rights, and protect themselves and their families, then the chance of pursuing peaceful and sustainable development grows. Social and political inclusion lies at the heart of establishing the just rule of law.

Since we met at last year’s annual meeting, serious outbreaks of conflict have occurred and are ongoing in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, and more continue elsewhere. The causes are many and varied – they may include poverty, inequality, and exclusion, fuelled by intolerance and hatred. The universal outcome is more straightforward: human and development catastrophe.

What UNDP infers from how these tragedies have unfolded is the need for us all to keep adapting the way we approach the rule of law, state building, and peace building to make it as relevant and effective as possible. We must also take to heart what all our panelists here today know so well – that building peace is a highly political process. To end cycles of violent conflict, technical assistance to strengthen justice and security systems is important - but insufficient. It must go hand and hand with the kind of engagement which promotes reconciliation, builds trust between groups, and helps establish inclusive institutions.

In my comments today, I will elaborate on these points, and discuss how UNDP is applying insights gleaned from recent serious relapses into violent conflict to its programming. I will also comment on the progress made through the UN Global Focal Point on Rule of Law on delivering a combination of political, technical, and strategic support.

Peace is political
The on-going South Sudan tragedy will be one of those on the minds of many in this room. Support for the new state to get up and running has been generous. With the benefit of hindsight though, we need to ask whether the support offered took into account fully the social and political dynamics entrenched through years of violence, war, and conflict.

To address the legacy of conflict and the impact of on-going violence in South Sudan, great support for the fragile peace process is now needed. Measures which promote reconciliation, transitional justice to address the atrocities committed, and inclusion at all levels are badly needed. It will be important to ensure that rule of law assistance is used in ways which advance national objectives to establish responsive institutions and improve service delivery for all. Achieving sustainable peace and development in South Sudan will require concerted political and technical support from the UN, regional organizations, Member States, civil society, and other actors.

In the Central African Republic, it is to be hoped that the peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA can help stabilize the country. Development actors need to work collaboratively with national partners to strengthen national institutions, facilitate inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation, and tackle extreme poverty. These are essential building blocks for peace and development.  

For the rule of law to take hold, CAR will require international support to build an independent and functioning judiciary. The justice system will need to be made accessible to all people, be seen to be fair, and end impunity for human rights violations. A professional police service, which protects the communities it serves, is another prerequisite for establishing the just rule of law.  

In UNDP’s experience, the act of providing assistance in these areas is never only technical. It is important that international counterparts, who seek to help national partners fulfill their commitments to human rights and justice, do not leave the work to technical teams alone. Development partners working together can use the good offices of the UN to ensure consistent communication with government partners, and to apply the UN human rights due diligence policy in work related to security services.

This work is rarely easy, but it can be done. UNDP, working closely with successive Security Council-mandated missions and other partners, has helped many nations address past abuses and/or atrocities, uphold the rule of law, and advance human rights.  

Good outcomes, however, depend on much more than effective international assistance – the commitment of national authorities is vital. Political compacts and peace agreements can help solidify that commitment by embedding principles of inclusion and other ideals, which can then form the basis for shared values in state and society.

To this end, the UN plays a unique role. Its facilitating and convening role often give it a seat at or near the table, from where it can make the case for including transitional justice, the protection of civilians, and accountability as essential precursors of investments in longer term institutional reform.

High levels of armed violence and transnational organized crime are continuing to compromise the development of a significant number of countries seriously. Strengthening the rule of law in such contexts requires political leadership and social change. To be successful over the long run, efforts to establish effective justice mechanisms, counter impunity, and enhance the security of civilians ultimately require changes in norms and values.

UNDP continually applies all its lessons learned on what has worked and what hasn’t to its rule of law and justice programming, and we believe our efforts are bearing fruit.

In El Salvador, to give one of many examples, we continue to support the country to make significant reductions in crime. We have worked with partners in areas badly affected by criminal violence to form crime prevention committees. Each of these has implemented its own civilian security plan, which has been designed to build trust between neighbors and empower people to reclaim their communities. As part of this work, we helped facilitate a March 2012 truce between prominent gangs. Ever since the homicide rate has been in steady decline.

With our support, local authorities last year helped some 200 at-risk youth find jobs or start small businesses by providing the training and/or education they needed. Giving young people alternatives to a life of crime is a win-win for peace and development.

Convening the system – Results of the UN’s efforts to deliver

UNDP understands the need to integrate the political and development dimensions of the rule of law. That is why we are so committed to delivering our responsibilities together with DPKO through the UN Global Focal Point for the rule of law.

Two years ago UNDP and DPKO agreed to implement this new mechanism for rule of law assistance in crisis and conflict settings. The arrangement was endorsed by the UN Secretary-General, and has been operationalized since by colleagues in UNDP and DPKO.

The logic behind it and the value which it adds to the UN’s work are clear. Our rule of law assistance is improved by being able to draw more quickly and strategically on the expertise of UNDP, DPKO, UNODC, UN Women, OHCHR, and others in a co-ordinated way. This united front has enabled the UN as a whole to benefit from partnerships within the peace-building and humanitarian communities, and to help to bridge post-crisis divisions. By bringing together UNDP’s operational and programming capacity with the skills of DPKO in the Global Focal Point, the UN has been able to respond more effectively to requests for complex and politically nuanced assistance.  

The ongoing objective is to support assessment, planning, and delivery under the guidance of national partners and UN in-country leadership. Our joined up efforts, uniting the pillars of the UN, have proven particularly helpful in countries where Security Council-mandated missions are being established and where they are in transition.

In Mali, for example, local authorities, UNDP, and the peacekeeping mission have been able to support the progressive re-establishment of criminal justice services in the north of the country.  In 2013 the first judges were deployed under this initiative, and prisons were re-opened in Gao, Timbuktu, and Gourma-Rarous.

In Somalia, the UN launched a Joint Rule of Law Programme. The UN’s one team, one source of funding, and one plan approach has left it well placed to help SRSG Nicolas Kay deliver on his mandate and to help strengthen the capacity of Somalia’s governance, security, and justice systems.   

In 2013, 55 of the law students whom UNDP has been sponsoring in Puntland and Somaliland graduated, including 22 women. This, building on previous UNDP support, is resulting in the first female legal professionals entering Somalia’s justice sector, including as lawyers and prosecutors. We also expanded the number of mobile courts operating in Puntland and Somaliland, bringing them to another 100 towns and villages. Legal aid partners were able to assist more than 15,000 clients, more than a third of whom were women.  

In Haiti, MINUSTAH and UNDP worked together to improve the functioning of the court system in Port-au-Prince. As a result, the daily number of hearings has doubled.  

These efforts and many more have been made possible by a positive team spirit among colleagues at all levels, and because of efficiencies realized through the workings of the Global Focal Point. Supportive UN Member States have made these successes possible with generous and rapid funding, enabling us to deploy rapidly as needed.

With support from The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, and Sweden, an external review of the Global Focal Point arrangement has been conducted. It confirms that good progress is being made. We welcome the reviewers’ constructive advice on the need to refine the arrangement’s “business model” and strategic direction, and are taking steps to that end.

I thank Herve Ladsous and his team in DPKO for their collaboration with UNDP in the Global Focal Point over the past year. UNDP looks forward to working even more closely next year with DPKO, and with other partners across the UN system, the World Bank, the European Union, and our important bi-lateral partners.

UNDP is very pleased to be co-leading this work on the rule of law, and will continue to invest in the arrangement. In UNDP’s internal reorganization, rule of law assistance, including UNDP’s contribution to the Global Focal Point, comes under the new Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. The objective is to pull all the policy and programme functions of UNDP together to realize efficiencies and facilitate multi-disciplinary approaches.   

Our rule of law agenda will continue to be ambitious, and will be focused on reducing violence for citizen security, especially sexual and gender based violence; building more effective and accountable institutions; legally empowering the poor including by improving access to justice for all, including to transitional justice; and building respect for human rights, as reflected in UNDP’s new Strategic Plan.

The costs of violence and conflict to societies are enormous. The Institute for Economics and Peace has estimated that violence containment expenditure globally is more than 75 times foreign aid expenditure.  To get ahead of the curve, we need a transformative development agenda which recognizes the links between future prosperity, governance, peace, justice, and the rule of law, and which incentivizes all countries to play their part in building a better future.

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