Strengthening the Rule of Law, Human Rights, Justice and Security for Sustainable Peace and Development

Annual Meeting Opening Remarks

June 20, 2023
UNDP Photo

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I would like to warmly welcome you to this Annual Meeting.

It is a moment where the United Nations Development Programme and our partners including Member States and civil society identify new ways to further strengthen the rule of law; human rights; justice; and security.

This represents the fertile ground for sustainable development to take root and flourish.

So much positive change is being driven by people who often put their lives on the line to stand up for human rights and the rule of law.

Therefore, I am delighted that we are joined today by several notable human rights defenders and rule of law champions. 

This year’s event takes place as peace has been shattered in many parts of the world.

Lives and livelihoods are being irrevocably changed by violent conflicts, now at their highest levels since 1945.

The rule of law has continued to decline globally for the fifth year in a row.

And two-thirds of the world’s population still live without access to justice.

We are also seeing a contraction in civic space, with only 3% of the world’s population living in countries considered to be ‘open’.

That is being fueled by a range of factors including the rise of right-wing extremism and polarization, and increasingly hostile environments for civil society.

Disturbingly, in 2022, over 400 human rights defenders were murdered, the highest number ever recorded.

Indeed, the accelerating climate emergency is wreaking havoc on people’s lives -- the greatest human rights challenge of our times. 

At this global inflection point, the latest phase of UNDP’s Global Programme on Rule of Law and Human Rights commenced.

In 2022, the programme provided 104 countries with the tailored assistance they need to deliver justice; improve security; and respect, protect, and fulfil human rights.

That included UNDP supporting approximately 85 million people to gain improved access to justice.

It also involved increased emphasis on how to harness the immense potential of digital tech to boost access to the rule of law.

Our efforts are made possible thanks to our strong partnerships, both within the UN family and beyond.

They include the Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law, co-chaired by UNDP and the UN Department of Peace Operations.

It facilitated the rapid deployment of funds and support for joint programming in 8 contexts including support to e-justice systems and improving living conditions in prisons. 

In the Central African Republic, UNDP also partnered with the UN peacekeeping mission there to support the Special Criminal Court.[1]

In 2022, the court achieved a milestone for justice -- a first verdict against individuals accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

UNDP has boosted the ability of 100 National Human Rights Institutions worldwide to ensure freedom of expression; protect human rights defenders; and hold governments to account.

That support was often extended through the Tripartite partnership between the UN Human Rights Office, GANHRI and UNDP.

Indeed, these institutions will have an increasingly vital role in addressing the human rights implications of climate change and environmental degradation. 

As we look ahead, UNDP is also placing increased emphasis on the rights of future generations.

That includes our first-ever global strategy on environmental justice.

It is supporting countries to ensure national legal frameworks put the new recognition of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment into practice.

Countries must also identify how emerging digital technology can protect our environment whilst safeguarding human rights in brand-new ways. 

That includes an emphasis on groups that have challenges in how they access justice, including in the digital sphere.

With support from Japan, Sweden and the European Union, UNDP has also scaled up its Global Offer on Business and Human Rights.

That includes working with the private sector in 28 countries, providing them with new tools to advance human rights in business including in the conflict and environmental spheres.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues and Friends,

This is an immensely challenging moment for human rights and the rule of law whereby all of us must redouble our efforts.

In particular, closing the justice gap requires more sustained investments at national and international levels.[2]

Yet, across the world, UN and UNDP personnel have worked with communities to provide many of the critical solutions needed. 

In many ways, it is based on a recognition that our collective ‘defence’ as a global community cannot solely be linked to arms or fortified borders.

‘Co-investing’ in each other -- including in human rights and the rule of law -- is a more powerful means to confront challenges like climate change that threaten global security. 

Just as legislation ultimately aims to protect people and shape a fairer world, the Global Goals are also prompting us to write a ‘new set of rules’ from which people can build a brighter future. 

Indeed, none of our results could have been achieved without the steadfast support of our partners.

In this respect, I also look forward to the discussions today into how UNDP’s close partnerships with the UN Human Rights Office and UNODC are evolving through even more integrated programming. 

Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to countries that directly contribute to UNDP’s Global Programme.

That includes Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. 

As our work together across the world shows, partnerships enable us to create an impact that leaves not only a lasting impression but results that will influence what happens next for years to come.

Thank you.



[1] The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) is a UN peacekeeping mission, which started on 10 April 2014, to protect Central African Republic civilians under Chapter VII of the UN Charter

[2] ODA to justice represents only 1% of bilateral aid, compared to 7% allocated to education and 13% to health.