Wednesday 2 April 2014

The Role of the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Development

Last night I was excited to go and see Helen Clark speak at the University of Auckland on the Role of the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Development. I made copious notes, and tried my hardest to keep up and live-tweet key points for people who would have loved to have been there but couldn’t make it.
For a full transcript of her talk, please go to the UNDP website link here.
But in the interests of those who wish to just get the gist of things, I have summarised main points
The tone of the talk was very relaxed, and it may have been me projecting what I wanted onto the evening, but it seemed as though Helen was enjoying being at home, talking to a group of people interested and positive about the future. The talk was definitely targeted at raising the interest and profile of what the UNDP does to those who work in and around human rights law in NZ. She pointed out that UNDP is a development agency, and doesn’t have a monitoring role in human rights and international law. (Something I wasn’t aware of). UNDP work on poverty eradication and human development, defined as a process of “enlarging people’s choices, freedoms, and capabilities to lead lives they value.”

A key part of people’s vulnerability is that they live without the protections of the law, and this limits their choices and freedoms and opens them up to a range of abuses.   “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.”

Helen Clark pointed out that the previous UNDP goals were of broader strokes and despite significant progress on achieving the Millennium development goals, poor and marginalized people continue to “face significant obstacles to empowerment and human development”.  A pivotal 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.”
She referenced that the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor 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. 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.
"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.
She gave examples for how the rule of law and access to justice can be advanced through practical development work and they were fascinating – again, I would highly recommend reading her speech, I am just giving the answers without any of the interesting scenarios and examples.
·          Supporting countries to remove specific barriers to access to justice and to reach underserved communities.
·          Building responsive and inclusive justice and security systems
·          Support for National Human Rights Machinery
·          Supporting Transitional Justice arrangements in countries emerging from conflict or otherwise in transition
·          Expanding citizen security
·          Meeting the specific needs of women and girls
·          The Role of the Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Sustainable Natural Resource Management - justice systems have a key role to play in ensuring environmental sustainability

The examples given in how these above ideas can be practically applied were fascinating; setting up remote mobile legal centres, getting more women into police and justice roles, setting up legitimate work places for young people to give them an alternative to working for corrupt/dangerous employers. The list goes on…
The question section was interesting, when Helen could speak off the cuff about what the UNDP staff do and how she sees her role. Some key points from these were:
Entry level qualification to work for the UN is a master’s degree, and be prepared to go to the less popular places!
Be prepared to take the tough assignments – they are a ladder to rewarding experiences and a career with the UNDP
There is not a week goes by without UNDP staff somewhere struggling with harrowing experiences. They are frequently under attack in some areas.
If someone is prepared to take their own life in order to kill you, your prospects really aren’t good.
Lots of developing countries slip under the radar; they aren’t as “marketable” for donations.
When she leaves, she would like to see the UNDP established as the partner of choice because they are good at what they do.
In conclusion to my write up on the evening, a lovely thing she said which really seemed to resonate with the room was “You do this job to make a difference, and to make a difference you need to inspire people working around the world.”
I hope this helps summarise the evening for those of you who would have liked to have been there.


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Launcel said...

Can we please close comments on this post? I am really wincing in anticipation of the right wing trolling that any mention of Helen Clark inevitably sets off...