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.
full transcript of her talk, please go to the UNDP website link here.
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.
countries to remove specific barriers to access to justice and to reach
responsive and inclusive justice and security systems
for National Human Rights Machinery
Transitional Justice arrangements in countries emerging from conflict or
otherwise in transition
the specific needs of women and girls
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
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:
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.