DOHA: UN officials spotlight equal access to justice in promoting inclusive economic development

13 April 2015

The role that fair, transparent and accessible legal frameworks play in poverty eradication – and in promoting sustainable development – was highlighted by General Assembly President Sam Kutesa and other top United Nations officials attending the UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice today, in Doha, Qatar.

“Equal access to justice and non-discriminatory laws help advance gender equality and promote equitable and inclusive development. Furthermore, fighting corruption will make funds available for delivery of basic services to citizens, particularly to the most vulnerable,” Mr. Kutesa said at a high-level special event on the rule of law, human rights and the post-2015 agenda.

“Nurturing and promoting rule of law and human rights for all without discrimination is critical for reducing violence and crime, and ensuring human security. Central to this is the need for effective and accountable security and justice systems to address cycles of violence and to promote peace and stability, which are important pre-requisites to sustained economic growth,” he added.

The high-level special event was organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in partnership with the Rule of law coordination and resource group, as well as Italy and Thailand. The UN Crime Congress opened Sunday and is expected to conclude on 19 April.

Today’s discussion “is an important follow-up to the General Assembly’s high-level thematic debate on ‘Integrating crime prevention and criminal justice in the post-2015 development agenda,’ which was held in New York on 25 February 2015,” said UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov.

Mr. Kutesa stressed that the nature of crime has changed. “Many countries are today grappling with national and transnational crimes like human, firearms and drug trafficking; corruption; smuggling of migrants; counterfeit medicines; cybercrime and piracy. These not only undermine national capacities towards effective rule of law and human rights promotion, but also weaken the ability of countries and communities to prosper and realize development opportunities,” he added.

The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Martin Sajdik, the Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Dmitry Titov, the Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Magdy Martinez-Soliman, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, also spoke at today’s high-level event.

Mr. Sajdik said “there is no good governance, without rule of law, and there is no rule of law without good governance,” and added, “the promotion of sustainable development, guarded by strong rule of law and human rights, is a road that must be taken by everyone.”

“If we wish to secure peaceful and stable societies, and true social development, then eradicating discrimination, fighting inequalities between social groups, and ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’ should be our urgent priority,” Mr. Šimonović said.

He also stressed that “law enforcement and the administration of justice must be consistent with international human rights law.” “Laws should serve people, reflecting their values and needs and not be imposed on them. We need ‘rule of law,’ not a ‘law and order’ approach. Where law enforcement is discriminatory, and disproportionately harsh, and where the laws themselves are unjust, this generates both resentment and inequality,” he added.

For his part, Mr. Martinez-Soliman spoke about UNDP's work in preventing impunity, human rights violations and to ensure the rule of law in over 100 countries, including 40 affected by crisis. UNDP also helps strengthen the capacity of governments to hold perpetrators of crimes accountable and to provide vulnerable people, especially victims of conflict with measures of redress."

Mr. Šimonović stressed that “to be truly transformative, and effective, the new post-2015 development agenda must be firmly based on international human rights law, aiming to secure freedom for fear and want for all, without discrimination.”

Mr. Titov said that it is not just violent crime that hinders development. “There is a wealth of evidence, as mentioned by many today, that corruption is a major hindrance with a disproportionate impact on the poor and marginalized,” he said.

He gave examples of initiatives by the Department of peacekeeping operations to strengthen the rule of law, including “helping the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to deal with military officers accused of committing crimes against civilians” and “supporting Côte d’Ivoire in operationalizing all 37 courts and rehabilitating 22 prisons across the country following the 2011 crisis.”

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Kicking off the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha, Qatar, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon along with several other top UN officials today spotlighted the critical connection between rule of law and sustainable development.