Closing Remarks at Series Launch of the IDLO Crisis Governance Forum Rule of Law based Policymaking for COVID-19 Response and Recovery

IDLO Director-General Jan Beagle,Your Excellency Rosa Seaman, Vice Minister of Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralization of Honduras,Your Excellency Emanuela Del Re, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy,Your Excellency David Maraga, Chief Justice of Kenya,Mourad Wahba, Associate Administrator of UNDP,Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today, to close the first webinar of the IDLO Series, launched as part of the Crisis Governance Forum with my friend Mourad and so many distinguished panellists.

The Forum addresses the nexus between crisis governance and the rule of law - a critical link for enhancing public trust in government.

I thank IDLO for taking this initiative and for its continued collaboration with UN DESA.

I am convinced that this Forum will greatly contribute to the second SDG 16 Conference that we are planning to jointly organize next year, together with the Government of Italy – the host of the Conference, as Vice Minister Del Re said.

This webinar series will help to shape the agenda of the second SDG16 Conference. Now, the previous speakers have covered a range of issues we face, as we manage the COVID-19 crisis and reflect on the role of governance.

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered a number of governance challenges and possible threats to the rule of law. Let me use this opportunity to share a few points.

First, on the importance of a rules-based approach. The rule-based approach should underpin the new socio-economic stimuli packages, ensuring equitable access to basic services and policy measures to address the needs of vulnerable groups; and guide efforts at preventing and addressing for instance, domestic violence and women’s access to health services, the subject of next webinar in this series.

As we all know, the pandemic has created major disruptions to the functioning of governments as a whole, and of specific public functions, including provision of basic services, law enforcement and the functioning of ¬the justice system, as the Chief Justice Maraga illustrated so well and Mr. Abila gave us very useful insights- upholding the Rule of law is thus all the more important in such circumstances.

This crisis should not be taken as an opportunity to reverse the rights for which people have fought for in the past; Policymaking should continue to be based on our shared values and principles.

How, then, can institutions be strengthened at this unprecedented time to support rule of law-based policymaking for COVID-19?

This brings me to my second point – capacities and commitment. Achieving effective and rule of law-based policymaking requires effective governance capacities and leadership committed to the principles and values of the 2030 Agenda.

In particular, it requires strengthening transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of government institutions, in line with Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Let me draw your attention to the Principles of Effective Governance endorsed by ECOSOC.

The 11 principles focus on effectiveness, accountability and inclusiveness. All of the 11 principles are relevant, but the ones that relate most pertinently to rule of law-based policymaking for COVID-19 response and recovery are sound policymaking, accountability and inclusiveness, which is my third point.

In line with the ECOSOC Principles, public policies are to be coherent with one another and founded on true or well-established grounds, in full accordance with fact, reason and good sense.

Critical dimensions include strategic planning and foresight, regulatory impact, strengthening national statistical systems, monitoring and evaluation, among others.

To ensure coherent policymaking, governments need to strengthen whole-of-government approaches and institutional arrangements for collaboration at the central level and between the national and local levels.

Let me elaborate a bit more on this – the basis for sound policymaking.

Transparency is critical for accountability and for public trust in government. For citizens to trust responses to the pandemic, they must know what governments are doing and have access to reliable information. Transparency is also crucial at the international level to coordinate global responses.

Access to information, through open government initiatives and more readily available legal information on national portals and through other channels is a pre-requisite for effective and rules-based policy making.

Health systems in many countries are also suffering from systemic weaknesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19-related corruption risks associated for example with emergency funding and procurement.

Legislative and judicial oversight can help mitigate the integrity violations and maladministration. Strengthening the capacity of supreme audit institutions is essential to ensure that fraud and waste of resources are contained.

Independent media and stronger civil societies are also needed to ensure better accountability of governments’ actions in the COVID-19 recovery period.

Finally, let me stress once again the inclusiveness factor in crisis management.

We know that the present crisis has also exacerbated inequalities and enhanced the need for institutional coordination among various jurisdictions. One of the pre-requisites to accessing public services, including health care, is ensuring that people have legal identity.

SDG 16 calls for providing legal identity for all, including birth registration. Ensuring that public administration reaches out to the most vulnerable populations to register their legal identity is essential to enjoy one’s rights and to establish more just societies.

Access to public services must be provided equitably, without distinction as stated in the UN Charter and reiterated in Agenda 2030. And Vice Minister Rosa Seaman of Honduras addressed vulnerable groups so well

Also, part and parcel of ensuring inclusiveness in policymaking is ensuring that all political groups can be actively involved in decision-making processes and have the capacity to influence policy. Reinforcing participatory mechanisms and processes, including through e-participation, is critical to inclusiveness in addressing the pandemic and in a post-COVID-19 era.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As governments put in place emergency measures to contain the pandemic, today more than ever there is a need to reaffirm the importance of the rule of law, protection of human rights and of the principle of legality. Strengthening governance capacities for sound policymaking, accountability and inclusiveness of all people in decision-making processes is critical in this respect.Although this pandemic may set back the attainment of SDGs, it could also point to the ability of Governments to take extraordinary steps to attain these goals. In times of crisis, addressing trade offs is inevitable and can be beneficial in the long term too, if based on science, data and grounded in solidarity and shared values.

Today’s event could not be timelier. You can count on UN DESA’s unrelenting support and efforts in addressing COVID-19 response and recovery with a particular focus on the governance dimensions of Goal 16 and we look forward to the planned series of events of IDLO.

Thank you.
File date: 
Wednesday, Juillet 1, 2020
Maria Francesca Spatolisano