I thank the Permanent Mission of Finland and the International Development Law Organization for hosting this important event. I also welcome the impressive group of panellists. Together we will be exploring some fundamental shifts that are happening in the international development agenda.
In the year 2000, world leaders agreed on a historic 15-year blueprint to address poverty. As the work to reach the Millennium Development Goals approaches its deadline, there is growing understanding that our efforts could have been enhanced by placing more emphasis on justice and the rule of law.
Member States are now working to formulate a post-2015 development agenda. Today’s meeting is an opportunity to show why the rule of law should play a central role in this agenda.
In September 2012, at the General Assembly’s first-ever High-level Meeting on the rule of law, 193 Member States united around the idea that development and the rule of law are mutually reinforcing. Since then, this conclusion has been reiterated by Member States, the Secretary-General and many others in the international community.
At today’s panel discussion we are to consider the concrete benefits provided by the rule of law: What is the value-added of robust rule of law? How will the rule of law support the achievement of development goals? How is it related to other agendas such as institution-building and governance?
Justice and the rule of law are themselves goals of development, but they are also essential to the achievement of many other development objectives.
The rule of law helps in the establishment of a functioning regulatory system that fosters equitable private sector growth, a primary driver of sustainable development.
The rule of law can ensure accountability and assist in making basic services available for all, such as education, health and sanitation.
The rule of law can empower citizens to address underlying causes of inequality and exclusion, one of the principal fault lines exemplified by the MDGs.
We must therefore do more to ensure that robust legal frameworks are in place to support the full range of development outcomes, from health and management of natural resources, to women’s empowerment and non-discrimination.
Responsive, strong institutions are critical to development. Institutions anchor and build legal frameworks, thereby delivering justice and supporting sustainable development.
Strong rule of law institutions are bulwarks against corruption. Corruption distorts markets, breeds distrust in government and hinders sustainable development.
Fighting corruption is important to both economic and community development. The Asian Development Bank has reported that corruption can cost a country up to 17 percent of its GDP. It has been estimated that every year the developing world loses as much as US$1 trillion in illicit outflows through government corruption, criminal activity and tax evasion.
In 2012, 50 percent of Afghan citizens paid a bribe when requesting a public service. On average, the highest bribes were paid to officials from key rule of law institutions. The result is that many ordinary citizens in Afghanistan cannot afford access to the justice system.
Accessible justice institutions ensure that even the most vulnerable individuals and communities can seek redress when wrongs are committed. When people can seek redress for wrongs from their institutions, they are willing to invest in their community and country.
In the Philippines, the Asian Development Bank studied the impact of training community members as paralegals to support agrarian reform. Farmers in communities with paralegals saw higher levels of productivity, higher farm incomes, and more investment in their farms.
Women and vulnerable groups frequently face both structural and cultural barriers in accessing justice. When we empower women and vulnerable groups to vindicate their rights, they are better equipped to bring about change in their communities and to realize their potential in decision-making and development.
Institutions that are accountable to the law and to the people they are to serve, foster public confidence. Transparent institutions that operate in accordance with the rule of law create political stability and promote inclusive economic growth.
In India, filing claims under the Right to Information Act has helped New Delhi slum dwellers obtain ration cards for subsidized foodstuffs. A Yale University study found that 94% of applicants who filed inquiries into the status of their application received their cards within a year. Empowering citizens to hold institutions accountable supports access to services and sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have briefly outlined the importance of the rule of law to the new development agenda. Our speakers today will explore this further – many from first-hand experience. The perspective of the International Development Law Organization – given its engagement on the ground in many countries – is invaluable.
Our future development agenda should be ambitious and inspirational. It should have sustainable development at its core, with poverty reduction as its priority. And the rule of law clearly deserves a place on this agenda.
Thank you. I look forward to a fruitful discussion.