Our Perspective

      • International justice begins at home

        21 Nov 2012

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        Timorese Judges being sworn in and taking oaths. Credit: UNDP Timor Leste

        The restoration of justice and the punishment of those who commit human rights abuses can be vital first steps in peacebuilding; both for countries recovering from conflict, and for societies trying to overcome the trauma of violence. In March this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent criminal court mandated to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity, handed down its first judgment since being established in 2002. Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was found guilty of using children under the age of 15 in armed hostilities. This judgment inaugurated a new age where the ICC acts as a court of last resort. This notion, called “complementarity,” forms the founding principle of the ICC, which believes that the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes rests with national authorities and states. If countries are willing and able, justice is best delivered where the crimes occurred. However, many post-conflict countries do not have the capacity to conduct such investigations. Even if the political will exists, domestic judicial systems often lack adequate witness protection services, prison facilities, and other resources to conduct fair trials. To realize the complementarity principle, there needs to be a closer relationshipRead More

      • Inclusion: the way forward for democracy in Africa | Siphosami Malunga

        17 Oct 2012

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        Two years ago, following a hotly contested presidential election, the world watched the Ivory Coast plunge into chaos as political parties and militia groups took to the streets.

        Two years ago, following a hotly contested presidential election, the world watched the Ivory Coast plunge into chaos as political parties and militia groups took to the streets. It seemed a throwback to the 1980s, when Sub-Saharan Africa was known for its violent coups, bloody civil wars and autocrats. Similar situations have been witnessed in countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe, but they are now the exception rather than the rule. Over the past twenty years, the continent has been home to a virtual democratic renaissance, evidenced by the organisation of more than 200 democratic elections and remarkable improvements in governance. To that end, regional institutions, like ECOWAS, SADC and the East African Community, now keep a close watch on national politics, going as far as suspending countries which experience unconstitutional changes of government. Elections are an essential component of democratisation in Africa. They enable people to choose among a host of competent parties and leaders, facilitate peaceful change, foster more open societies and in most cases lead to increased economic growth and long-term development. Success stories abound. In 2010, against all odds, Guinea held its first ever democratic election. The following year, Niger transitioned to civilian rule in a ballot widelyRead More

      • Time to integrate traditional and formal justice | Olav Kjørven

        26 Sep 2012

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        Women take an active part at a village meeting in India.Photo: Sephi Bergerson/ UNDP India

        In some developing countries, informal or traditional justice systems resolve up to 80 percent of disputes, over everything from cattle to contracts, dowries to divorce. Disproportionately, these mechanisms affect women and children. A new report, commissioned by UNDP, UNICEF, and UN Women and produced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, provides the most comprehensive UN study on this complex area of justice to date. It draws conclusions based on research in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Malawi, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and 12 other developing countries. These systems, it concludes, are a reality of justice in most of the countries where UNDP works to improve lives and livelihoods and government capacities to serve. The evidence illustrates the direct bearing such systems can have on women and children’s legal empowerment, covering issues from customary marriage and divorce to custody, inheritance, and property rights. It’s time to engage squarely with customary justice systems and integrate them into broader development initiatives aimed at guaranteeing human rights and access to justice for all. These systems are often far more accessible than formal mechanisms and may have the potential to provide quick, inexpensive, and culturally relevant remedies. But traditional development models have for years paid them littleRead More