A message from Achim Steiner

UNDP Administrator 

We stand at a pivotal moment in history. Calls for justice are ringing in the streets, on social media, in zoom activism gatherings and in intergovernmental meetings. Around the world, we are hearing demands for socio-economic justice and accountability for human rights violations. Young and old alike wish to see an end to discrimination. They are calling for equality, human security and the rule of law.  As we collectively face a kaleidoscope of threats to peace and development: a virus yet to be controlled; systemic inequalities causing pain, poverty, and tragedy; a global economic shock and a planet degraded by human ignorance and reluctance to change -- we are reminded of the need to stay true to the United Nations values of human rights, justice and the rule of law.  

For the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the rule of law and human rights are a cornerstone of our work. They are the principles upon which we base all of our efforts to promote sustainable, resilient and peaceful societies with positive socio-economic development. Although critical, the notion of justice in our work is not merely restricted to formal justice dispensed by courts. It anchors many of UNDP’s commitments -- from promoting Universal Health Coverage to our Climate Promise, which supports countries to take bold climate action. It also underpins our efforts to secure a new, inclusive social contract through our COVID-19 response. 

The ongoing, simultaneous crises show us that upholding human rights and legal obligations for people and planet underpins positive cycles of development while also addressing the root causes of fragility. In particular, an enabling civic space; the public power to scrutinize government actions; and an independent judiciary promotes public confidence. This, in turn, enables governance systems to function based on trust -- ultimately supporting this inclusive social contract.

UNDP’s commitment to the rule of law and human rights is evidenced by our strong support to human rights institutions in over 40 contexts. It is demonstrated in our joint work with the Department of Peace Operations in 13 contexts. And it is reflected in UNDP’s pledge made in 2019 at UNHCR’s Global Refugee Forum to support 20 contexts to promote governance and rule of law solutions for displaced people.

In 2019, UNDP’s Global Programme on Strengthening the Rule of Law and Human Rights for Sustaining Peace and Fostering Development supported programming in more than 40 settings -- bolstered by a new generation of UNDP Resident Representatives with technical expertise and catalytic capacity.

From Armenia and Angola to Zambia and Zimbabwe, we have demonstrated our commitment to promote progressive reforms; modernization including through innovations such as e-justice as well as training for police services on human rights protections. We have also facilitated cooperation between contexts. That includes Colombia supporting Afghanistan on transitional justice issues or Arab and African countries exchanging technical expertise on the digitization of court administration. We have expanded access to justice in countries from Myanmar to Syria to Guinea-Bissau. And we have provided support to survivors of gender-based violence in countries such as Haiti and Bangladesh. 

The important efforts of the Global Programme and its partners in 2019, as documented in this report, will feed-into the direction of our future rule of law support. And the lessons we have learned on strengthening the rule of law and human rights over more than a decade will stand us in good stead as we work as part of the international community to address the myriad of challenges the world now faces.

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator

A policeman helps a man carry his heavy wheelbarrow during a cold winter season in Herat province, Afghanistan. - © UNDP / S. Omer Sadaat