"Bus of Solidarity's" lawyers in Kara Kulja, UNDP supports Free Legal Aid Coordination Centers in the Kyrgyz Republic. - © Meri Bekeshova

Access to Justice

Inequality, discrimination, and exclusion remain severe obstacles to universal human development. Often, marginalized groups are disempowered and deprived of their rights, voice, and agency, which consequently increase their vulnerability. Ensuring access to justice for all is a priority for UNDP’s rule of law and human rights support, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s commitment to ‘leave no one behind’. UNDP focuses on addressing the demand-side of security justice, and human rights to nurture public trust and confidence by supporting the need for accessible and effective services, and ensuring access to justice for marginalized groups, including women, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, refugees, and displaced communities. UNDP works directly with justice and security institutions to address issues of systemic discrimination and marginalization.

Justice for Displaced People - UNDP-UNHCR Partnership

Since 2015, UNDP has been working with UNHCR to support local government authorities and rule of law actors as well as host communities and displaced populations on protection and solutions to prevent and address displacement. At the Global Refugee Forum in 2019, UNDP pledged to work with UNHCR under the rule of law and local governance partnership framework to support 20 countries. To achieve this UNDP incorporates a four-part approach. 

First, UNDP and UNHCR are working to promote legal and policy reform so that national and local frameworks are more inclusive of the rights of displaced populations. For example, in Kachin State, Myanmar, UNDP is supporting local organizations to provide legal aid and assistance for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), drawing on priorities identified through a joint assessment with UNHCR on access to housing, land and property rights for IDPs. UNDP is also exploring ways to support broader advocacy efforts to bring about policy change, while also working to promote dialogue and raise awareness with local government authorities on specific challenges facing IDPs, such as limited access to documentation.

The joint partnership also focuses on enhancing inclusive service delivery for host communities and refugees. This includes engaging with local authorities to promote inclusive planning and budgeting, and also the strengthening of national human rights protection systems so as to monitor and hold accountable equitable service delivery. In Bangladesh, for example, UNDP has been supporting the National Human Rights Commission to establish an office in Cox’s Bazar to monitor the situation of Rohingya and host communities, including to handle complaints related to access to services and human rights violations.

Improving access to justice and security services for displaced populations and host communities is another focus area. This includes supporting national authorities to help them understand their role in protecting and promoting the rights of displaced populations, for example in Pakistan UNDP assists with improving community security and dialogue between security actors, refugees and host communities while at the same time integrating modules on protection of refugees into police training curricula and university legal courses.  In Lebanon, UNDP has been supporting the municipal police to adopt community-oriented policing practices, while also promoting dialogue with civil society on establishing accountability mechanisms for the security forces.  

At the time of writing, COVID-19 has highlighted the precarious situation of displaced populations around the world. The introduction of emergency measures and border closures, restrictions on freedom of movement and shrinking economic opportunities has meant the crisis significantly affects refugee populations and host communities. In Ethiopia’s Gambella region, UNDP has been working with regional justice and police actors to establish legal aid centres to support mobile courts serving displaced populations and host communities. In this context, the programme aims to support the police in establishing a hotline for reporting grievances, while also putting in place public outreach and communications related to COVID-19 including in partnership with youth volunteers, as well as supporting mitigation and business continuity measures for justice actors. UNDP Ethiopia is also conducting a socio-economic, governance and justice assessment to better understand and respond to priorities of host communities and refugees in the context of the current pandemic.