2015 was a year of great hope as well as deep despair.
The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN Summit in September 2015, followed by the Paris Climate Agreement in December, marked a high tide in international cooperation. In a major breakthrough from the past, the 2030 Agenda explicitly acknowledges access to justice and the rule of law as a goal and target of sustainable development. Furthermore, references to equality, inclusion and equity, rights, legal frameworks and accountable institutions – principles implicit in the notion of the rule of law – are embedded throughout the 2030 Agenda. IDLO championed for the inclusion of the rule of law in the 2030 Agenda and was encouraged by the outcome.
The commitments by world leaders at the UN Summit contrasted sharply with ground realities. Political turmoil, violence, terrorist attacks, entrenched conflicts, barriers to stop refugees from seeking asylum, violations of human rights, disregard of international humanitarian law, crackdown on civil society, restrictions on judicial independence undermined respect for the rule of law in many parts of world. The consequences were dire, with lives lost, development gains set back and justice denied.
IDLO persevered in that challenging environment, working with partners and stakeholders to strengthen the capacity of institutions, empower people to access justice and help countries promote sustainable development through the rule of law. Some highlights of our work in 2015 include:
■ Supporting national ownership: We completed our largest operation in Afghanistan, the Justice Training Transition Program (JTTP), building and handing over training capacity to national justice institutions. In May 2015, I visited Kabul to thank President Ashraf Ghani for his support and to see for myself IDLO’s contribution to the reconstruction of the justice sector in Afghanistan over more than a decade.
■ Strengthening democracy: In Myanmar, in the lead-up to the democratic elections, we worked in cooperation with UNDP and other partners to pilot Rule of Law Resource Centers across the country, training legal aid providers, promoting rights awareness among civil society organizations and planting the seeds for a constituency committed to the rule of law. In Kenya, we worked with the judiciary to strengthen their capacity to settle judicial disputes, and with the executive to devolve power to provincial authorities.
■ Promoting economic development: In Mongolia, having supported alternative dispute resolution and commercial law training of judges previously, this past year we focused on training bailiffs to ensure that court judgments are properly enforced as an important element in strengthening trust and confidence of the business sector in justice institutions. In Tunisia, we strengthened the capacity of courts to combat financial crimes. In Kuwait, we supported the government to make laws more accessible to foreign investors.
Our proudest achievement was progress on women’s access to justice. Our efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment grew substantially in 2015. In places as varied as Afghanistan and Kenya, Honduras and Liberia, Mongolia and Somalia, we worked with a range of actors, from judges and prosecutors to community leaders and women’s groups, to strengthen women’s access to justice.
Our most entrenched challenges were in conflict-torn countries like Somalia, where the fluidity of political transition combined with recurring insecurity hampered progress. Nevertheless, we made our contribution to peace-building through capacity development for the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice and Somali Bar Association, and the training of customary justice leaders. Similarly, in South Sudan we persisted with legal education and support to the judiciary, but the lack of a political settlement and fragile security inflicted a toll on our work.
It was a year with impressive financial results and organizational growth, reflecting an increasing appreciation for the importance of the rule of law in advancing development and for IDLO’s experience and expertise in doing so. By the end of 2015, IDLO had expanded its field presence to fifteen countries, stretching across four continents, from Mongolia to Mali, Ukraine to Indonesia, and Honduras to Tunisia. We also opened a UN Liaison Office in Geneva to complement our presence at the United Nations in New York and contribute to the work of the UN Human Rights Council and the Geneva-based agencies and organizations.
In the coming year, we will complete our current Strategic Plan and begin consultations on the next one. It will also be the start of my second four-year term. I am humbled by the trust and confidence that IDLO’s Member Parties have shown in me by their re-election, and deeply grateful for your support and interest in IDLO. The need for fair laws, accountable institutions and people’s access to justice has never been greater, IDLO’s mission has never been more relevant. IDLO looks forward to working with all our partners and stakeholders to create a culture of justice.
IDLO Director General