17 October 2017 - This week, the final regional preparatory meeting for the upcoming Global Judicial Integrity Network was held in Namibia for Anglophone and Lusophone African countries. From 16 to 17 October, Chief Justices and senior judges from 17 countries gathered to add their voices to what will be the world's first-ever global platform dedicated exclusively to upholding judicial integrity and preventing corruption within the justice system once launched in April 2018.
The meeting - jointly hosted by UNODC and the Office of the Judiciary of the Republic of Namibia - follows similar regional events held over the past year in Asia (Bangkok), Europe (Vienna), Francophone Africa (Ouagadougou) and Latin America (Panama). As with these gatherings, this final meeting looks to add to the overall structure of the Network. Critically, it allowed those present to share their needs and expectations in terms of capacity-building support, advisory services, tools, networking opportunities and other resources and how best to meet these.
In their opening statements, the Chief Justice of Namibia, H.E. Peter Shivute, and UNODC Southern Africa Regional Representative, Zhuldyz Akisheva, both highlighted the critical importance of judicial integrity.
"It is no exaggeration to say that without integrity our judicial systems will disintegrate, and become empty shells that are unable to carry out their sacred constitutional mandate", noted Chief Justice Shivute. "To ensure that integrity becomes the bedrock of all our work and interactions as judicial officers, we must continually inculcate the values of honesty, fairness and justice in all that we do".
Adding to this, Ms. Akisheva said, "The judiciary plays a crucial role in combatting corruption, but in order to fulfil this, they themselves must be free from corruption. This final preparatory meeting provides members of the judiciaries in Anglophone and Lusophone speaking African countries an important forum to discuss challenges being faced and expectations towards what the Network will offer".
Reflecting the international linkages that will make the Global Judicial Integrity Network so valuable in helping share cross-border solutions to common problems, the meeting was also joined by the Honourable President Chief Justice of the Peoples' Supreme Court of Cuba, Ruben Remigio Ferro. In his keynote address the Chief Justice shared his thoughts on this issue. "The mission of judges is not to be simple enforcers of norms and dispositions to the case before them, but also implies the duty to do so with a clear notion and sense of what is fair". He also added that in his experience in Cuba, "exercising judicial power implies, in turn, the commitment to comply with judicial duty".
The meeting proved highly fruitful and over the two days participants shared a vast array of innovative approaches which have been taken to effectively implement Codes of Conduct and hold judges accountable. Attendees also spoke of specific challenges which need to be overcome, including continuous attempts of the executive and the legislature in some countries to interfere with judicial decision-making and judicial appointments, among others. Ultimately the participants welcomed the proposal to launch a Global Judicial Integrity Network as a platform to allow for further exchange around issues of mutual concern, to access resources and capacity building opportunities and to develop new tools.
In addition to this preparatory meeting, Swakopmund is also host to two other important regional judicial events this week. The inaugural Southern African Judicial Administrators Association and the Southern African Chief Justices Forum's Annual General Meeting are both taking place, providing further focus on this key group.
The creation of the Global Judicial Integrity Network is part of UNODC's Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, which was adopted by the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2015. The Global Programme provides support and technical assistance to Member States across the world in areas of judicial integrity, prisoners' rehabilitation, youth crime prevention, and education for justice, all with the objective of promoting a culture of lawfulness and boosting respect for the rule of law.