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To help spread and protect the rule of law, we need the Global Judicial Integrity Network

Co-authored by 

David Maraga, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya
Milton Ray Guevara, President of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic
Rhee Young Hwan, Presiding Judge, Uijeongbu District Court, Republic of Korea

It is a pity that judicial integrity is discussed in the media only when it is perceived to be lacking, but it is understandable; after all, judicial integrity and ethics should be the norm and not the news. Throughout the world, unnoticed and unmentioned, tens of thousands of judges, lawyers and judicial aides dedicate their lives to upholding the sanctity of the rule of law, often facing challenges of severe budgetary constraints, attacks on their independence and the temptations of the well-oiled machine of corruption which is difficult to confront alone. When the independence, impartiality and integrity of judges is questionable, let alone tainted, the entire foundation of justice is shaken to its core.

As members of the judicial system, it is our collective duty to protect people's rights and freedoms, and to guarantee their access to justice in its purest sense. In order to do that, we must continuously find ways to strengthen the independence, impartiality and integrity of judges and judicial staff, and ensure that their propriety, equality, competence and diligence are beyond reproach. These are the core values identified in the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, and mandated by Article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, values to which we all aspire.

The drive to build strong, transparent and accountable institutions is already one of the objectives of our collective 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). This is easier said than done, of course, but one road towards that end is creating and nurturing a special relationship between all those whose remit is the interpretation and the delivery of justice -- justice as it is meant to be.

This is why the Global Judicial Integrity Network, launched by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime this week, is so constructive and so vital. When we work together to address existing challenges and bring together judges from all over the world to share good practices, exchange knowledge and expertise, and foster cooperation and collaboration, we know that global judicial integrity is attainable.

This network, above all, is a platform to provide assistance to judiciaries everywhere as they work on the interdependent goals of strengthening their judicial integrity and fighting the corruption in their justice systems, an assistance provided in a number of ways.

First, the network will promote knowledge building by harnessing the experience and expertise of judges, judicial associations and other key stakeholders. Second, it will facilitate members' immediate access to thousands of relevant resources and tools on various issues relating to judicial integrity, which may not have been otherwise easily available to all. Third, it will promote peer learning and support activities between judges, offering them a more direct and efficient line of communication. Finally, the network will support the further development and the effective implementation of the principles of judicial conduct, helping to prevent corruption within the justice system.

When judges in every country are able to access pertinent legal and judicial resources, to study good practices and to review a multitude of other materials put at their disposition by UNODC, within a network affording them the opportunity to directly liaise and confer with their peers in other jurisdictions, their individual efforts in fighting corruption and in protecting judicial integrity are immediately reinforced by the power of consensus and sustained by the strength of its universality.

Ultimately, and more importantly, these steps will protect people's right to justice. As inspirational and idealistic as it may seem, this is the goal of every honourable member of the judicial system.

As members of this Global Judicial Integrity Network, and as Chief Justices who have ourselves witnessed the obstacles and the challenges faced by so many men and women of integrity striving to serve the cause of justice, we believe in the power of joining forces across the borders to share our perspectives and to encourage one another in our collective aspiration for an independent, impartial and ethical judicial system.

The more peers and colleagues around the world join us in this unique international network, the more potent and fruitful our joint efforts will be, and the more accessible our courts will be for citizens all around the globe.