Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director

3rd Global Conference on SDG 16 session 3: A new vision for the rule of law to address global challenges

  22 April 2022

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to join you for this discussion on a new vision for the rule of law. I am grateful IDLO, DESA, and the Government of Italy for inviting me.

Fulfilling the promise of SDG 16 is essential to building peace and preventing conflict; to tackling the root causes and drivers of instability and violent extremism; to protecting human rights; and to achieving the whole of the Sustainable Development Agenda, from mitigating climate change to improving education and gender equality.

This is the third global SDG 16 conference, and since 2019 we have seen the rule of law further challenged and access to justice further restricted in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resilience of our justice systems has been put to the test, now more than ever as we face multiple crises and conflicts.

When the law fails to work for everyone, it is the poor and the poorest countries who are hit hardest.

The World Bank estimates that up to an additional 95 million will be living in extreme poverty in 2022, after two pandemic years which reversed global progress in reducing poverty.

Corruption risks have also risen in the pandemic, threatening state spending at a time when economic stimulus packages and social protection are needed most.

COVID lockdowns have increased risks of domestic violence for women, while making it harder to access services and legal support.

The shift to e-justice mechanisms in the pandemic has increased vulnerabilities in some cases, with more women than men excluded by the digital divide.

When women go online, they are more likely to be victims of cyberstalking, online sexual harassment and exploitation.

Law enforcement and criminal justice sectors remain heavily male-dominated, with women accounting for less than one out of six police officers globally. As a result, women victims may hesitate to call the police, fearing exposure or being victimized further.

The persisting gender justice gap has far-reaching impacts. Every 11 minutes, a woman or girl somewhere in the world is killed by someone in her own family.

Research by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has found that even in regions where homicide is falling, female homicides by intimate partners or other family members are not decreasing at the same rate, suggesting that the problem of femicide is not being addressed.

The pandemic crisis has worsened these impacts, and highlighted the need for renewed commitment and new vision for building the rule of law and achieving SDG 16.

UNODC is supporting governments to take action, building on international frameworks such as the UN standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice and the UN Convention against Corruption.

Working with sister UN entities and partners such as IDLO, we are providing legislative and technical assistance; supporting networks for law enforcement cooperation and integrity in the justice sector; and promoting human-rights based policing and equal access to legal aid.

UNODC is expanding its support to strengthen the rule of law online through secretariat support to Member States to elaborate a new UN cybercrime convention.

Furthermore, we are helping to use data analytics and advanced technologies to ensure accountability in public procurement, and identify and mitigate corruption risks.

UNODC has also played a leading role in launching UN Common Positions on rule of law challenges such as incarceration, corruption, and drugs.

These Common Positions provide a framework for coordinated UN support, including through the UN Country Teams, to Member States, civil society, and other stakeholders. We are further advancing this work with the development of a new vision for the rule of law, as called for in “Our Common Agenda”, the landmark report issued by the Secretary-General last September.

Through this new vision, aimed at reinforcing the 2030 Agenda through more effective coordination, we can better support Member States to take targeted action.

To give one example of joint action, UNODC and UN Women developed a new statistical framework to measure femicide which was approved by the UN statistical commission in March. By providing a global definition for femicide, we can help ensure that victims are counted, that justice can be served, and prevention efforts can be more effective.

Last year UNODC, UNDP and OHCHR also concluded the development of a comprehensive survey instrument to measure SDG 16 indicators, enabling Member States to produce high quality and disaggregated metrics on violence, security, access to justice, trafficking in persons, corruption, inclusive institutions and discrimination.

Overall, we have the global frameworks and commitments in place to achieve SDG 16 and strengthen the rule of law. What we need is greater political will and more determined implementation of commitments.

To achieve an inclusive and fair recovery, we need governments to invest in holistic, people-centred approaches to improve the quality of justice, ensure equal treatment and access for all, promote accountability and reinforce the foundations of the rule of law.

To do so, Member States must invest in the full spectrum of justice, from education, data collection and legislation, to institution- and capacity-building as well as international cooperation, in cooperation with civil society, international organizations, youth, and all stakeholders.

This conference provides an important platform to broaden the dialogue, accelerate progress for the rule of law, and rebuild trust, including by feeding into the High-Level Political Forum on building back better and implementing the 2030 agenda to be held this July.

I am looking forward to hearing the outcomes of this conference, I wish you fruitful discussions.

Thank you.