UNDP Indonesia Country Director’s Opening Remarks at ASEAN Regional Meeting on SDGs, Access to Justice and Legal AidMay 26, 2016
Excellency Dr. Sofyan Djalil, Minister of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia and Head of Bappenas
Representatives of ASEAN Countries and ASEAN Secretariat,
Representatives of development partners, legal aid organizations and civil society organizations
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am impressed to see such an audience for this ASEAN Regional Meeting on SDGs, Access to Justice and Legal Aid, and I would like to first thank you for your presence today. I would like to also thank the Government of Indonesia, and particularly BAPPENAS for hosting the meeting here in Jakarta.
UNDP has been very keen and proud to support and participate in this event because the SDGs, Access to Justice and Legal Aid are issues core to our mandate and our work in programme countries, including the ASEAN member States. Those issues are also a central part of UNDP’s support regional cooperation, in particular in the ASEAN.
On 1 January this year, the world – that is all of us – started the journey towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the most ambitious development agenda in human history. Not only we have promised, for the first time, to end poverty and hunger by 2030. Not only have we promised to achieve the goals for all, leaving no one behind. But we also through SDG 16.3, have committed to promoting the rule of law and to ensure equal access to justice for all by 2030. And I believe this is what brings it together today.
What I would like to highlight here is that this new commitment brings with it two great challenges.
First, there can be no access to justice without legal aid, especially for the poorest and most marginalized, who need the law’s protection most, who know least about their rights, and are least able to afford lawyers to advise and represent them. The international standards are clearly set out in the Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, which were adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2012 and whose guidance equally applies for non-criminal legal aid. In this region, as elsewhere, we still have a long way to go to build legal aid systems that meet those principles and guidelines. We should note however that the trend is positive. All ASEAN member states make some provision for legal aid, but they vary considerably in terms of the scope of legal aid, the funding and the governance of the legal aid system. Myanmar is just now beginning implementation of its new Legal Aid law, while Thailand, Viet Nam and Lao are all actively engaged in building new legal frameworks for legal aid. This positive ASEAN trend towards legal aid needs to be continued, and supported.
The second challenge is that we need to measure our progress towards building access to justice systems that are accessible to all. Yet few countries – and none in the ASEAN region – have yet adopted comprehensive, national data frameworks for regular measurement and reporting on access to justice, although again the trend is positive. For instance, we will hear tomorrow about efforts in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as from Argentina, to design national justice indices and to collect the data to populate them.
However those challenges are not for Government alone to meet. The SDGs are also about partnerships and encouragingly, partnerships are being forged to meet these challenges.
On legal aid, UNDP, UNODC, OSJI and ILF joined with South Africa to hold a groundbreaking global conference on legal aid last year, adopting the Johannesburg Declaration, which calls upon States to establish global and regional mechanisms to coordinate implementation of legal aid, and the second international legal aid conference will be held in Argentina later this year.
On the second challenge, the data challenge, UNDP worked over the last two years with four countries including Indonesia on a pilot initiative to measure governance in the context of the SDGs, and the lessons from that pilot have already been published and analyzed to provide clear directions for all countries as they build their own data frameworks.
In addition, UNDP is part of a broad coalition of multilateral agencies – including our partners in this workshop, OSJI and IDLO – together with governments – including, within our region, Singapore - civil society and private sector who are actively discussing how to form a global alliance to catalyse action to meet Goal 16 targets. We look forward to the launch of the Global Alliance in July, at the High Level Thematic Debate on Human Rights convened by the President of the General Assembly with a specific focus on SDG 16.3 and access to justice.
Important as these global support networks will be, they cannot replace the value of initiatives at regional levels. ASEAN matters for equal access to justice for all. ASEAN countries are bound by political, social, economic and cultural ties, which have become ever stronger with the recent adoption of the ASEAN 2025 Community Vision, which explicitly underlines the complementarity of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with ASEAN community building efforts. That vision also recognizes the central role for governance, rule of law and human rights for ASEAN’s development, again with a focus on leaving no-one behind, while the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025 makes specific provision for mutual support and assistance among ASEAN Member States in the development of strategies for strengthening the rule of law, judicial systems and legal infrastructure, and enhancing access to legal assistance in ASEAN Member States to promote social justice.
This meeting therefore marks a very timely initiative for you, key stakeholders of ASEAN member states, to consider the kind of mutual support and assistance and exchange of experiences that can be developed among ASEAN members.
As an example, two weeks ago the Government of Indonesia, supported by UNDP, launched the National Strategy on Access to Justice 2016-2019. This Strategy aims at ensuring that all government ministries and agencies develop and implement their action plans that will enable every citizen, including those vulnerable communities, to access legal services. The strategy will bring about positive changes domestically. I hope that it will also be part of the experience sharing among ASEAN countries.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for its leadership and commitment to the SDGs, access to justice and legal aid and the trust placed in UNDP. Thank you also for co-convening this meeting together with Indonesian civil society, and for inviting such a rich and diverse set of participants from governments, civil society and bar associations across ASEAN, as well as from the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat, together with experts from beyond the region.
This attendance bodes well for the outcome of the meeting and I hope that it will be a very successful one resulting in concrete recommendations you will make to build an alliance of stakeholders within ASEAN to achieve by 2030 as promised equal access to justice for all. Rest assured that UNDP will continue to provide our strong support, at national, regional and global levels, as you proceed along that path.