Speech: Achieving access to justice for all through the SDGs

Remarks by Asa Régner, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women at the 2018 UNDP annual meeting, “Strengthening the Rule of Law for Sustaining Peace and Fostering Development

Date: Thursday, June 21, 2018

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Distinguished participants,

Dear colleagues and friends,

Allow me to start by congratulating UNDP for the organization of the 2018 Annual Meeting on “Strengthening the Rule of Law for Sustaining Peace and Fostering Development”.

Justice for women and girls is at the heart of sustainable and inclusive development and is essential to achieve the 2030 Agenda goals. The close link between SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment and SDG 16 on peaceful, just and inclusive societies is self-evident. Without equal and effective justice for women, many of the other SDGs, including those related to education, health and decent work will not be achieved.

Accessing and securing justice—a critical component of SDG 16—is not only a goal by itself but also a means to realizing the rights of women and girls.

Effective justice systems based on the rule of law are central to enabling women to become equal partners in decision-making and development. And yet much is to be done. Evidence shows that over 150 countries have at least one law that discriminates against women and girls.

Ineffective and unresponsive judicial systems, compounded by gender stereotyping, discriminatory laws, stigma, intersecting discrimination and varying levels of socio-economic barriers are serious obstacles in the provision of justice for women.

International humanitarian law, resolution 1325 and the six subsequent resolutions on WPS, encourage States to promote and protect women’s access to justice throughout conflict and post-conflict accountability processes, and equally to undertake legal and judicial reform to ensure access to justice and rule of law for all.

Access to justice for women in conflict and fragile settings is inherently difficult. Justice systems are either devastated or undermined. Informal justice institutions and the customary laws play also an important role, as the only sites of justice and conflict resolution to which people, in particular women, have access.

However, these justice mechanisms do not always incorporate women’s and girls’ voices and respond to their specific needs. Therefore, we must ensure that both traditional and formal justice systems, guarantee women’s and girls’ access to justice, as a condition that will unequivocally contribute to the restoration and sustainability of peace.

At the global level, UN Women is supporting the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, an initiative of Argentina, Netherlands, Sierra Leone and Brazil which aims to increase commitment to Justice for all ahead of the High Level Political Forum of 2019.

It is critical to foster women’s participation in justice service delivery at all levels. Data has shown that in the formal justice sector, employing women on the frontlines of service delivery (as police, corrections officials, legal representatives and court administrators), as well as at the highest levels of policy influence (as legislators, judges and in professional oversight bodies) can create justice systems that are more gender responsive.

UN Women is a proud partner of the Global Focal Point, where we are bringing our strong comparative advantage to mainstream gender and women’s rights consideration across the work of the UN system. The partners in the GFP have been helped to ensure adequate financing of women’s access to justice programming, although more effort is needed to reach the target of allocating 15 per cent of all programming funds to gender equality.

I hope that Member States will continue to support our important work in this area and ensure that women’s access to justice remains a high priority.

I thank you.