UN’s Helen Clark on Why You Should Never Have a Plan B

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) head Helen Clark (Photo courtesy of STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images) The greatest challenge for women is getting into leadership positions, not actually leading, says Helen Clark former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Clark is one of nine candidates […]

Source: UN’s Helen Clark on Why You Should Never Have a Plan B


Helping women take their next step forward.


Michelle Penelope King

Michelle Penelope King is a writer, researcher and advisor on gender equality practices and an expert on navigating office politics.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) head Helen Clark (Photo courtesy of STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

The greatest challenge for women is getting into leadership positions, not actually leading, says Helen Clark former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Clark is one of nine candidates currently vying for the top job as the UN’s Secretary General, a race that has its next vote Oct. 4 and will likely conclude later this month.

The UN has never had a female Secretary General, and despite calls for a women to be elected to the position, results from thestraw polls currently favor a man, Antonio Guterres, a former Portuguese Prime Minster.

“It is actually getting there that is the trouble because people don’t have in most countries an image of what a women leader is. They have all had leaders who are men. Actually getting established as being able to do the job you have got to face quite a lot of preconceptions about what the holder of that office looks like,” says Clark.

So Clark is playing the long game. “You just have to hang in as an option because the way geopolitics are,” she explains. “For the last 71 years, the appointees have generally been the lower keeping diplomatic kind. It is really time to move forward with more of a leadership profile of someone who can be seen as equal, if you like, with the heads of government,” she says.

Having broken her share of glass ceilings to serve as New Zealand’s first female-elected Prime Minister from 1996 until 2008, then taking up the third most important job at the UN in 2009, Clark is not giving up. In fact, when asked if she has thought about devising a backup plan should she not succeed, Clark responds “No I haven’t. There is no plan B. Only plan A.”

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Here, Clark outlines what she believes it takes to succeed against the odds.

Back Yourself

Clark says a key challenge for women aspiring to leadership positions is overcoming gender stereotypes and abnormal levels of scrutiny. “Hopefully once someone has broken them, those stereotypes are put in the cupboard and people say well we had a women prime minister and it worked for us,” says Clark.

Belief in yourself is the key to overcoming these challenges. “If you don’t have confidence in yourself no one will. Just go on the facts that women can do the job as well if not better than any man,” she said. “You have to be confident that you have as much to offer as the assertive male who is trying to get in,” says Clark.

Take Risks

Clark’s staying power in this election is based on her belief that you can’t be afraid of losing, and she maintains this is the key to achieving anything worthwhile. “People often don’t like change. In the end necessity drives change,” she says. “Anything worthwhile will be hard to achieve because people contest power. You will never get it on a plate. So you have to be prepared for the long haul and you may or may not win. You have to be prepared to take risks that it might come off but it might not,” says Clark.

Build A Strong Support Base

The one thing Clark has known throughout her political career is how important it is to have support networks. “Build networks around you,” she said. “You have to build alliances with people who will go the extra mile for you.”

This focus on collaboration is founded on her view that simply being in a position of power is not enough. Clark says leaders need to be able to bring people together, even across divides, in order to do something with it. It’s the philosophy behind her run for UN Secretary General: “You have to be able to come through as someone who can bring people together and isn’t heavily associated with any particular great power,” says Clark.

Speak Up

“Unless you actively get in and change [something], your voice is not going to be heard,” maintains Clark. She says that social media platforms provide the means to collaborate, but it is not enough just to blog and tweet — young people need to change political systems in the way they think is relevant.

#Helen4SG John Key pumps up Helen Clark in United Nations speech | Politics | Newshub

Mr Key bluntly told the UN, known for its inaction, that Helen Clark “gets things done” in his wide-ranging speech to the General Assembly.

Source: John Key pumps up Helen Clark in United Nations speech | Politics | Newshub

John Key has talked up Helen Clark in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, saying only she can keep it relevant – a major swipe at the other candidates and countries.

Mr Key bluntly told the UN, known for its inaction, that “she gets things done”.

“This is not the time for a business as usual appointment for Secretary-General. We need someone who is up to the job,” Mr Key said.

“The next Secretary-General must have the courage, experience and skills necessary to lead this Organisation, to keep it relevant and responsive.”

Mr Key’s decision to use Ms Clark in his speech elevates the New Zealand campaign for her to be Secretary-General to another level.

His comments are also a swipe at current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“I’ve worked across the political divide from Helen Clark for years and I know her to be a natural leader,” Mr Key said.

“She rallies people together to find the common ground, even when the issues are difficult and the differences vast.

“She gets things done. We think it’s time for a Secretary-General like Helen Clark.”

Security Council fails Syria

Mr Key says the United Nations Security Council has failed Syria.

“We have also been deeply troubled to see the Council, the pre-eminent body for international peace and security, fail to live up to its responsibilities on the most serious crisis of our time. Syria.

“Here the Council has fallen short,” he said.

“The internal politics within the Council and the sheer complexity of the Syria crisis have obstructed a unified Council response.

“But we believe that no matter how difficult and sensitive the issues, the Council cannot watch the situation go from bad to worse for the Syrian people.

“The Security Council was established to address crises like that which we see in Syria.

“That is why New Zealand is using our Presidency of the Council to convene a leaders’ level meeting tomorrow on Syria.

“A meeting by itself won’t stop the conflict. But after more than five years of brutal fighting, and horrific humanitarian suffering, we do not think it is credible for Leaders to come to New York and not address the stark realities driving the conflict.”

“We hope tomorrow’s meeting will provide an opportunity for Council Leaders to take stock of developments, examine the fundamental issues at the heart of the conflict, and discuss how we can move towards a sustainable political solution.

“We also hope the meeting will be a chance for the Council to put its weight behind the ceasefire agreement reached between the United States and Russia.

“That agreement is the best chance we have had in some time to stop the fighting, get aid to those who need it, and get back on track for a political resolution to the crisis.”

Key speaks out against protectionism

Mr Key also took the fight to trade protectionism of the kind put forward by Donald Trump, or Brexit.

“Borders are closing to people and products, to investment, to ideas. Many states are turning inwards.”

“The politics of fear and extremism are gaining ground. Too many states are flouting the rules.”

“We must guard against creeping protectionism, and be willing to make the case for more economic engagement clearly.

“We cannot turn inwards,” he said.

“We can’t allow fear, or narrow domestic interests turn us away from an open global trading system, which has lifted millions out of poverty.”

North Korea ‘a pressing threat’

John Key made special mention of the danger of North Korea and its Nuclear weapons.

“Another critical issue on which New Zealand supports unified Council action, is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“New Zealand believes that a strong international response is required to the DPRK nuclear test on the 9th of September, and its recent missile tests.

“The regime’s efforts to advance its nuclear and missile programmes; its callous disregard for the North Korean people – as demonstrated by the dire human rights situation in the country; and its leader’s unpredictably ruthless rule have made it one of our most pressing international security threats.

“Its provocative actions show blatant disregard for Security Council resolutions and pose a grave threat to the international law.

“They have raised tensions on the Korean peninsula to a point where the risk of conflict is dangerously high. We cannot afford further escalation.

“So New Zealand welcomes recent steps by the US and China to begin negotiating a new Security Council Resolution, following the DPRK’s recent nuclear test.

“We hope that this will send a clear signal to the North Korean leadership that continued provocative and dangerous actions are unacceptable; and that a return to the negotiating table represents the only sensible way forward.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership ‘will bring us closer together’

“We need it to find common ground that overcomes vested national interests, and agree to new international trade commitments that benefit all countries.

“In the Asia Pacific region, closer economic integration through trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will also bring us closer together.

“Agreements like these will make our region and people better off by setting the conditions for more open and transparent trade.”


@Helen4SG UN Highlights Swift Action on Sustainable Development | UNDP #Helen4SG


Countries around the world are already engaging in diverse and interesting ways to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals, says a new report launched today.

Source: UN Highlights Swift Action on Sustainable Development | UNDP


Countries around the world are already engaging in diverse and interesting ways to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by the United Nations last year, says a new report launched today by the United Nations Development Group (UNDG).

The report entitled “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are Coming to Life: Stories of Country Implementation and UN Support”, presents examples of how countries in different regions getting to work on making the  SDGs a reality at the national level.

Speaking at a launch event hosted by the UNDG, Republic of Korea, Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Republic of Sierra Leone, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UNDG Helen Clark said: “This new report provides insights into a range of actions and partnerships for SDG implementation in sixteen countries from across all regions of the world. It identifies opportunities for partners to engage with the new global agenda, and highlights the critical supporting role which the UN development system can play.”

Highlighting some key observations drawn from the report’s case studies, Helen Clark said they revealed that some of the most innovative examples of early action come from countries in complex situations.

“The publication includes examples from Sierra Leone which is striving to recover from the crisis caused by Ebola, and from Somalia which still faces significant security challenges. Many other countries with complex challenges are embracing the SDGs as part of the solution.”

All countries showcased in the publication are making early efforts, with UN support, to “mainstream” the SDGs – integrating these goals into national plans and frameworks through multi-stakeholder consultations, a variety of public awareness-raising activities, technical workshops and through the establishment of national and sub-national coordination mechanisms.

These experiences can serve other countries, too, as they embark on their own SDG implementation processes.

To read more about the featured countries, and to download the full report, please visit https://undg.org/home/undg-mechanisms/sustainable-development-working-group/the-sustainable-development-goals-are-coming-to-life/

Contact informationMedia ContactDylan Lowthian, Communications Specialist,dylan.lowthian@undp.org, +1 212 906 5516

@Helen4SG Ensuring success of SDGs a top priority for UNDP | #Helen4SG


The head of UNDP Helen Clark said today that ensuring the success of the 2030 Agenda, an ambitious plan which includes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), remains one of the organisation’s greatest priorities.

Source: Ensuring success of SDGs a top priority for UNDP | UNDP

The head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Helen Clark said today that ensuring the success of the 2030 Agenda, an ambitious plan which includes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), remains one of the organisation’s greatest priorities.

“Supporting roll out of the 2030 Agenda is a top priority for UNDP,” said Helen Clark at the opening session of the organisation’s Executive Board meeting in New York, noting that the Agenda is designed to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges over the next decade and a half.

“UNDP has specific thematic expertise to offer, not least around poverty eradication; reduction of inequalities; democratic governance; the environment, energy, and climate change; disaster risk reduction; gender, health; and our work in fragile contexts,” she said.

“We will promote support for programme countries to access finance for sustainable development, and to find the right mix of funding, technology, and assistance to drive national progress on the SDGs,” she added.

Clark said UNDP will work with programme countries to monitor, learn, report and apply lessons learned in SDG implementation, building on the organisation’s experience with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

She noted that UNDP participated in the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul in May.

“We emphasized that to honour the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, major efforts must be made to work more effectively across the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding spheres,” Clark said.

The Commitment to Action, signed by UNDP and seven other agencies in Istanbul, and endorsed by the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), commits UNDP to this objective, she added.

She also discussed UNDP’s implementation of its new Strategic Plan and its ongoing reforms to make the organization more effective and efficient.

“Greater focus for UNDP’s work was an objective of the current Strategic Plan. We can now show that our work in programme countries is aligned well with our Strategic Plan, matching intent with action to a much greater extent than before,” she said.

Clark also said that UNDP’s Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the Strategic Plan reaffirms UNDP’s commitment and readiness to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“Overall, the MTR concludes that UNDP’s institutional backbone is more robust: the organization is more open and transparent; our headquarters have been reorganized successfully; operating costs have reduced significantly; more staff and support services have been located in Regional Hubs closer to the Country Offices they serve; programmes are being designed to higher standards; and monitoring and evaluation have improved.”

“Overall, the MTR shows that investments in boosting institutional performance are having a positive impact on development results,” she added.

Concluding her remarks, Clark said: “We will continue to strive for high quality results from our work and to lead and promote greater coherence and collaboration within the UN development system.”

Contact informationAdam Cathro, UNDP, +1 212 906 5326, adam.cathro@undp.org

#Helen4SG Biography – @Helen4SG Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator | UNDP


img_010631Source: Biography – Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator | UNDP


Helen Clark

Helen Clark

Biography of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.

Prior to her appointment with UNDP, Helen Clark served for nine years as Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three successive terms from 1999 – 2008. Throughout her tenure as Prime Minister, Helen Clark engaged widely in policy development and advocacy across the international, economic, social and cultural spheres. Under her leadership, New Zealand achieved significant economic growth, low levels of unemployment, and high levels of investment in education and health, and in the well-being of families and older citizens. She and her government prioritized reconciliation and the settlement of historical grievances with New Zealand’s indigenous people and the development of an inclusive multicultural and multi-faith society.

Helen Clark advocated strongly for New Zealand’s comprehensive programme on sustainability and for tackling the problems of climate change. Her objectives have been to establish New Zealand as being among the world’s leading nations in dealing with these challenges. Helen Clark was also an active leader of her country’s foreign relations and policies, engaging in a wide range of international issues. As Prime Minister, Helen Clark was a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.

Helen Clark held ministerial responsibility during her nine years as Prime Minister for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies and for the portfolio of arts, culture and heritage. She has seen the promotion of this latter portfolio as important in expressing the unique identity of her nation in a positive way.

Helen Clark came to the role of Prime Minister after an extensive parliamentary and ministerial career. First elected to Parliament in 1981, Helen Clark was re-elected to her multicultural Auckland constituency for the tenth time in November 2008. Earlier in her career, she chaired Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Between 1987 and 1990, she was a Minister responsible for first, the portfolios of Conservation and Housing, and then Health and Labour. She was Deputy Prime Minister between August 1989 and November 1990. From that date until December 1993 she served as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and then as Leader of the Opposition until winning the election in November 1999.

Prior to entering the New Zealand Parliament, Helen Clark taught in the Political Studies Department of the University of Auckland. She graduated with a BA in 1971 and an MA with First Class Honours in 1974. She is married to Peter Davis, a Professor at Auckland University.

Post of the UNDP Administrator

The UNDP Administrator is appointed by the Secretary-General and confirmed by the General Assembly for a term of four years. Paul G. Hoffman was appointed as the first Administrator of UNDP in 1966 and served until retirement in 1972. David Owen, who led UNDP’s predecessor organization, the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA), was appointed as Mr. Hoffman’s Co-Administrator. Rudolph A. Peterson was appointed Administrator in 1972 followed by Bradford Morse in 1976; William H. Draper lll, 1986; James Gustave Speth, 1993 to 30 June 1999; Mark Malloch Brown, 1999-2005; and Kemal Derviş, 2005-2009.

@HelenClarkUNDP Tartous: Growing mushrooms 2 enhance livelihoods




Since the start of the Syria crisis, Tartous has been one the most stable governorate and is thus a natural refuge for IDPs escaping nearby conflict areas. It is a home to approximately 452,000 IDPs who came mostly from Homs, Hama, Idleb, Aleppo, Ar-Raqqa, and Deir-Ez-Zor and reside in rented apartments and shelters.

Source: Tartous: Growing mushrooms to enhance livelihoods

Khawla is one of those IDPs who used to live with her family in Aleppo governorate in peace before the crisis. Their neighborhood became suddenly under siege and violence and they suffered from malnutrition and bad health conditions as they were unable to meet their basic daily needs of food and water. A year ago, when the conditions in their area became unbearable, they fled to Tartous governorate taking refuge in Al-Kharab area.


“One of my brothers is missing, and the second one has fled out of the country” said Khawla; the 21 year old single women who found herself the sole breadwinner of her family in spite of her young age. She was living in a small apartment with 12 members including the families of her both brothers. “The rent was very expensive and we no longer could afford it. I spent long time searching for a decent work but I had no previous experience” said Khalwa, adding “I never imagined that I’ll see my family in need for the basic things in life such as food, I had to find a job to save my family”.


In response to the dire situation of the IDPs in Tartous, UNDP implemented a mushroom cultivation project to provide job opportunities for IDPs and their host community members and enhance their living conditions. Mushroom cultivation can help reduce vulnerability to poverty and strengthens livelihoods through the generation of a fast yielding and nutritious source of food and a reliable source of income, in addition that it does not require access to land.


Khawla was one of the beneficiaries who joined the project from its early beginning. She is working eight hours per day in growing mushrooms and receiving a monthly wage that has significantly improved her conditions.


“Thanks to this project, I can buy food and clothes for my small brothers’ and help my family to pay the rent of our apartment” she said with a smile, adding “I also learnt new skills and got more experience in growing mushrooms, I feel I’m a productive person and I have more confidence in myself”.


The mushroom cultivating project helped creating 50 job opportunities for IDPs and their host community members, in addition to providing 1690 kg of mushrooms to the local market at reasonable prices.

@HelenClarkUNDP: Keynote Strengthening Rule of Law 2 Sustain Peace & Foster Development – Lessons Learned…| UNDP

UNDP’s Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Contexts – New York, USA

Source: Helen Clark: Keynote Address on “Strengthening the Rule of Law to Sustain Peace and Foster Development – Lessons Learned from Eight Years of Support” | UNDP


I am delighted to welcome you to this Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-affected and Fragile Contexts.

Allow me to begin by acknowledging members of our high-level panel this morning:

•    Her Excellency, Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations will chair our panel for this session. Ambassador Nusseibeh has been active in promoting the rule of law and transitional justice within the UN system, and has highlighted in particular the challenges women face in accessing justice and participating in the formulation and implementation of the rule of law. We are most grateful for Ambassador Nusseibeh’s support.

•    Her Excellency, Sanogo Aminata Malle, Minister of Justice, Human Rights, and Guardian of Seals  in Mali. As the former President of the ECOWAS Community Court, Minister Mallé has provided remarkable leadership on the rule of law. Since taking office as a Minister in 2015, Mme Mallé has continued to support work on the rule of law and access to justice in Mali, and we look forward to hearing more about this today.

•    Her Excellency Thelma Esperanza Aldana Hernández de López, Attorney-General of Guatemala, has been a courageous and unwavering advocate for the rule of law, transparency, and justice in her country. We thank the Attorney-General for taking the time to share her experiences with us today.

•    Advocate Mabedle Lawrence Mushwana, Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission, is here representing the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.  As the Global Alliance’s former Chair, he is a key promoter of the work of national human rights institutions globally .

UNDP looks forward to this annual rule of law meeting each year as an opportunity to discuss the results of its work with partners. Over the course of this week’s events, we will engage on access to justice and SDG 16, and on addressing obstacles to establishing the rule of law.

Today marks the official launch of the annual report on our Global Programme for Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations. In the preface of that report, I wrote that: “We have learned from the United Nations Charter that the rule of law and human rights form the essential conditions for human dignity and therefore for human development”. This insight underpins UNDP’s work to support countries to strengthen the rule of law.

In my speech this morning, I will refer to the global trends and policy discussions which are guiding our work. I will comment on the critical importance of partnerships in the UN system’s work on the rule of law. For example, the collaboration between UNDP, DPKO, UN Women, OHCHR, UNODC and others through the Global Focal Point arrangement ensures that our efforts are complementary and not competitive.

As the second phase of our Global Programme for Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations concluded at the end of last year, I will also share some examples of the impact our efforts have had on strengthening the rule of law, justice, and security in those contexts.

Global trends – the SDGs and Goal 16, peace reviews, and conflict

Since our annual meeting last year the 2030 Agenda has been adopted, providing a comprehensive global framework for advancing sustainable development in the face of the complex challenges our world faces. In adopting this agenda, Member States acknowledged that access to justice was an important element of sustainable development.

SDG 16 commits Member States to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels”. A specific target is dedicated to promoting the rule of law, which is seen as an essential condition for building peaceful and inclusive societies.

A number of developments around our world are undermining the rule of law and human development.  These include:

–    protracted conflicts and fragility more broadly which are estimated to affect the lives of roughly 1.5 billion people. UNHCR estimates that more than 65 million people are currently forcibly displaced from their homes – the highest number since the end of World War Two.  Conflicts are the cause of an estimated eighty per cent of all humanitarian needs.  The gap between those needs and the international community’s capacity to respond is widening;

–    growing income inequalities, which impose strains on social cohesion. If left unaddressed, these pressures can pose risks to peace and development in a number of contexts. As well, persistent inequality and marginalization continue to affect women, youth, and other groups in a range of societies; and

–    the menace of organized crime, sexual and gender-based violence, terrorism, and violent extremism continue to blight the lives of many.

Strong and accountable institutions anchored in the rule of law are needed to uphold people’s rights and hold perpetrators of violence and injustice to account. Establishing such institutions is an essential part of peacebuilding after a conflict has ended, and is also highly relevant to the prevention of conflict.  In many contexts, disregard for the rule of law is a ticking time bomb for instability, unrest, and conflict.

In April this year, the UN Security Council and the General Assembly adopted far-reaching resolutions on peacebuilding and on the prevention of conflict.  These resolutions embrace the concept of “sustaining peace”, and urge that peacebuilding should not be limited to the post-conflict period. They note that the root causes of conflict and violence need to be addressed comprehensively. Accounting for serious human rights violations and tackling impunity are critical to that.

UNDP leads joint system delivery on rule of law and human rights

Advancing the rule of law and sustaining peace is most likely to be achieved when national, international, and UN partners work closely together. The Global Focal Point (GFP) for the Rule of Law in Post-Conflict and other Crisis Situations, established in 2012, enables the UN system itself to deliver joined-up support.

Following the Secretary-General’s call for more flexible use of peacekeeping missions’ budgets to support peacebuilding, the Global Focal Point requested funds for five peacekeeping missions  to support multi-agency rule of law activities which were considered essential for delivering on Security Council mandates.  The good news is that these five projects have recently secured the support of the Fifth Committee, and around $13 million will be made available for this important work to be carried out by UN Country Teams and Missions.

The GFP arrangement also stands ready to support  the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative, which focuses the UN system on the prevention of conflict by identifying and responding to early signs of crisis.

An important source of resourcing for UNDP’s rule of law work in conflict-affected and fragile contexts is the Peacebuilding Fund. In Guatemala, for example, the Fund has supported us to work with victims of conflict and with justice institutions for a number of years. We will hear more about Guatemala’s efforts to address the issues of sexual and gender-based violence today. The recent landmark court decision on the “Sepur Zarco” case, where former members of the security forces were convicted for committing systematic sexual violence against indigenous women,  gives hope that by empowering victims and supporting institutions justice will be done.


•    UNDP’s rule of law expertise is supporting the establishment of transitional justice measures in Libya.
•    We work closely with SRSG Bangura’s Team of Experts on Sexual Violence in Conflict in a number of countries, including DRC, Mali, and CAR.
•    We provide technical support to the work of the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence.

The impact of our work

UNDP supports national partners to strengthen the rule of law – including in the most difficult development contexts where people’s needs for safety, security, and justice are urgent. By supporting better access to justice through the use of mobile courts, community-oriented policing, partnering with governments on comprehensive justice and security sector reform, and building the capacity of national counterparts to carry out their mandates, UNDP joins the dots between development and peacebuilding.

In this year’s annual report on our rule of law work in crisis-affected and fragile contexts, we look back over the previous eight years to assess our impact, identify lessons learned, and chart a path forward. Some highlights of our work have included the following:

•    In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a key long term UNDP objective was to help consolidate and reform the legal aid system. As a first step, we worked with civil society to set up a network of free legal aid providers as an interim measure until a state-sponsored system could be adopted.  Currently the network consists of around twenty providers, and an estimated 22,000 clients received legal aid last year alone. The network has been successful in empowering victims of conflict to engage with the legal system, and in mobilizing the general public to come to terms with the legacy of past violence.

•    In Central African Republic, UNDP worked closely with the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) to hold the 2015 Criminal Sessions — the first to be held in the country since 2010. These sessions were said to be among the most efficient and effective justice processes in the country’s recent history.

We also worked with stakeholders to support the development of a shared vision for the establishment of the Special Criminal Court in CAR. This set the stage for the application of new judicial procedures across the justice system. Our national partners in CAR are well on their way to reforming the justice system overall, and UNDP is proud to be supporting their efforts.

•    In Colombia, UNDP supported sixty victims of the long-running conflict to testify before peace negotiators in Havana. Those who testified included women, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants who were survivors of sexual violence during the conflict. Since then, UNDP has assisted more than 1,500 people from 936 victim organizations in 22 territories to form a victims’ network to advocate for victims’ needs and participation in the justice system.

•    In Liberia, UNDP has helped to increase women’s and girls’ awareness of and access to the justice system. Together with UNMIL and UN Women, we have been supporting a Women’s and Child Protection Unit in the police force for many years. In 2009, we supported the establishment of a specialized court  and of a crimes unit in the Ministry of Justice to investigate and prosecute sexual and gender-based crimes. These efforts have helped to tackle a culture of impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes, and to align institutions with international standards.

•    In Somalia, UNDP has supported measures to bridge the informal and formal justice systems. In a pilot scheme in Puntland, UNDP trained forty judges, prosecutors, and legal aid providers last year on how to incorporate aspects of informal justice mechanisms in the formal justice framework. UNDP also provided training to traditional elders on human rights, and on how to register cases in the formal justice system. 672 cases were heard and resolved by customary elders from October to December last year, including cases on family disputes, minor injuries, and land disagreements.

•    In Timor-Leste, UNDP supported the establishment of the Legal Training Centre to train judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and other justice officials, so that they could take over from international experts and specialists. Over the years, more than 150 people have been trained and certified. We commend Timor-Leste for its strong commitment to this work, and encourage the country to sustain and build on it.

•    In Tunisia, UNDP supported the Ministry of the Interior to lead a change in policing away from a repressive model to one centered on public service and respect for citizens’ rights. Together UNDP and the Ministry have established six community policing pilot programmes. UNDP also supported the creation of local security committees to bring together civil society, local authorities, and national police representatives to discuss security issues.

From our work in these countries and in other crisis-affected and fragile contexts, UNDP has drawn the following lessons:

•    placing people at the center of justice and security reforms and working towards the goals of national partners are crucial for successfully establishing the rule of law and access to justice;

•    guaranteeing victims’ participation in transitional justice from the design phase to implementation is vital for ensuring that amends are made for past abuses and for building the conditions for reconciliation;

•    building links between formal and informal justice systems widens access to justice; and

•    concrete national commitments backed by strong political will are vital for building trust between people and the state and upholding the rule of law.


UNDP looks forward to the next chapter of its rule of law work through its Global Programme for Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations. We will continue to focus our efforts strategically – by placing people’s needs at the center of our work, by strengthening institutions to promote and protect access to justice, and by working to create supportive environments for the rule of law. From years of experience we have learned that each of these components is vital, and that success is more likely if we work on them collaboratively with partners rather than in isolation. This helps ensure our programmes have the greatest impact, and helps lay the foundations for sustainable peace in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

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