UNDP Bangladesh with the support of the Bureau of Development Policy (BDP) hosted the Global Strategic Retreat: Deepening UNDP`s Engagement on Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment from 27-29 June, 2012 in Dhaka. Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Democratic Governance Director in BDP participated at the event. Colleagues from thirty UNDP offices (country offices and regional centers) and selected development partners and civil society members were part of this retreat, making it the largest UNDP gathering post Rio summit. Practitioners in various areas of democratic governance and access to justice engaged with one another to share their experiences, practices and challenges for UNDP to move towards a transformational strategic framework to enhance greater access to justice and legal empowerment to the people. This meeting was a way to review a number of key thematic areas of programmatic engagement and speak to both the existing portfolio and new or emerging issues and trends.
Ms. Fraser-Moleketi, Adv. Shahdeen Malik, Salahuddin Ahmed (former Attorney General), Subinay Nandy (RC Sri Lanka), Ramaswamy Sudarshan (UNDP Asian Pacific Regional Center) inaugurated the retreat with Neal Walker, UN Bangladesh Resident Coordinator as the facilitator. Speakers stressed on ensuring tangible impacts through stronger rule of law, justice system and democratic governance practices. Panelists also stated that there is a need to bring access to justice and legal empowerment in the development discourse and address ways in which how to make justice relevant in the face of real challenges for the people. The important aspect to keep in mind is how to bring about transformational changes to the work that is being done by UNDP globally in the areas of access to justice and legal empowerment.
Thematic sessions with structured working groups on areas of: rule of law, legal empowerment, assessing and measuring justice reforms, relations between informal and formal legal processes, women`s access to justice, and nexus between government and poverty practices with access to justice. On the last day, there was a roundtable on South-South cooperation for rule of law and justice reforms and the brainstorming session on the roadmap to a new strategic framework for access to justice and legal empowerment.
On the second day of the retreat, Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to Prime Minister, Government of Bangladesh and Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi engaged in a discussion on Rule of Law in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
While the issues were vast and complex and many excellent points were raised by the participants, the main idea that Ms. Fraser-Moleketi stressed on (quoting Stefan Priesner, UNDP Bangladesh) was that "the rule of law is the basis for a human rights based approach to development."
Quotable quotes from the Strategic Retreat
"Let`s ensure that we use the convening power of the UNDP to expand spaces that will make justice accessible to all. We must be supportive of the national processes by ensuring that national stakeholders take the lead in making the change they want to be."
- Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Democratic Governance Director, BDP
"There is a presumption that rights do not matter to the poor because they do not have the capacity to exercise their rights. In that way we excuse systemic failures at all levels. Therefore it is important to adopt a new model of law reforms that put legislation in place, policies and resources for enforcement. Model multimedia must be used including IT to expand the scope of legal literacy, particularly for women. We know that with awareness of rights they will claim their rights. Let us create the environment for claiming rights and not continue to legitimize systemic failures. This is at the core of human rights based approach to development."
- Professor Savitri Goonesekera, University of Colombo
"The opposite of poverty is not wealth - it`s justice."Ramaswamy Sudarshan, UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre.