Our world is rapidly changing, and justice and human rights concerns are at the forefront of many of the challenges we are facing today – from public health, inequality and public safety to climate change and digital transformations. Whether you are a current partner, donor, or an independent civil society activist, thematic expert, journalist or academic specializing in rule of law and human rights and advocating for security or justice reform, we want to hear what areas of work you think are important challenges, opportunities and adaptations for the rule of law, security and human rights community to engage in over the next 5 years.

Please introduce yourself and offer your perspective.


Guiding Questions:

Identifying current and emerging trends on the rule of law and human rights:

  1. UNDP’s Current thematic areas of focus are Political Engagement, Institution Building, Community Security, Access to Justice, Human Rights Systems, Transitional Justice, and Gender Justice. How should UNDP’s thematic focus areas evolve within the Rule of Law and Human Rights sphere? What needs to change? What are the trends and policy evolutions which inform your view?
  2. What trends related to the rule of law, security and human rights are you seeing in your current context and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon? What opportunities do you see for advancing the rule of law, security and human rights over the next 5 years taking into account demands for integrity and transparency; climate justice, digital transformations, addressing inequality and insecurity/violence and supporting risk informed development?
  3. What trends related to DDR, small arms and armed violence reduction are you seeing? Do you think that these are being adequately addressed by the international community?
  4. Constitutions provide the overarching legal framework which sets out the basis of the social contract between a state and its people affecting all aspects of policy and society. What can we do better in our support to constitutional reform?
  5. What is the level and type of demands for justice, security, and human rights in your context? Are there specific areas of work you are seeing more or less of a need for?
  6. How can the UN Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights and agenda for protection assist the rule of law, security and human rights at national level?
  7. What challenges are you currently experiencing and foresee in advancing the rule of law, security and human rights over the next 5 years?  What key actions could be taken to initiative transformative change?



Objective: To crowdsource ideas, trends and priorities in the Rule of Law, Security and Human Rights fields and reflect on how to achieve transformational impact and positive change in the next decade.

Outcome: A summary of the discussions will feed into UNDP’s policy and programme formulation on the Future We Want to See: Reimagining the Rule of Law, Security and Human and the Inclusive Social Contract. Your insights will also inform the next phase of UNDP’s Global Programme on the Rule of Law, Security and Human Rights.

Comments (12)

Ainura Bekkoenova Moderator

We are happy to welcome you to the opening of important global public discussion on “Re-imagining paths towards Rule of Law, Security and Human Rights for a better future” that will be held during 29th of June - 24th of July 2020.

We are curious to hear your insights and visions of what’s possible in re-imagining our paths and ways towards societies that implement inclusive social contract, rule of law, justice and human rights. We believe that by collating your different, alternative and inspiring visions of future, we will be able to shape a common narrative, that will speak to the whole of society. Therefore, we are inviting to the discussion practitioners, experts and thinkers from various fields (not only from UNDP) and the wide range of partner organizations, including civil society, think tanks and governments.

As the experts in your fields, please share with us 2-3 key suggestions on your vision of the future paths towards Rule of Law, Security and Human Rights for a better future, including the opportunities, challenges and priorities that you foresee.

Your thoughts and ideas will feed the design of the new programme of UNDP  - Future We Want to See: Reimagining the Rule of Law, Security and Human and the Inclusive Social Contract.

Together with my colleagues Tim Heine Livio Sarandrea Sungeun Choi Lara Deramaix Leanne McKay Glaucia Boyer Clement Hamon Yagiz Oztepe Polina Korotkikh , we will moderate this discussion. 

I am working as Human Rights & Rule of Law Expert @ UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Please feel free to check some of my views & opinions of emerging trends in human rights and rule of law, including on how COVID-19 digital surveillance impacts privacy and the need for human rights based approach to artificial intelligence.

Looking forward to our discussions, brainstorming and exchange of views, ideas!

Ivan Honcharuk

Dear colleagues,

Greetings from Ukraine.

My name is Ivan Honcharuk, I work as Rule of Law and Access to Justice Specialist, UNDP Ukraine. I work with the National Free of Charge Legal Aid System, National Courts (local ones, mostly) and the civil society organizations who work on the local / national level in sphere of the access to justice.

I joined UNDP in late 2016, since that time my work is focused on capacity building of the above-listed institutions and spread of information about them.

From my experience I can say that one of the main challenges is a poor knowledge of vast majority of the local population about justice / governmental institution, their role, functions and often about their existence. As a result, this lack of knowledge negatively affects the level of the exercise of people’s legal rights. The impact of this lack of knowledge is especially seen in the armed conflict context which Ukraine is facing from 2014 (e.g., the exercise of the legal rights of the internally displaced persons and other conflict-affected population).

Also, the overall level of trust to the state authorities is also at the low level, to my opinion this is a result of lack of knowledge of these authorities' functions.

The possible way to improve this situation, to my opinion, is to integrate some limited legal education to schools with a focus on description of functions of the various local/regional/national level authorities and self-governance bodies including information on how to reach them and how they can help. This might be close to the education of paralegals to some extent, the difference, however, is in the expected result: first of all, these knowledges will be used for the private life and personal usage. Increase of the level of understanding of functions of these authorities also might increase the level of trust to these institutions.

This project, obviously, won't give the fast outcome, however, it might be one the most sustainable.

Maybe some similar projects or education processes exist in some countries, it would be great to know about this experience.

Thank you.

Best regards,

Ivan Honcharuk

Ainura Bekkoenova Moderator

Thank you Ivan Honcharuk for sharing your valuable suggestion on making available the education programmes that can improve the knowledge and understanding of people about the nature and functioning of public institutions, including locally governed bodies. This can definitely enhance trust to the authorities, subject to their proportional effort to meet demands of people and overall the social contract. We have seen similar to your suggestion UNDP legal empowerment projects and programmes that have been helpful in especially in fragile/conflict affected areas. Nicholas Booth Simone Boneschi  grateful if you share with us your views on how these legal empowerment initiatives impacted social cohesion and confidence in institutions in your countries. Many thanks! Olena Ursu @Rustam Pulatov 

Juan Pablo Gordillo

Hi, I´m Juan Pablo Gordillo from the RSCLAC Hub, UNDP-Infosegura regional Project. About ¿What trends related to the rule of law, security and human rights are you seeing in your current context and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon?, I think that Rule of Law, Security and HHRR should continue focusing on an integral prevention strategy.

For example, under Citizen Security and Peaceful Coexistence approach, we´ve seen for more tan 15 years a prevention comprehensive strategy, seeing Justice as a prevention matter. Citizens voice helps to prevent conflict uprise, quality of security services and confidence also does, early conflict detection and gender based sensitive approach also does, evidence based policies and well informated strategies are also on the prevention basis.

Under LAC and Infosegura strategy we´ve seen a trend of more complex crisis, citizens lack of trust in key RoL institutions, and socioeconomic pression that leads to social unrest . Data shows that Homicide trends are lower tan 10 years ago, but conflicts upscaling, and lack of voice and polarization is clear in the region. Also Gender based violence and policies focused on preventable deaths among those who had been left behind still need a lot of improvement (women, child, migrant, displaced, ancestral communities, LGBTIQ+, Elderly).

Stronger evidence, Knowledge Management and broader diffusion of acceleration strategies and policies on RoL and Citizen Security must be disseminated. Processes such as UNDP-Infosegura, SIGOB, CariSecure provide first steps on this.

Please visit some resources on our work on RoL, Citizen Security, peacebuilding and HHRR:

Ainura Bekkoenova Moderator

Hi Juan Pablo Gordillo - I sincerely appreciate your insights on prevention strategies, following your extensive knowledge and evidenced based experience with processes such as UNDP-Infosegura, SIGOB, CariSecure in Latin America, working together with Juliet Solomon Lorena MELLADO Gloria Manzotti. We will look closely at the acceleration strategies and evidence in the resources you have shared. I was wondering if you have also been looking at the role of social media in peaceful co-existence your region. We have just published a blog post - Using social media to advocate for sustainable change through protest and it would be good to hear your views on this as well.  

Jessica Young

Dear colleagues, I am Jessica Young, Country Programme Manager for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Panama Country Office. ¿What trends related to the rule of law, security and human rights are you seeing in your current context and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon? I see the Escazú Agreement that aims to guarantee the rights of all people to a healthy environment and to their participation in the decisions that affect their lives and surroundings. It is the first binding multilateral treaty that protects the rights of access to information, public participation and justice in areas such as the sustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity conservation, the fight against deforestation and climate change, and water and air quality. In practice, it is a legal instrument to guarantee a basic human right: the right to enjoy a healthy ecological environment as a requirement for the full enjoyment of other human rights, such as the right to a dignified life, health, housing, food, water and sanitation.

The regional treaty is the result of four years of negotiations and was signed on March 4, 2018 in the Costa Rican town of Escazú, and puts into practice Principle 10 of the Rio de Janeiro Declaration adopted at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, which established the rights of access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters for all people as the best way to deal with environmental issues.

Escazu is a second-generation environmental agreement that guarantees fundamental procedural rights to adequately implement the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals (ODS) and to follow up on other international agreements such as the Paris Agreement (2015) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1993). 

The Escazú Agreement brings benefits that are important to highlight:

(i) it promotes multilateralism since it proposes symmetrical solutions to common problems throughout the Latin American region. It proposes regional standards, exchange of experiences among countries, as well as South-South cooperation, and a regional platform with tools at hand to improve capacities and promote better public policies.

(ii) promotes governance, as it is a "powerful tool to prevent conflicts, ensure that decisions are taken in an informed, participatory and inclusive manner and improve accountability, transparency and good governance" in line with ODS 16 which promotes a rights-based approach and lays the foundation for democracy, citizenship and institutionalism in environmental matters.

(iii) calls for the protection of human rights defenders in environmental matters. Crucially, the treaty includes the world's first binding provision on human rights defenders in environmental matters so that they can operate without threats, restrictions and insecurity.

(iv) leaving no one behind, the Escazú Agreement incorporates provisions to address asymmetries in power relations, paying special attention to people in conditions of greater vulnerability such as indigenous peoples, afro-descendants, women, children and youth, people with disabilities, the elderly, and people with lower incomes.

(v) promotes the use of technology and therefore innovation to provide access to useful information, in a timely manner and to facilitate participation, with open data for example Technology should be used to bring closer together and reduce the gaps.

The Escazú Agreement opens the opportunity to begin a new stage in our region of a virtuous relationship between the defense of the environment and the advancement of human rights. We know that without a healthy environment there can be no economic and social development. Escazú shows us the way: more environmental rights and of greater rank and scope to build prosperous and inclusive societies that bring us closer to fulfilling Agenda 2030.

We are integrating Escazu Agreement in all of our SESP, and into the main topics to generate awareness and connect actual mechanisms of access with transparency and environmental democracy. 

Ainura Bekkoenova Moderator

Dear Jessica Young, many thanks for sharing this important piece of information about the adoption of the Escazú Agreement - the first environmental human rights treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean. Indeed, the Escazú Agreement incorporates several innovative elements that can be quite useful for replication in other regions.  Firstly, it has a specific provision on environmental human rights defenders (HRDs) that is unprecedented. Second, it enshrines a rights-based approach toward indigenous peoples and vulnerable populations, with provisions to favour access to information, participation and access to justice by these groups. Third, it also responds to the spirit of the United Nations’ (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights regarding companies’ specific obligations to respect human rights in the context of their activities. In addition, two key elements of the agreement are the use of translators into other languages and cost-free guarantees to ensure access to justice, which is essential in environmental conflicts.

It would be interesting to hear from you more about how UNDP is promoting ratification of this agreement in countries and supporting human rights defenders at risk of intimidation and reprisals. I am copying here my colleagues who can share more of their insights about how we can build further this stream of work that clearly links environmental protection and human rights - Sarah Rattray Livio Sarandrea Sungeun Choi Cansu Demir Doruk Ergun 

Sungeun Choi Moderator

Thank you Ainura Bekkoenova for tagging me in this important discussion. I trust Sarah Rattray can post more about reprisals against human rights defenders and national human rights institutions and suggestions, but here I want to underscore that environmental human rights defenders play an important role in supporting States to fulfill their obligations under the Paris Agreement and to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the pledge that no one will be left behind and to reach the furthest behind first.

Please check a strong Human Rights Council resolution (HRC/RES/40/11) recognizing the crucial role of environment human rights defenders to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment adopted by consensus during the Human Rights Council 40th Session in March 2019. 

Sarah Rattray highlighted at the CoP E-consultation on Healthy Ecosystems and Human Rights that the numbers of reprisals against human rights defenders has been rising. We have seen increase in killings, violent acts, forced eviction and displacement of environmental human rights defenders by States and non-State actors, including indigenous and women human rights defenders, and human rights defenders addressing issues relating to land rights, their family members, communities, associates and legal representatives.

Environment human rights defenders must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity. Democracy and rule of law are essential components for the protection of human rights defenders and states must take measures to strengthen democratic institutions, safeguard civic space and combat impunity. Indigenous people as well as young people and children defending human rights relating to environment should be protected and also be able to have meaningful participation and decision makings to shape their now and future.

On 1st of July, the Human Rights Council 44th session held its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child with two panel discussions on realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment as a child right concern (panel1panel2). Two young activists from Côte d'Ivoire and Colombia were part of discussion and delivered powerful messages to the Council.  As  the High Commissioner for Human Rights  and the Special Reporter on Human Rights and  Environment stated during the discussions, we need global recognition of the human rights to a healthy environment, and this will lead to stronger policies, at all levels, to protect our planet and people especially our children now and in the future.  Check the Special Reporter’s report submitted to the Council in March with more than 500 good practices from 178 states. Practices range broadly from laws, policies, jurisprudence, strategies, programmes, projects to other measures that have contributed to decrease in adverse impacts on the environment.  

Finally, here I am sharing with you a young Colombian environment human rights defender Juliana’s strong video message shown to the Human Rights Council this week. Hope this inspires you. 😊 UNDP RoLSHR team will also listen to young voices, discuss further on how we frame our role of law and human rights support for the future, and act together  with wider teams within UNDP as well as our partners to build back better ensuring right-based healthy planet.

Rustam Pulatov

Hello! I am Rustam, and currently, I am in Ukraine with UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme. I manage a portfolio of projects, covering community security, social cohesion, rule of law and access to justice, community mobilization, ADR, peacebuilding, and mine action. 

The question posed is multi-dimensional and very complex. A few ideas (or loud-thinking) to this discussion is related to the evolution of all the thematic areas. What I have noticed in recent years, is that we produce less and less up-to-date pieces of research and analysis to back up our country-level work and advocacies. 

Let's take, for example, Community Security and Social Cohesion: Towards a UNDP Approach that was prepared back in 2009. It is a good piece of research and analysis, providing conceptual backup and evidence from the field (though might be updated for sure). This was evidence of thought leadership in this area (at least back in 2009:)).

We need to have more of this type of works, coordinated at the global level, with support from academia and research, CO work, bringing together all sides and making a proposed plan of development and advocating for change. And then such work is used at all levels to work with countries, donors, other organizations and trying to shift the views on development. So if, for instance, the donor countries (I can name a few), for some reason, think that access to justice is not part of stabilization (conflict and post-conflict), then we may need to do additional work and then advocate to change this position. Otherwise, it affects UNDP work in countries where we work, since respective donor stabilization programmes, simply don't have any reference to justice as part of the strategy. 

Some areas, as use of ICT and social media definitely need to be featured in all key pieces of research and analysis. Do we have a specific position, that's yet another question. For instance, video-surveillance and use of AI, becoming more and more prominent in rule of law or community security, Where is the balance between communal good and personal freedom and privacy? The development paradigm shift towards more security-driven policymaking is all evident in most countries, what is UNDP position/approach to that? Can we back up our approach with evidence and scientific research? 

All this doesn't somehow reduce the importance of pilots and practices applied in each country, but a simple collection of pilots doesn't constitute a UNDP approach. Or maybe we don't need any global one? :) 

Sofiene Bacha

Hi Rustam Pulatov and thank you very much for these insights on community security and stabilization.

I know that UNDP is doing excellent work in Ukraine on Community security, access to justice, and social cohesion. You can also see other examples of that type of work in the comments of Juan Pablo Gordillo on citizen security in Latin America and the Caribean (https://www.sparkblue.org/comment/24186) and the SEESAC project in South-Eastern Europe project where support to arms control is combined with community security and SSR.

I cannot agree more with you on the need to (re)shape our vision and update our policy on the support that UNDP is providing at the coutry and regional levels to the security sector. Actually, a deep dive on security and development is being undertaken, starting with a "thought paper", under development jointly with the Sweden’s Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), to semantically clarify the concepts around the people-centred approach to security, such as human security, community security, urban security, citizen security, societal security, etc. and to explore the connection between people-centred security and the progress on SDG16+. At the same time, a mapping on UNDP support will be also launched very soon, to prepare the next phases of the discussion and the policy development/update itself, including the ICT and social media and the new challenges posed by COVID-19. You and other relevant colleagues in the region will receive information on that soon via Ainura Bekkoenova.

Thank you again and please keep following the conversation on SparkBlue.

Rustam Pulatov

Sofiene Bacha Thank you! Good to know and looking forward to hearing the news soon! :) We are ready to share our practices, piliots and lessons learned. 

Liviana Zorzi

Dear Ainura and Colleagues, I am Liviana Zorzi, Project Specialist on Transparency & Accountability at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, part of Nicholas Booth’s team. 

I would like to reflect on the key role of the judiciary in advancing the rule of law and embodying the implementation of justice. The judiciary has a primary responsibility to deliver justice for all and curb corruption, contributing to achieving two fundamentals targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. This can be made possible through initiatives fostering transparency, promoting integrity and increasing public trust without impeding the independence of the judiciary at the same time.

According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2017, citizens around the world perceive the judiciary as one of the most corruption-prone sectors, with 30% of the respondents believing that most judges and magistrates are corrupt. The poorest and most marginalized are the ones who suffer most, as they are less likely to pay bribes and have limited access to influential networks. Besides hampering public confidence in the institutions and undermining stability in fragile contexts, corruption and lack of integrity in the judiciary also constitute a human rights violation.

UNDP is supporting judiciaries in ASEAN to promote transparency, integrity and accountability and to fulfil their obligations under article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption through the Judicial Integrity Network in ASEAN, that was launched in 2018.

The current crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has its repercussions also on the justice systems, already affected by backlog of cases and a deficit of public trust. Since March 2020, the enforcement of lock-downs disrupted the routine operations of the courts. Nevertheless, the demand for justice has not decreased; on the contrary, the number of people’s justice problems is increasing rapidly as they lose jobs and run into difficulties paying bills and debts; a steep increase of business disputes related to bankruptcy and insolvency is expected, while domestic violence cases are already on the rise in several countries. Currently, the pandemic is worsening this justice gap, which will further exacerbate existing inequalities. For example, according to UN estimates, nearly half of the world population (46%) have no access to the internet. With courts turning to digital tools to make access to justice possible during the pandemic, those penalized by the digital divide may be left excluded.

COVID-19  however opened up avenues for “a new possible”, as I mentioned in my blog. This is the occasion for judiciaries around the world to adopt a people-centered approach to justice, to remove barriers to innovation and technologies and revolutionize the way in which justice is delivered, to establish open, inclusive, fair, and accountable justice systems that can rebuild trust in the institution.

Now more than ever, is the time for judges to reach out to each other across borders to share experiences, good practices and capacity, and to collaborate on innovation. The UNDP’s  Judicial Integrity Network in ASEAN aims precisely at facilitating this exchange at the regional level. The shifting from physical events to online meetings provides the opportunity to make this support available well beyond regional borders, therefore I invite you to have a look at our webpage and watch out for updates on upcoming webinars organized by the Network, as well as reach out to us for further information.

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