Taking Stock of the Justice 2015 Campaign
BY ABIGAIL MOY
With the 69th Session of the UN general Assembly approaching, it’s a good time to reflect on the progress of our Justice 2015 campaign.
Last month, the 13th and final meeting of the Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals concluded. The OWG issued its proposal in a final Outcome Document. The proposal will now be incorporated into the Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report, which is due in November and will also serve as an input to future intergovernmental negotiations.
This means that there remains time and opportunity to influence the language and content of the post-2015 agenda. The OWG’s proposal reflects the months of intergovernmental debate, but many of its contents remain hotly contested. As we prepare for the next round of negotiations, let’s take a moment to compare the original ‘asks’ that civil society made in our Open Letter to the UN with the language of the OWG final proposal. Below, I make the comparison and add a brief assessment of how things currently stand.
- GUARANTEE THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND TO ACCESS GOVERNMENT DATA.
Open Working Group Target #16.10:
- Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
Analysis: This is a good start. It doesn’t mention disseminating simple and clear statements of law and policy, as civil society’s open letter recommends, but thus far none of the targets get down to that level of detail. We should note, however, the presence of a typical phrase added to dilute the level of national commitment: “in accordance with national legislation.” We should certainly work to strengthen this language going forward.
Civil Society’s Illustrative Target #2:
- ENSURE NO ONE SUFFERS FROM A LACK OF SECURE LEGAL IDENTITY.
Open Working Group Target #16.6
- By 2020 provide legal identity for all including birth registration
Analysis: Also a good basis for further advocacy. Civil society’s open letter took a more nuanced approach to the issue, however. While we argued for universal access to legal identity, we also suggested target language that left open the option of reducing the need for legal identity in general, for example by decoupling legal identity requirements for basic services and other benefits. (This was to ensure that, while governments work toward providing legal identity for all, those lacking documents in the interim would not be deprived of essential services.) The OWG addresses the former issue, but is silent on the latter.
- INCREASE THE SHARE OF WOMEN AND MEN WITH SECURE RIGHTS TO LAND AND PROPERTY.
- INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF LAND FOR WHICH COMMUNITIES HAVE SECURE TENURE AND DECISIONS ARE TAKEN THROUGH AN OPEN AND ACCOUNTABLE PROCESS.
- 1.4: By 2030 ensure that all men and women, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership, and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology, and financial services including microfinance
- 2.3: By 2030 double the agricultural productivity and the incomes of small-scale food producers, particularly women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets, and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment
- 5.a: Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources in accordance with national laws
Analysis: In the end, our advocacy efforts could not secure a mention of “community land.” Also, all references to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) were removed. This is certainly a setback. On the bright side, the final language includes “ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources,” which, if paired with concepts of communal governance and collective management, can be very powerful. We will have to step up our efforts in this area going forward.
- ENSURE THE PARTICIPATION OF CITIZENS IN MONITORING ESSENTIAL SERVICES, INCLUDING WATER, HEALTHCARE, AND EDUCATION.
- Goal 16: Build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
- 6.b: Support and strengthen the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management
- 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life
- 16.6: Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
Analysis: Goal 16 and Target 16.6 broadly calls for more accountable, transparent, and inclusive institutions, which covers all sectors. Since accountability and participation go hand in hand, this is promising. By sector, however, participation is explicitly addressed only in relation to water and sanitation; it does not appear in targets relating to health or education. Fortunately, “women’s participation in economic and public life” can be applied to a variety of sectors. On this issue, we should endeavor to combine our advocacy more seamlessly with existing campaigns around basic services, so as to ensure that legal empowerment is integrated throughout the post-2015 agenda.
- ENSURE ALL PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE INSTITUTIONS AND LEGAL AID SERVICES THAT ARE AFFORDABLE, FAIR, AND TIMELY.
Open Working Group Goal #16 & Targets #16.3, 16.a:
- Goal #16:Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
- 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and ensure equal access to justice for all
- 16.a: Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacities at all levels, in particular in developing countries, for preventing violence and combating terrorism and crime
Analysis: Significantly, the word “justice” now makes an appearance at the goal level — previously it only appeared at the target level. Meanwhile, at the target level, the phrase “access to justice for all” has replaced “equal access for all to independent, effective, and responsive justice systems.” The present language arguably has broader applications, as it does not focus on the nature of the system so much as it references an outcome.
Still, we should be cautious – more vague language may obfuscate just what is required of states. Note, for example, the absence of any reference to “legal aid services” — affordable, fair, timely or otherwise. Legal aid is presumably represented by the concept of “access to justice for all,” but we may wish to seek greater specificity going forward.