Confronting daunting challenges to justice & security in the Arab region | Sima Bahous, Jordan Ryan

24 Sep 2012

 Millions of Libyans went to the polls to vote in the country’s first free nationwide elections in nearly five decades. Photo: An elated voter casts her vote. Photo: Samia Mahgoub /UNDP

Just over a year ago, the Arab region began to witness unprecedented change, with several countries embarking on transitions towards more democratic governance.

Strengthening the rule of law is a central challenge facing these countries. Expectations of citizens for accountable security institutions, impartial justice systems and the fulfillment of human rights are higher now than ever before.

Recently, we met with two officials at the forefront of dealing with this challenge: Kamal Bashar Idhan, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Libya, tasked with ensuring that justice is delivered and human rights are upheld for all Libyans; and Said Mechichi, Secretary of State for Reform in the Tunisian Ministry of Interior who leads efforts on security sector reform in the country which triggered the Arab region’s wave of change.

The challenges facing these two officials and the institutions they lead are daunting. Strengthening the rule of law in transition settings is one of the most difficult aspects of change. But it is also among the most important, and we were inspired by their commitment.

UNDP has worked closely with countries in the Arab region — including Libya and Tunisia — to support their democratic transitions and national-led efforts to re-establish justice and security, deploying our expertise gained in support to transitions in several other regions, while responsive to local needs through our presence, consultative process, and commitment to national ownership.

Next week the international community will have a chance to reflect on the challenges facing not only countries like Libya and Tunisia, but indeed all countries around the world which seek to deepen this most crucial pillar of development and human rights. Coming together in New York at the first-ever High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law on 24 September, Member States will take stock of many perspectives and seek to galvanize collective efforts to strengthen the rule of law at the national and international levels.

In UNDP’s participation at this ground-breaking meeting, we will underscore the challenges that countries face in deepening the rule of law and delivering on human rights. But we will also be inspired by the dedication of public servants like the ones we met recently from Libya and Tunisia. Dedicated counterparts such as these will continue to enjoy the unwavering support of UNDP as they advance in their efforts to strengthen the rule of law and deliver on the promise of democratic transition. 

Talk to us: What can new Arab governments do to provide effective and accountable security services and justice systems?

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