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Speeches & Transcripts

Speech by Mahmoud Mohieldin, Corporate Secretary and President’s Special Envoy, at the 2015 Law, Justice and Development Week

November 16, 2015

Corporate Secretary and President's Special Envoy Mahmoud Mohieldin Opening Session, Law, Justice and Development Week 2015 Washington, D.C., United States

As Prepared for Delivery

The attacks in Paris to terrorize innocent civilians, once again, are a reminder of the ordeal that these attacks by extreme fanatics place on humanity and of the universal values of peace that we share. Let us take this sad opportunity to remember the victims of these attacks and resolve towards a more peaceful, just and tranquil society.

World Bank Group General Counsel Mme. Anne-Marie Leroy, Honorable Lady Justice Njoki S. Ndung’u, esteemed guests,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to thank Anne-Marie and her team for their kind invitation to me to speak at the opening of the sixth Law, Justice and Development Week. It is a great pleasure to be a part of this august gathering and offer my perspectives on rule of law, justice and good governance, in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015 in New York, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, with a pledge to leave no one behind.

The 2030 development agenda is holistic and universal, calling for action by low, middle and high-income countries alike. The 2030 Agenda encompasses a transformative and integrated agenda heralding an historic global turning point. The new goals, along with the broader sustainability agenda, address the root causes of poverty, and the universal need for development that works for all people.

This requires truly transformational measures, which will necessitate a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development encompassing multi-stakeholder partnerships. Agenda 2030 also calls for increased capacity-building and better data and evidence for measuring sustainable development.

At the outset and in the initial engagement of our institution in the process of formalizing the SDGs with the UN and the development community, the World Bank Group identified three areas of focus and work:  finance, data, and implementation.

Finance, data and implementation encapsulate huge challenges, but steps are under way already on all three fronts. We are off to a good start with our work on data, with our Memorandum of Understanding and its associated action programme, with other multilateral development banks (MDBs) and the UN, our own Data Council, as well as ongoing work on the data revolution.

We can build on the success of the Addis meeting, and our strength as a financial institution which also has highly effective innovative financing mechanisms and tools.

On implementation, the WBG has a big task ahead to promote and support the global public goods agenda and to help clients achieve the SDGs in accordance with national priorities and via smart partnerships that pull in the wider development community, including the MDBs, CSOs, and the private sector.

The rule of law is both an enabler and facilitator of development. The SDGs will hinge on improving the rule of law, building strong institutions and facilitating good governance. In line with the Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want, and the Rio+20 Statement on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, I am happy that engagements like today afford us an opportunity to explore the linkages between the rule of law and good governance to reinforce the SDGs.

The rule of law could be seen as an intrinsic outcome of development, but also essential to the achievement of many other development goals, including, the prevention and mitigation of conflict, crime and violence; ensuring executive accountability; and empowering citizens to address underlying causes of inequality and exclusion.

During the MDGs period, a lot was achieved through legal reform. Take for example the goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Over the past 25 years, thanks to the efforts of local advocacy groups coupled with international and regional human rights conventions, 118 economies have enacted domestic violence legislation. However, according to the Women, Business and Law dataset, to date 46 economies still lack dedicated domestic violence legislation.

To ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life Countries are trying to account for a deficit of women decision makers by ushering in quotas for political participation. Over 40% of economies have implemented quotas for women members of parliament and local government.

However, there is widespread recognition on the MDGs, that in countries where they faced challenges - it is usually a lack of institutional capacity, weak governance, sometimes in combination with the absence of peace and stability, which held progress back.

In response, a specific Goal – goal 16 of the SDGs– to promote “just, peaceful and inclusive societies” by building “effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels”, has been introduced into the SDGs. It aims to promote effective rule of law; good governance and citizens’ participation in decision making as well as transparent, effective and accountable institutions at all levels.

Goal 16 requires promotion of the rule of law at national and international levels, and ensuring equal access to justice for all. In addition to national action, these goals require transboundary cooperation and an effective enforcement regime. Strong governance is not just good for its own sake, it is also a key enabler of development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Governance, justice, and the rule of law will be cornerstones for delivering the World Bank Group’s twin goals of fighting poverty and achieving shared prosperity and those of the post-2015 development agenda.

Yet, delivery of this goal will face the same implementation challenge as other goals, including the need for effective measurement and data, incorporating the goal and targets into national priorities and diverse cultural contexts, and balancing national priorities within an inclusive international framework.

Rule of law and justice are complex concepts to define and quantify, and measurement of these issues should not be constrained to a single indicator. Utilizing baskets of indicators can address these challenges and draw on multiple measures and data sources to paint a more nuanced picture of the experience of justice for citizens. This basket would be made up of data from a range of different sources, including administrative data, population surveys, and other sources. This would help reflect the multifaceted nature of justice and serve to guard against the shortcomings and biases of any one data source.

The global process to define global indicators is still ongoing and expected to finish by March 2016.

Member states largely agree that national priorities and local context should help determine the future global development agenda. Adopting a global menu of targets and indicators is a technically feasible way of balancing global ambition with local needs and priorities.

Comparable data on rule of law and justice already exist in many forms at both national and international levels. Such data can be harnessed and analyzed to support the post-2015 process. Almost every national government collects some type of administrative data relevant to rule of law and justice, whether it is on the number of court cases resolved in a 12 month period, police and hospital records on number of reported homicides, or voting records. Civil society and international organizations also conduct many cross-national studies that measure elements of rule of law and justice.

Two successful examples that illustrate the approach are  - the World Justice Project (WJP), which developed simple, practical and actionable indicators of justice and rule of law to create the cross-national, quantitative Rule of Law Index; and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico (INEGI) which drew from multiple statistical tools including surveys, censuses and administrative data and provided a comprehensive picture of the experience of justice and rule of law in Mexico.

Finally, the enabling role of justice and rule of law in supporting growth and poverty reduction must be fully realized. A key lesson of the interesting book entitled, “Solomon's Knot – How Law Can End the Poverty of Nations”, is that ineffective private and business laws are a root cause of the poverty of nations in today's world.  Without the legal institutions that allow innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive, other attempts to spur economic growth are destined to fail. Sustained growth occurs through innovative business ventures.  A primary challenge to such growth is a problem of trust between innovators with new ideas and financiers with capital. Property, contracts, and corporate law provide the legal framework to overcome distrust and launch innovative business ventures. This will be especially important for delivering the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development.

In the implementation of this ambitious and transformative agenda, the World Bank Group -- through knowledge sharing, technical assistance and financial support -- looks forward to working alongside the UN, multilateral development banks, and other partners to support governments in translating these global goals at a national level.

As noted by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, the focus of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership provides a comprehensive and robust development path for the world to follow over the next fifteen years.  

The Bank though the Legal Department and the Governance Global Practice, has been working very closely over the past two years on the formulation of the goals, targets and indicators that pertain to rule of law. We’ve been emphasizing a framework that allows countries to select issues that are relevant to their particular contexts; and that strengthens ties between citizens and their governments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Rule of law is absolutely indispensable for the achievement of the SDGs and partnerships are critical for strengthening institutions and knowledge-sharing. The achievement of the 17 specific SDGs depends, very much, on strong rule of law, good governance and robust institutions.

This is a vision that we cannot afford to miss or delay on. The urgency to act is imminent and I call upon you, as members of the larger global community, to participate fully in putting into action the 2030 agenda, leaving no one behind.