As David Udell has been urging, it is long past time for US access to justice advocates to engage with the UN on Goal 16 of its Development Goals, dealing with access to justice, and with its potential implications. As shown in this Invite, an upcoming meeting provides an opportunity to help shape the US response by attending a meeting at Skadden Arps in New York at 10:30 on the Thursday the 24th. Acceptances must be sent to the e-mail listed in the invite by Sept 21.
The current proposal, likely to be finalized at the UN at the end of next week, would ask members to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
The challenge for those who see this as an opportunity to align what is going on in the US with the rest of the world, is the current text of the so called “Targets” for this goal.
16.1 significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
16.2 end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children
16.3 promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and ensure equal access to justice for all
16.4 by 2030 significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime
16.5 substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all its forms
16.6 develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
16.7 ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
16.8 broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
16.9 by 2030 provide legal identity for all including birth registration
16.10 ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
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
16.b promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development
Clearly, it is an agenda that paints with a very broad brush, with some of these targets reminding us that there are issues to which we are not paying enough attention, and others reminding us what dauting challenges those in other countries face in obtaining even the apearance of justice.
The Sept 24 gathering will be particularly helpful in working through this tension and because of the high level and reputations of the speakers, who include:
- Mr. Tony Pipa, U.S. Lead Negotiator for the Post-2015 Process
- Pete Chapman, Program Officer on Legal Empowerment, Open Society Justice Initiatives
- Maha Jweied, Deputy Director, Office for Access to Justice, U.S. Department of Justice
- Jennifer Smith, Executive Director, International Legal Foundation
- David Udell, Executive Director, National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School
- Risa Kaufman, Executive Director, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute
It is important to note that now attention is moving to the discussion of implementation country by country, including the US. The third level of this process will be “indicators.”
p.s. Added October 14, 2015) As further evidence of how engagement with Goal 16 can help in the US, see this quote from US Ambassador to the UN Susan Powers.
America has long understood – and at our best times long tried to address – the fact that this is part of our enduring domestic project. It is what the drafters of our Constitution meant by opening with the aspiration to “form a more perfect Union,” recognizing that we weren’t there – we weren’t close. And we are the first to admit today in 2015 that we have a lot of work to do. You heard from Roy Austin, from the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, about one of those challenges which is pervasive – unequal access to justice. And we know that legal counsel can be a critical tool in obtaining essential services such as education, healthcare, and housing, and in protecting basic rights. Yet we also know that Americans who most need legal assistance to access these services often can’t afford it. And more than 50 million Americans qualify for federally funded civil legal aid; but over half of those who seek assistance are turned away by legal aid organizations that just lack the funds or the staff to take on those cases. And those of you who know people who work for legal aid organizations know that it hurts nobody more than it hurts those lawyers who would love to have the bandwidth and the scope to take on all of those clients in need.