Making the rule of law count in international assistance

  • June 24, 2016

A country’s observance of the rule of law is a foundational part of its economic, social and cultural success. Without a predictable state player, transparent dispute-resolution processes, reliable enforcement mechanisms and an empowered civil society, countries lack the certainty necessary to thrive across all levels.

That is why many countries and agencies, including the CBA’s International Initiatives Committee, fought to have rule of law included as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) passed by the United Nations last fall.

And it’s why the CBA committee has written to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee asking that rule of law be a “priority theme cutting across all of Canada’s international development assistance.”

Building on the mandate given to the Minister of International Development to “create a new policy and funding framework to guide Canada’s aid decisions, empower people, and support broad-based, sustainable growth in the developing world,” the federal government is conducting a review of its international assistance framework. As a first phase, the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee is studying the way Canada choses its 25 countries of focus, including the sectoral themes the government has prioritized. The committee will make recommendations that will inform the larger review being conducted in the months leading up to next year’s budget.

“The rule of law involves not only consistent application of rules,” the Chair of IIC, Mick Ryan, Q.C., wrote. “As defined by the Secretary General of the United Nations, it ‘requires that legal processes, institutions and substantive norms are consistent with human rights, including the core principles of equality under the law, accountability before the law and fairness in the protection and vindication of rights’.”

According to the ministerial mandate letter, supporting the SDGs does appear to be in the government’s plan. Marie-Claude Bibeau has been directed to, among others, support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; champion the values of inclusive and accountable governance, peaceful pluralism, respect for diversity and human rights; ensure that Canada’s development focus is based on evidence and outcomes, not ideology; examining current and new aid delivery mechanisms and partnerships; and providing assistance to countries that are vulnerable to the destabilizing effects of climate change.

The IIC suggests that the federal government consider requiring countries which receive Canadian support to meet the targets set out in SDG 16, which deals with the rule of law, and which it says is also “critical as an enabler of the other SDGs.”

“Canada’s support to partner countries’ SDG plans should include the establishment of effective legal frameworks, the strengthening of governance and legal institutions, and the empowerment of communities, including women, the poor and the marginalized,” Ryan writes.

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  • From: Richard B. Jones, BA.Sc LLB LLM P.Eng
  • July 06, 2016
  • 12:30 PM
Margaret Thatcher in 1988 said, “The freedom of peoples depends fundamentally on the rule of law.” And 21 years later Barak Obama said, “Democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion – those are not simply principles of the West to be foisted on [other] countries, but rather, what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity.” In 2004, Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations reported to the Security Council and defined the rule of law in the following way: The “rule of law” is a concept at the very heart of the [United Nations] Organization’s mission. It refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency. Nevertheless, the rule of law was not included in SDG 16. It should be and Canada should be a firm advocate for this principle. Richard B. Jones Milford, Ontario