CBA advocates for rule of law in post-2015 development agenda

  • December 25, 2014

At the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, the global community debated and agreed on eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. With the target period drawing to an end next year, the global community is talking about the post-2015 development agenda – what should come next to improve the lives of the world’s poor and marginalized people. One of the areas of concern that advocates want to address is the rule of law.

Following the 2000 summit, all 189 of the then-member states, as well as 23 international organizations, committed to implement the eight MDGs, which targeted pressing issues including health, education and poverty. And while there has been progress, much remains to be done:

  • Since 1990, 700 million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, yet one in five still live on $1.25 in developing countries.
  • The number of primary-school age children who are out of school has been nearly halved since 2000, falling from 102 million to 58 million in 2012; the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 has been reduced by almost 50 per cent, short of the target of two-thirds.
  • Maternal mortality has been reduced by 45 per cent, yet 800 women die each day due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications.
  • The HIV incident rate declined by 52 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, yet 70 per cent of people needing anti-retrovirals don’t receive them.
  • 2.3 billion more people have access to improved drinking water, but 748 million are still using unimproved sources.
  • Official Development Assistance (ODA) is at its highest level ever, yet many countries, including Canada, have not met the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

Still, there is global consensus that the millennium campaign galvanized the global community. They set the framework for a concerted global effort to coordinate and measure the effectiveness of development initiatives. They harnessed an unprecedented energy which had a positive effect on peoples’ lives.

Building on the achievements of the MDGs, the UN and its agencies, government officials, donors, policy makers, civil societies and stakeholders around the globe are engaged in wide consultations and discussions on the post-2015 development agenda to guide the global community in its development efforts for the next 15 years. Significant efforts to engage the public in the discussion have been made and shared on The World We Want. The list of concerns and issues to be addressed in the coming years is long and the impassioned debate reflects the diversity of stakeholders who wish to optimize the limited resources for effective, sustainable development.

Consideration is being given to recognizing the importance of good governance, and the rule of law, as a prerequisite for an environment for development and as an important outcome in and of itself. In assessing the progress of the MDGs, it has been recognized that weak governance is a key factor in critical development challenges and the uneven progress between countries. “Poverty and inequality are frequently the outcomes of conscious policy choices at all levels of government, which in turn are often deeply rooted in unjust political and economic systems,”[1] the final report from the consultation says. Effective institutions and systems that are responsive to public needs deliver essential services and promote inclusive growth and inclusive political processes, and ensure that citizens can hold public officials to account.

The world’s most vulnerable bear the brunt of lack of rule of law as demonstrated by the imprisonment of disproportionate number of individuals from minority groups; sexual assault of young children and women; “land-grabbing” from the poor; the impact of environmental degradation resulting from industrial development projects on the health and livelihoods of people; and requirements for bribes for access to services, assistance or “protection” throughout the world. Proponents argue that the rule of law provides stability for economic development; contributes to creating safe and secure communities through prevention and deterrence of conflict, crime and violence; improves access to justice and protection of human rights; contributes to equitable access to resources and services; and strengthens accountability and reduces corruption.

Based on the CBA’s experience in supporting the development of the rule of law in transitional and developing countries over the past 24 years, the CBA International Initiatives Committee put forward a resolution at the CBA Legal Conference in St. John’s, to call on the government of Canada to support the explicit inclusion of the rule of law in the post-2015 development agenda.

President Michele Hollins, Q.C., followed up the resolution with a letter to John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development. As the government of Canada has often recognized the importance of the rule of law, democracy and human rights in public statements on international issues, Canada is well positioned to be a leader in putting rule of law at the forefront of the development agenda.

While the CBA had not received a response from either of the ministers by the time of publication, we look forward to engaging the government in discussions on this important issue. The CBA will also be working to garner support from other Canadian and international stakeholders for support for the inclusion of the rule of law in the post-2015 development agenda, which is expected to be adopted by UN member states at a summit in New York in September 2015. We encourage you to engage in the discussion, vote for what matters to you and share your thoughts with us at

End note

[1] Final Report of the Global Thematic Consultation on Governance and the Post-2015 Development Framework, p. 28