Keynote address by Mr. Haoliang Xu during the launch of SELAJSI

Feb 12, 2014

Mr. Haoliang Xu delivering the keynote address

Strengthening Enforcement of Law, Access to Justice and Social Integration (SELAJSI) Programme

Programme Launch
Date: Wednesday 12th February 2014
Key Note Adress by Mr. Haoliang Xu

UN Assistant Secretary General, Chair of the UN Development Group Asia-Pacific, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific

Hon. Ministers and Deputy Minister(s); Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of the Diplomatic Corps; Secretaries and Senior Government Officials; members of partner organizations; colleagues from the UN System; ladies and gentlemen;

It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to be present at the official launch of UNDP’s new flagship Strengthening Enforcement of Law, Access to Justice and Social Integration (SELAJSI) Programme, and to make the key note address. I am especially pleased to be part of this very important event - firstly, because it focuses on themes which are of particular relevance to Sri Lanka at a time when the country is committed to taking forward the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission; and secondly, because its components are at the centre of UNDP’s inclusive and effective democratic governance work under its new Strategic Plan.

Indeed, UNDP continues to support access to justice initiatives in over 100 countries, across a range of socio-economic and political contexts, through supporting the development of more responsive and effective justice institutions whilst simultaneously advancing knowledge of rights and legal remedies within societies. This is part of the effort to support host countries eliminate gaps between the justice needs of communities, and the justice dispensed by authorities. In all its work to build better justice systems, UNDP keeps a focus on ensuring that poor and marginalized groups can seek remedies for their claims and peacefully settle disputes which may relate to criminal offenses, fundamental rights infringement, or other family, administrative or economic matters. Furthermore, UNDP’s work places emphasis on women, youth, people affected by conflict and violence, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and those who are disadvantaged and those who may be marginalized.

As I understand, and as we just noted from the presentation made, this Programme builds on almost 10 years of work with the Government of Sri Lanka in the justice sector. Some of the work done in the justice sector through these initiatives for close to a decade, provides a good basis to ensure that gains through the previous access to justice interventions are institutionalized, systematized and scaled-up. This is what the new SELAJI Programme aims to do. It also provides a good foundation to move towards more up-stream and longer-term support – in particular for strengthening policy dialogue on justice sector reform.

I am pleased to note that aligned with UNDP’s new Strategic Priorities, the SELAJSI Programme adopts a sector-wide, sequenced and strategic approach to addressing a number of high priority issues in Sri Lanka. These include the need to strengthen legal aid services, alternate dispute resolution mechanisms and the administration of justice, as well as the need for increased action on social integration, placing emphasis on the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society and ensuring the engagement and empowerment of women and youth. In this context, the Programme’s support to the implementation of the National Policy Framework for Social Integration will be critical and timely, and I would hope that this Programme becomes the main vehicle through which development funding for the strategic area of social integration and reconciliation can be channeled, and would provide the platform to strengthen partnerships amongst different groups and persons.

Further, at a time when gender-based violence and, in particular, violence against women and children continues to be a global challenge, perpetuating inequality between men and women, and as observed to be of growing concern in Sri Lanka, I am pleased to note that this Programme places emphasis upon strengthening state and non-state capacities to respond to sexual and gender-based violence.

UNDP’s work globally is guided by national ownership and capacity within programme countries to make decisions on how best to meet their people’s needs and aspirations. Therefore, especially noteworthy is the strong commitment by the Government of Sri Lanka, to not only actively engage in the SELAJSI Programme formulation process, but also to lead on the identification of key areas of focus under the Programme. The distinguished panel of senior Government officials present today further reinforces the Government’s commitment to the implementation of this Programme. The UN System has globally learnt that access to justice, women’s empowerment, the reduction of group tensions and the rule of law are best advanced when they are firmly embedded in development policies and action led by Governments. I am therefore pleased to note that this Programme not only aligns with Sri Lanka’s development agenda as laid out in the Mahinda Chinthana, but also aims to contribute towards the implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations, the National Policy Framework on Social Integration, and the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

I am pleased to say that UNDP, in partnership with other UN Agencies, has over the past ten years contributed significant seed funding to its work on access to justice in Sri Lanka. We, along with our partner UN Agencies - UNHCR, UNICEF and possibly UN Women - will strive to extend similar levels of support to this Programme over the next four years. I very much hope that other development partners will join hands with this Programme and its Implementing Partners in supporting the Government of Sri Lanka to make further headway in strengthening access to justice and achieving social integration under the country’s overall development agenda.

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Sri Lanka on the success of the design of a nationally implemented Programme of this nature, which no doubt has the opportunity to contribute immensely towards the country’s inclusive development and reconciliation process. I wish the Government, UNDP Sri Lanka and its partners all the best as it moves forward with the implementation of the Programme.

Thank you.

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