Rule of Law
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POGAR > What We Do > Rule of Law

The main goal of the UNDP is to help governments achieve a sufficient level of human development, especially in developing countries. UNDP focuses on four critical elements of human development: eliminating poverty, creating jobs and sustaining livelihoods, protecting and regenerating the environment, and promoting the advancement of women. Developing the capacities for good governance underpins all these objectives.

UNDP believes that human development is unattainable without creating a system of good governance. Governance is the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage a country's affairs at all levels. Governance includes the state, but transcends it by taking in the private sector and civil society. The state alone is unable to realize good governance, or in other words to build a democratic and just society. Good governance has many attributes. It is participatory, transparent and accountable, and it promotes the rule of law. It is also characterised by effectiveness and equity.

Rule of Law entails equal protection of human rights of individuals and groups, as well as equal punishment under the law. It reigns over governments and protects citizens against arbitrary state action. It ensures that all citizens are treated equally and are subject to the law rather than to the whims of the powerful. The law should also afford vulnerable groups protection against exploitation and abuse.

Governments must create institutions and frameworks in order to maintain law and order, to establish basic infrastructure, and to provide services such as health and education, particularly for the poor.

Legal frameworks are necessary for creating a predictable and secure living and working environment for ordinary citizens and for entrepreneurs and investors. A fair and effective legal framework requires that a set of rules be known in advance, that the rules be enforced, that the means to ensure the application of the rules exist, that any conflicts be resolved by binding decisions made by an independent and credible judiciary, and that procedures be available for changing the rules when they cease to serve the purpose for which they were intended.

Governing institutions include legislatures, judiciaries and electoral bodies. Legislatures mediate differing interests and establish policies, laws and resource priorities that directly affect people-centered development. Judiciaries uphold the rule of law, bringing security and predictability to social, political and economic relations. Electoral bodies ensure independent and transparent elections.

The state is not the only actor in society. Civil society and the private sector play critical roles in social organization and socio-economic processes. Sound governance calls for cooperation between governments and civil society organizations. Sound governance is not simply something that governments do by themselves. The achievements of governments depend to a large extent on the cooperation and involvement of other economic and social actors, namely civil society and the private sector. Civil society lies between the individual and the state. It comprises individuals and groups, organized or unorganized, who interact socially, politically and economically and who are regulated by formal and informal rules and laws. Civil society organizations are associations around which society voluntarily organizes.

Many organizations in civil society are strongly committed to forms of development that give prominence to the social and economic needs of people and environmental protection. Two broad types of such organizations are identified: people's organizations and NGOs. People's organizations, such as trade unions and women's groups, do represent their members interests. Good governments should work with these organizations rather than against them.

The private sector covers private enterprises, such as manufacturing, banking and trade, as well as the informal sector in the market place. Human development depends in part on creating jobs that provide enough income to improve living standards. The private sector is the primary source for productive employment. The state should encourage the development of the private sector by creating a stable macroeconomic environment, maintaining competitive markets, ensuring the poor have easy access to credit, nurturing enterprises that generate the most jobs and opportunities, attracting investments, providing incentives for human resource development, and protecting the environment and natural resources.

In developed and developing countries alike, the state is being compelled to redefine its role in social and economic activity-- to reduce it, reorient it, reconfigure it. The pressures for change stem from three sources:

  • The private sector wants a more conducive market environment and a better balance between state and market.
  • Citizens want increased accountability and responsiveness from government, as well as greater decentralisation.
  • Global pressures from supranationals and worldwide social and economic trends are challenging the identity and nature of the state.

In order for the rule of law to prevail and help the process of development in developing countries, a true separation of state powers must take place to secure independence of the judiciary, and a thorough reform of existing judicial systems must be carried out. UNDP upholds both. Judicial reform includes introducing constitutional amendments that allow for greater participation in political life, provide for fair elections and modernize existing laws to take into account the new social and economic realities of societies undergoing democratic transformation.