Gender equality, justice, good governance and the rule of law dominated discussions the Director-General of IDLO, Irene Khan, held with officials during a recent visit to Canada.
In a meeting with Peter M. Boehm, Deputy Minister of International Development of Global Affairs Canada, Ms. Khan discussed IDLO’s contribution to Canada’s International Aid Review, which focused on the contribution of the rule of law to the 2030 Agenda and to peace building, conflict prevention, gender equality and economic development. Ms. Khan also briefed diplomats and officials on IDLO’s work around the world to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 16 on access to justice and the rule of law and Goal 5 on gender equality.
Delivering the keynote address at the Annual Gala of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa, Ms. Khan warned that: “Populist politics, religious fundamentalism and heightened conservatism have created a global backlash against gender equality. Women and girls’ rights are under pressure as never before.”
She shared examples of IDLO’s major programs on women’s empowerment and access to justice, including in Afghanistan, Burundi, Liberia, Tunisia and Uganda and stressed that "if the law is to be an emancipatory principle of governance, then there is need for gender-sensitive constitutional, legal and judicial reforms, and along with it, legal empowerment of women and girls to access justice and rights.”
Women’s participation in the legal profession and the justice sector is not only an important aspect of gender equality in education and employment, but it can also make a crucial contribution in promoting the rule of law and particularly furthering women’s access to justice. In this context, Ms. Khan met the Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin P.C., Chief Justice of Canada and the first woman to hold that post, and discussed the role of the legal profession in furthering access to justice and IDLO’s efforts to promote justice for women by women, including IDLO’s most recent project in this area in Tunisia.
“International norms and values are under attack and sustainable development is being threatened by entrenched, bloody conflicts, growing inequalities, xenophobic politics, and populist leadership that encourages division and discord,” said Ms. Khan as she delivered a lecture at the University of Ottawa, entitled How Can Human Rights and the Rule of Law Survive the Global Disorder? (Video below)
Ms. Khan provided an answer: “How can the rule of law survive this global disorder? Only if it focuses on delivering justice – social as well as legal justice. The aim should be to deliver fair outcomes, not just creating good laws and efficient courts.”
The lecture was presented by the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and the Human Rights Research and Education Centre of the University of Ottawa, as well as the International Commission of Jurists – Canadian section.
Ms. Khan concluded her visit to Ottawa with a visit to former IDLO staff member, David McGuinty, now a distinguished Member of Parliament where she updated him on IDLO’s progress, achievements and direction set out in the organization’s new Strategic Plan.