Statement Delivered By The International Development Law Organization
ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review
In July 2013, IDLO delivered the following statement to the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review in Geneva, Switzerland on “Science, Technology, Innovation and Culture.”
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the Director-General of the International Development Law Organization – the only inter-governmental organization exclusively devoted to advancing the rule of law – I am honored by the opportunity to address the Economic and Social Council.
I am also grateful for the chance given to IDLO to contribute to the discussion with a Breakfast Meeting on 2 July during which several ambassadors considered the role of justice and the rule of law in the post-2015 development agenda, as it relates to science, technology and innovation.
The Millennium Development Goals have produced significant achievements but the gains are unevenly distributed. Persistent problems in the realization of basic economic and social rights and emerging development challenges, such as climate change and urbanization, add new complexity to the agenda.
From food insecurity to energy poverty, from unsustainable management of natural resources to insufficient access to life saving drugs, science, technology and innovation are powerful enablers of development. But far too often the benefits of progress are not shared fairly and do not necessarily reach those most in need.
This may be due to a variety of reasons, but among them, a key factor is the lack of enabling legal frameworks at the national and international levels. As acknowledged in the Secretary-General’s report for the 2013 Annual Ministerial Review, the rule of law is key to fair and sustainable development outcomes.
Frequently, developing countries do not possess laws that adequately protect their interests in complex technology-related areas such as water management and sanitation, energy generation and distribution, seed and plant varieties. Often legal frameworks designed to attract investments, including employment and taxation laws, are outdated or inadequate. Furthermore, intellectual property and technology transfer legislation often fail to take sufficient advantage of the flexibility and exceptions available under international treaties that would allow a proper balance between intellectual property rights and the legitimate expectations of citizens. Even more frequently, developing countries do not have the human and institutional capacity to negotiate agreements and ensure the proper application of these laws, even if they conform to best practice standards.
The result of an inadequate legal system combined with an insufficient capacity is clear: many developing countries only marginally benefit from advances in science, technology and innovation that could help them confront their development challenges. Developing capacity and improving the rule of law in many parts of the world must be given higher priority by the international community.
At the same time fast-paced improvements are a reality in many countries that are undergoing rapid and profound change. But as countries and communities leapfrog out of poverty using science and technology, the fruits of development are unevenly distributed. Growing inequality across the world, has become a leading challenge of our generation.
The High Level Panel report on post-2015 identified five big transformative shifts to guide sustainable development, promote a quantum leap in economic opportunities and facilitate a rapid shift to sustainable patterns of consumption and production. But the report recognized that sustainable and inclusive growth requires fair laws and regulations, built on principles of justice equality and non-discrimination.
Equity and ethics, access and accountability are key to creating a fair, inclusive and sustainable model of development.
The Secretary-General’s report speaks about “a culture of innovation” to nurture science, technology and innovation to promote development. IDLO would like to add to it "a culture of justice", that underpins the legal and regulatory framework with principles of justice, equality and non-discrimination. Access to justice and legal empowerment are critical enablers of sustainable development.
The struggle for equity, justice and development is deeply linked to the norms, values, beliefs, traditions and lifestyle that make up the distinct culture of each society and to broader issues of good governance, democracy and human rights. We must be mindful of the importance of local ownership, diversity and capacity. Initiatives must adapt to the contexts of the countries they seek to serve.
A culture of justice, supported by effective institutions and good governance, can make the difference between socially blind scientific achievements and sustainable, human-centered technological advancements. A culture of justice also makes a difference between indiscriminate access to resources and equitable benefit-sharing.
A culture of justice supports a society where solid principles of justice, equality and non-discrimination underpin scientific innovation, where citizens are empowered and aware of their rights, where local and indigenous knowledge and skills and assets are protected, where vulnerable groups are not excluded, and where, to quote from the Secretary General's report, “all people have equal rights and a fair chance at improving their lives, that they have access to justice when they are wronged”.
Last year in New York, the UNGA adopted an important resolution recognizing that “the rule of law and development are strongly interrelated and mutually reinforcing, that the advancement of the rule of law at the national and international levels is essential for sustained and inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and hunger and the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Challenges of environmental degradation, rapid urbanization, conflict, fragility, severe income inequalities and social exclusion will only be properly met if sustainable development goals are framed by the rule of law and a culture of justice attuned to cultural values, norms and perspectives.