EU launches drive to promote justice

ISLAMABAD: The European Union and its partners launched a programme that aims to promote the rule of law and enhance the criminal justice system in Pakistan, with a specific focus on the provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan.

Anchored in the vision that an enhanced and reformed justice sector is the only sustainable solution for addressing critical and systematic weaknesses in justice delivery, the programme spans from 2021 till 2025, and it is financed with 20 million euros.

The programme is jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

It aims to support reform processes to ensure delivery of people-centered justice, enhance access to justice for all, particularly women and less privileged or marginalized groups and improve service delivery of the security sector in line with constitutional safeguards and international standards.

The project will provide technical assistance to legal reforms and the rule of law roadmaps in K-P and Balochistan.

Special focus will be set on access to justice through free legal aid and alternative dispute resolution as well as legal literacy for citizens. On the institutional side, the project will assist in upgrading facilities and processes to enhance citizen friendly service delivery.

An event for launching the programme was held with key stakeholders who attended it virtually. Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed graced the occasion as chief guest. Other key attendees included EU Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara and representatives of the three UN agencies.

The chief justice thanked the EU and UN agencies for their support and expressed confidence in the programme. “I am certain that together we will be able to enhance access to justice for all, particularly, women, less privileged and the marginalized groups, and improve service delivery,” he said, adding the government would extend support to the programme, enabling it to achieve its goal.

The EU ambassador to Pakistan also thanked the UN agencies, provincial and federal government and other key stakeholders for their support in strengthening the rule of law in Pakistan. “Inclusive access to justice for all is an important prerequisite for a peaceful and just society. Today’s programme builds on the long-term commitment of the EU to improving the rule of law and access to justice for all in Pakistan. The new programme is part of the priorities of the EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan 2019 and financed under the EU Multi-Annual Indicative Programme 2014-2020,” she said, adding both strategic documents supported the implementation of the vision 2025 in the focal areas, including rural development, education, good governance, human rights and rule of law.

UNDP Resident Representative Knut Ostby said the programme provided the agency the opportunity to work closely with the UN WOMEN, UNODC and other key government counterparts.

“This will help us to contribute to the effective functioning of the District Legal Empowerment Committees, women’s access to justice, in particular on domestic violence, child marriage and inheritance and property rights and gender-responsiveness among other important areas,” Ostby said.

Addressing the event, UN Women Pakistan Country Representative Sharmeela Rassool said, “In Pakistan, women constitute of almost 50% of the entire population. Yet they are not represented proportionately in receiving or delivering of basic and critical services including effective service delivery in the justice sector. UN Women is committed to deepening our efforts to ensure inclusion of women in formal justice delivery mechanisms in K-P and Balochistan to ensure their rights are safeguarded for promotion of a fair, efficient, gender-responsive and inclusive society.”


Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2021.