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UNDP supports launch of report announcing four billion people are excluded from the rule of law

The launch event featured an in-depth Panel Discussion with Government officials and activists from five ASEAN countries. They discussed Draft Elements of a Regional Strategy for Implementing the Legal Empowerment Agenda. From left to right: Dr. Pungky Sumadi, Indonesia; Resurrecion Lao, Phillipines; Ta Ngoc Van, Vietnam; Chan Satha, Cambodia; Somchai Homla-or, Thailand. Moderator: Dalton Tanonaka from Indonesia's national television station Metro TV.

Jakarta, 3 July 2008 – Today the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, supported by UNDP, presented its new report Making the Law Work for Everyone to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  The report finds that four billion people – the majority of the world’s people – are excluded from the rule of law. The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, a group co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, called on local governments, international institutions and civil society to make legal empowerment a top agenda item in the fight against global poverty.

“The Commission has taken a different approach to the poverty debate.  We have focused on a unique and overlooked aspect of the problem: the link between poverty and the absence of legal protections for the poor,” said Dr. Albright. “When the law works for everyone, nations will benefit enormously from the contributions of those who are able to move from a state of dependency to full participation.”

“This regional launch at the ASEAN Secretariat is an attempt to involve local governments, civil society and other stakeholders who will be working to implement the findings of the commission,” commented Erna Witoelar, Commission Member and former UN Special Ambassador for the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific. “These key stakeholders are important because poverty reduction programs can only succeed if we are focused on identifying target groups and designing appropriate interventions.  It is not possible to reduce poverty with a "one size fits all" approach — we need local wisdom, better knowledge and understanding of local situation and, most importantly, local ownership and trust.”

Making the Law Work for Everyone lays out a comprehensive framework for legal empowerment, with four vital and mutually reinforcing pillars: access to justice and the rule of law; property rights; labour rights; and business rights.

“Whether nations can work towards legal empowerment will have an enormous impact on their chances of development – in Asia and across the world,”commented Olav Kjørven, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of Bureau for Development Policy (UNDP), which has supported the work of the Commission. “Legal empowerment is not a substitute to much-needed economic aid, but it does represent a critical link that enables the poor to pull themselves out of the grips of poverty and economic vulnerability.”

The report outlines that four billion people – the majority of people living on our planet – are robbed of the chance to build a better life for themselves because they are excluded from the rule of law. It also highlights the following regional facts:

  • Informal work accounts for as much as 90 percent of total employment in some South Asian countries. In many the informal sector accounts for more than half of the GDP. This reflects a marginalization of economic activities characterized by low productivity, low incomes and low standards of living.
  • Legal systems are often overburdened through the region. For example, the average judge in the Philippines has a backlog of 1,479 cases. In India there are only 11 judges for every 1,000,000 people.
  • The value of urban land has been seen to dramatically increase after it is titled – by 14 percent in Manila and 58 percent in Davao, Philippines. Rising land values reflect increased investment and feed into higher productivity, output, and incomes. Providing more secure rights to natural resources also fosters environmental stewardship.
  • In many Asian countries the cost to start a business is more than 50 percent of per capita income, and in several it is over 100 percent.

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Please also visit http://www.undp.org/legalempowerment/

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