The Chief Magistrate Mombasa Law Courts-Hon. Evans Makori representing the Chief Justice
Area Member of Parliament-Mvita Constituency Hon. Abdulsamad Nassir
EU Deputy Ambassador & Charge de Affairs– Ms. Katrine Hagemann;
The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research Innovation and Enterprise- University of Nairobi– Prof. Horace Ochanda;
Hon. Odongo, Education CEC, Mombasa County
The Dean, University of Nairobi School of Law - Prof. Winfred Kamau;
The Director, UoN School of Law, Mombasa Campus - Dr. Sarah Kinyanjui,
Mombasa Law society
Mr. Samran, from the Oshwal law club
Hon. Representatives of the Judiciary
Representatives of Government of Kenya
Distinguished Members of Academia present,
Civil Society Organizations present,
Most importantly to all the young people and children present
All protocols observed,
It gives me great pleasure and honour to join you today, virtually from Egypt, to this important occasion as we mark the launch of the legal aid project by the University of Nairobi, School of Law-Mombasa Campus.
Through my UNDP team, I am so proud that our “Amkeni Wakenya” Programme has over the past years - been able to showcase our collective impact working with rights holders and the people of Kenya alongside our sister UN agency UNODC that has been working with duty bearers and institutions to support access to justice and human rights to leave no one behind. Just this week, UNODC and the EU handed over a boat to support the ODPP in its endeavours to support access to justice in Lamu County. This was not about an event or publicity moment – but a concerted effort to ensure and coordinate a joint mission between UNDP/UNODC and the EU - to reaffirm our collective commitment from Government and reinforce the voice of civil society organizations for the continued advocacy and promotion of access to justice and human rights for those farthest left behind.
While COVID-19 pandemic has brought in its wake tremendous socio-economic, political and other challenges, it has also revealed many opportunities that can catapult development to the next level if we seize the moment. We are reminded of development episodes in history and in our own time, where crises have catalysed take-off. Making the best of such moments is therefore our responsibility as development actors to ensure that a hopeful and more optimistic narrative thrives during these troubling times. These include the immense potential of harnessing technology for business continuity during a pandemic - as is evidenced in the virtual attendance in today’s launch for participants, some zooming from thousands of miles away.
As you may be aware, UNDP is the lead UN development agency, working in over 170 countries and territories to support countries in achieving the SDGs through integrated solutions (focusing on systems, root causes and connections between challenges to build solutions that respond to people’s daily realities). Achieving the SDGs requires the partnership of governments, private sector, academia, civil society and citizens alike - in other words, a whole of government and society approach - to make sure we leave a better planet for future generations.
Realization of human rights and access to justice are indeed vital components in the quest for sustainable development. SDG 16 obliges member states to create peaceful and inclusive societies by providing access to justice and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Globally, UNDP has been implementing access to justice promotion initiatives in more than 50 countries with a focus on providing effective but also accessible and affordable remedies to justice problems, with a view to sustaining peace and fostering inclusive development.
UNDP’s approach entails strengthening the capacity of member States and societies in providing adequate normative protections, empowering rights holders to seek remedies and enabling duty-bearers to provide effective remedies. The UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems adopted by the General Assembly in December 2012, provides a broad framework for institutionalizing international principles in local contexts, ensuring suspects, detainees, accused and imprisoned persons access legal aid.
In Africa, UNDP supported the adoption of the Lilongwe Declaration on Accessing Legal Aid in the Criminal Justice System in Africa (2004). The Declaration promotes the role of paralegals as the “frontline” justice workers, dispensing justice services to the poor and vulnerable with limited training and at basic costs. UNDP is currently supporting at least 17 countries in the continent in establishing and running state-led legal aid mechanisms and paralegal programmes.
In Kenya however, a large majority of the population not only lack the resources to access the justice institutions, but also have low or no legal literacy or awareness. According to the Justice for All Report, an estimated 63% of Kenyans have faced legal problems. These are not just mere statistics. In other words, when 2/3 of Kenyans suffer injustice, they are often left to their own devices, usually with little or no knowledge of where to seek justice or how to pursue it.
It is against this backdrop that with the support of the European Union, UNDP invited interested and qualified non-state actors including NGOs, FBOs, Academia, and CBOs to submit proposals for the award of grants under a project entitled “Short-Term Grants on Promoting Access to Legal Aid and Assistance for the Poor and Marginalized Special Interest Groups in Kenya”.
This project is part of the EU’s support to The Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD) to enable UNDP invest in initiatives that integrate a rights-based approach to enhancing access to justice and promotion of rule of law as well as in efforts that strengthen the capacity of CSOs in the country. PLEAD is anchored under UNDP’s Amkeni-Wakenya civil society strengthening facility which has to date supported 33 CSOs and now 2 academic institutions (including Egerton University Law School).
This project being undertaken by the University of Nairobi (UoN) School of Law- Mombasa Campus (under PLEAD) is expected to contribute towards the enhancement of legal aid for special interest groups, particularly children in conflict with the law, by fostering greater understanding of the provisions of the Legal Aid Act. It also seeks to build the capacity of legal aid providers to specifically provide legal assistance and exploring alternative justice interventions by equipping stakeholders to utilize these alternative options.
We must recognize that every child, everywhere in the world, is entitled to enjoy the same rights and live free from discrimination and intimidation of any kind. The best interest of the child is the guiding principle, and custodial sentences or detention should be a last resort for children in conflict with the law. In a context where implementing children's rights in general remains a major challenge, the importance of according such a facility to children in conflict with the law cannot be overstated.
We would like to recognize the role that UON-School of Law in partnership with other justice actors is playing in ensuring that this vulnerable group of children can fulfil their potential in society. A systematic multi-level approach is critical and should include government commitment, building capacities, reforming laws, monitoring and reporting rights violations, changing peoples’ attitudes, building children’s own skills, and providing reintegration services.
I wish to acknowledge the partnership and synergy with key government organs present including the Judiciary for their renewed goodwill in seeking a bottom up approach to justice- which will ensure the continued push towards access to justice and legal aid assistance is enhanced for all.
To the European Union, thank you for this very timely and meaningful support, we are confident that the support provided shall contribute to significant change towards access to justice to the poor and marginalized.
On behalf of UNDP, I reiterate our firm commitment to standing by the youth of this country who make up 75% of the population and to working collaboratively with civil society organizations, academia, the Government, and our UN sister agencies particularly UNODC, and all key stakeholders in contributing to the realization of the SDGs and Vision 2030.
Lastly, this project does indeed remind us of the inter-generational ethic - if not imperative- that underlines the SDGs- the principle of leaving no one behind.
I wish you the very best as you begin implementation and look forward to continued partnership towards improving access to justice in Kenya, particularly for the poor and vulnerable.
Thank You! Asanteni sana!