World Justice Forum 2022 participants from 116 countries, committed to Building More Just Communities, gathered in The Hague and online for four days of intensive learning, collaboration, and agenda-setting on three pressing and intersecting priorities for strengthening justice and the rule of law, namely: fighting corruption, closing the justice gap, and countering discrimination.
Meeting amidst a global pandemic that has taken the lives of at least six million people and against a backdrop of deepening inequalities, a worsening climate crisis, critical food and energy shortages, endemic corruption, and a fraying social contract and trust;
Coming together in the face of rising authoritarianism, growing conflict, declining respect for human rights for all, and shrinking civic space;
Gathering In the shadow of Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war against an independent and sovereign Ukraine, and conscious of how this most recent violation of the United Nations Charter, together with other longstanding conflicts, has brought into stark relief the fragility of the rules-based global order and the relationship between weak national governance and global instability;
We emerge from our deliberations with a fortified determination to face these cascading challenges head on and with renewed commitment to tackle these problems collaboratively across diverse sectors for change.
We share the UN Secretary-General’s conviction, as articulated in the Our Common Agenda report, that the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development still offers the best path forward for all countries.
We appreciate the 2023 Justice Appeal adopted by the Ministerial Meeting of the Justice Action Coalition on the eve of the World Justice Forum and calling for a pivot to people-centered justice.
We commit to rescue the rule of law, embodied in Sustainable Development Goal 16, from backsliding at an alarming rate. We call for a redoubling of political will and investment to realize a new people-centered vision of the rule of law as an essential foundation for justice, opportunity, peace, and the achievement of all of the SDGs.
Our discussions yielded fresh insights and ideas for providing justice for all and strengthening the rule of law in three priority areas of action. Among them, we highlight the following:
To combat corruption and promote open government:
States should work closely with the business, media, and nonprofit sectors to redouble efforts for greater transparency of political financing and public procurement and spending; promote values and systems of integrity at all levels; and strengthen international collaboration to enforce anti-corruption and open government norms. To that end:
States should agree a legal definition of grand corruption and work together to implement effective national and international enforcement measures, including mandatory transparency of corporate beneficial ownership through publicly available and freely accessible registries, and faster recovery of stolen assets;
Priority should be given to strengthening the capacity and independence of justice institutions, anti-corruption agencies, and supreme audit bodies to prevent, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate corruption, while also protecting whistleblowers’ access to legal remedies and representation and strengthening social monitoring and accountability of anti-corruption activities, including through meaningful public access to information;
Anti-corruption and anti-discrimination actors should work together to address the particular impacts of corruption on groups already facing discrimination and poverty by systematically consulting with those most affected, ensuring inclusive data collection, and designing targeted remedies.
And governments, together with the private technology sector and civil society, should utilize new digital technologies to improve delivery, transparency and accountability of public services and governance, while also taking steps to mitigate risks of abuses that result in discrimination and other violations of fundamental human rights.
To achieve access to justice for all,
Putting people at the center of justice is key to reviving the bonds that hold our societies together and re-establishing trust between people, communities, and governments. Measures to advance this goal should include, in particular:
Governments should embrace the pivot to people-centered justice, putting the need for greater economic, social, political, and legal empowerment at the center of justice systems, and begin to operationalize people-centered justice into concrete programs, strategies, policies, and funding mechanisms.
Working collaboratively with civil society and other actors, governments should collect, analyze, use, and regularly, openly report disaggregated people-centered justice data to identify what are the most common justice problems, who faces them, what impact they have, what works to prevent and resolve them, and what progress is being made to meet the goal of equal access to justice for all.
Governments, justice sector regulators, entrepreneurs, and legal professionals should support and create an enabling environment for innovation and scaling up interventions that work best. They should invest in legal empowerment and people-centered justice services, and become much better at resolving and preventing justice problems in more flexible, diverse, and timely ways, including using technology and customary and informal justice mechanisms, while taking appropriate steps to mitigate risks these approaches may pose.
To combat discrimination, ensure equal rights, and leave no one behind:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. To realize these universal rights, we must work together to build more just communities in which all people, irrespective of their status, identity or belief, can participate on an equal basis. Measures to ensure these rights should include, in particular:
Governments should adopt, implement, and enforce comprehensive anti-discrimination laws as an essential step toward meeting their international human rights law obligations to eliminate all forms of discrimination and ensure full equality before the law.
Governments, private sector, and civil society actors should commit to use an “equality by design” approach to public and private decision-making, using equality impact assessments as a data-driven, and consultative mechanism to identify and eliminate discrimination.
Leaders across sectors and institutions should commit to advancing gender justice and women’s rights, strengthening women’s leadership in decision-making processes, making justice systems more responsive to women’s needs, and taking steps to protect women against gender-based violence, hold perpetrators accountable, and provide holistic services that ensure the rights of women and girls.
And governments, in consultation with civil society, should commit to combating the assault on civic space, including extending open standing invitations to all UN human rights experts to visit, report, and recommend actions to any country. Further, governments should make the protection of civic space a key pillar of foreign policy and international development cooperation; and in law and practice, uphold rights of association, assembly, and expression in accordance with internationally agreed standards.
In conclusion, as we leave The Hague and look toward what we each can do to build more just communities, the message is clear: the rule of law is essential to peace, justice, opportunity, human rights, and sustainable development. We must work together to generate renewed political commitment and investment to ensure it is renewed. We are inspired by what we learned this week about the hundreds of concrete projects and proposals underway that tackle these common challenges, starting with the award-winning work we recognized as part of this year’s World Justice Challenge and WJP Rule of Law Award.
We are encouraged by growing momentum at the grassroots and policy-making levels to carry out change. We hope all the visionary changemakers and thought leaders gathered at the Forum will leave fortified by the solidarity, friendship, and support we felt here to continue their essential contributions to building more just communities.
We call upon all leaders to actively defend and advance universal principles of fair and accountable governance and fundamental rights as we work together at the local, national, and international levels and prepare for the Sustainable Development Goals Summit of 2023.