Panel Discussion: Increasing Legal Aid – A Matter of Justice and Development
A panel discussion entitled ‘Increasing legal aid: A matter of justice and development’ was co-hosted on 19 July by the Permanent Mission of Germany, the Permanent Mission of South Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The purpose of the discussion was to raise awareness on the importance of the issue and to provide an opportunity to showcase the new United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems due to be adopted by the General Assembly this fall. The panel discussion was attended by representatives from more than 20 countries of all regions. In addition to UNODC and UNDP, a number of other United Nations entities were also represented, including the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Rule of Law Unit in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. Several non-governmental organizations were also present.
The meeting was opened by Ambassador Miguel Berger of the German Mission and the remarks were made by the South African Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe. The panel discussion was composed of Mr. Alexander Lomaia, the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations, Ms. Maha Jweied, Senior Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice, Simone Monasebian, Head of the UNODC Office in New York and Ms. Tracey Gurd, Senior Advocacy Director from the Open Society Justice Initiative. The facilitator of the panel discussion was Ms. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the Director of the Democratic Governance Group of the Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP.
The United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems were approved by the Commission for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on 27 April 2012, and they are the first international instrument on legal aid. They will be presented for adoption by the General Assembly this fall, during the Assembly’s 67th session. During the panel discussion, reference was also made to the High-Level Meeting on the rule of law, which will take place on 24 September 2012 to open the 67th session of the General Assembly.