Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

A People-Centered Agenda

Alongside the University of Pennsylvania Law School, IDLO organized a panel discussion under the theme 'Leaving no one behind: The rule of law as a force for delivering an integrated people-centered development agenda' at the United Nations in New York. It marked a burgeoning relationship between an intergovernmental organization and an academic institution, both working to create a culture of justice, whether in the developing world or in a US courtroom.

Held alongside the United Nations High-level Political Forum, the discussion featured a keynote speech from Ambassador Michele J. Sison, US Deputy Representative to the UN. The Ambassador praised IDLO’s unique mandate to promote sustainable development through the rule of law, noting that the Organization is placed in a 'pivotal position with regard to so many of the issues we confront around the world'. The Ambassador’s view of the rule of law as 'far more than just one element of the development agenda' was echoed in a second keynote statement by IDLO Director-General Irene Khan, who described the rule of law as 'both an outcome and an enabler of development'.

A panel discussion on the need to engage the law and build capacities to expand the policy space for sustained development featured distinguished speakers from the academic, development and United Nations communities.

William Burke-White, Deputy Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, highlighted the 'multifaceted' nature of international law, both hard and soft, as a tool for SDG implementation, particularly in tackling corruption and building accountable institutions.

Referring to the 'five Ps' of sustainable development, Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), emphasized that the SDGs are about people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships. These elements form a deeply interconnected web of relationships, he said, which is also how we must view the rule of law:  in essence as something which is part of the web, and not falling within the domain of policy or the judiciary alone.  

Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Dean of International Programs at Penn Law, fleshed out the policy and implementation linkages implicit in the rule of law by highlighting the nexus between the ten core human rights treaties. She used the case of women with disabilities as an an issue that falls under more than one body of law, emphasizing that these nuances and overlaps -- for example, that “women’s freedom from violence also means freedom for development,"  have been reflected in the policy discourse around the SDGs,

Former Director of the Human Development Report at UNDP, Khalid Malik, called for the adoption of a broader perspective regarding human development, in which reliance for change cannot wholly be placed on institutions or policies. Describing the rule of law as the connecting thread,' capable of merging cultures and rules to form inclusive societies, he praised the evening’s initiative and expressed hope that other such learning opportunities would take place in the future.

It was left to Edith Lederer, Chief UN Correspondent for the Associated Press, to wrap up the discussion by stating that “unless justice is embedded, we cannot move forward”. 

Photo: Sameer Khan (