UNDP Rule of Law and Human Rights Annual Report | 2023 (2024)


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UNDP Rule of Law and Human Rights Annual Report | 2023 (1)

Forensic investigators before a knowledge exchange visit to Japan to study DNA analysis based on Japanese expertise.

Photo: UNDP/Ukraine Andrii Krepkych


2023 was another frightful year for human rights, justice and security. According to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2023, the rule of law was once again eroded in a majority of countries. More than six billion people lived in a country where the rule of law weakened between 2022 and 2023. We continued to witness the highest number of conflicts worldwide in eighty years, from Sudan to Ukraine to Gaza. The economic toll of violence hit a record $17.5 trillion in 2023, about 13 percent of global GDP, with developing nations bearing the brunt.

In conflicts and crises, access to human rights and justice is paramount: to prevent and address war crimes, protect civilians, ensure accountability, amplify peace efforts and post-conflict development, including transitional justice. Security measures are vital to save lives, reduce violence and maintain the social contract and cohesion.

In conflicts that were raging in 2023, UNDP stayed and delivered, to ensure continued support to the rule of law, human rights, justice and security. UNDP’s primary mechanism for rule of law and human rights programming is the Global Programme for Strengthening the Rule of Law, Human Rights, Justice and Security for Sustainable Peace and Development (the Global Programme). It operates in line with UNDP’s Crisis Offer to help countries anticipate, prevent, respond to and recover from crisis in every development context. The Global Programme is implemented by the Rule of Law, Justice, Security and Human Rights team within UNDP’s Crisis Bureau and is part of UNDP’s Global Policy Network (GPN).

Last year, the Global Programme provided financial, technical and expert support to over 100 countries and territories worldwide. Over 40 of them are featured in this report and present an overview of UNDP’s integrated rule of law, human rights, justice and security work in conflict, crisis, fragile or post-conflict contexts: in the Balkans, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, State of Palestine, Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen and beyond. The results framework of the report presents a snapshot of the Global Programme’s achievements in supporting over 100 contexts globally, with a brief section on the overall progress.

UNDP Rule of Law and Human Rights Annual Report | 2023 (2)

A meeting of the Women’s Peace Network in Banadir, Somalia. UNDP established 17 women’s peace networks in Somalia. to seek solutions on protection and peace related concerns.

Photo: UNDP

In all crises, and especially in patriarchal societies, women and children are pushed into extreme vulnerability. Guided by UNDP’s Gender Equality strategy, UNDP’s Global Programme enabled women and girls to access justice and stand up for their rights, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar and beyond. Over 30 countries received support through the Gender Justice Platform, UNDP’s global partnership with UN Women.

As environmental degradation and resource scarcity fuel conflicts over land and water, UNDP’s Global Programme contributes to organization-wide efforts to tackle the triple planetary crisis and to uphold the right to a healthy environment. Innovative projects to promote and establish environmental justice were kickstarted in nine countries.

With The Pathfinders and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), UNDP began to host the Secretariat of the Justice Action Coalition (JAC) and lead its workstream supporting strategic and innovative people-centred justice initiatives at country level through investments for the Catalytic Fund.

In 2023, UNDP reinforced its support to national human rights institutions (NHRIs) as cornerstones of national systems to promote and protect human rights. The Tripartite Partnership to Support NHRIs among the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), UNDP and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), expanded its demand-driven assistance to reach NHRIs across all regions.

Likewise, the UNDP Global Business and Human Rights (B+HR) Initiative expanded to 39 countries in all regions. Within UNDP’s training and guidance for businesses, emphasis was placed on conflict-affected contexts, due diligence and corporate respect for the right to a healthy environment.

UNDP Rule of Law and Human Rights Annual Report | 2023 (3)

A high-level conference in Ukraine on the role of responsible business in recovery and reconstruction of the country.

Photo: UNDP

The Global Programme’s support to people-centred security was implemented, inter alia, through such key partnerships as the Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law (co-chaired by UNDP and the UN Department of Peace Operations), SALIENT (joint initiative of UNDP and the UN Office for Disarmament) and the Global Programme’s cooperation with UNDP Seoul Policy Centre.

The Global Programme continues to invest in better capturing, understanding and communicating its programme impact, stimulating learning and facilitating knowledge sharing amongst its partners and rule of law practitioners. In 2023, the monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) unit – fully staffed and operationalized – made progress on three key fronts. First, the Global Programme updated its MEL strategy and approaches in consultation with partners and stakeholders to enable continuous learning and adaptation. Second, the Global Programme developed guidance, tools and templates that support systematic collection and analysis of the results. Third, the MEL unit (co-)designed and facilitated learning events that stimulated collective reflection, exchange of knowledge and learning, in collaboration with the Global Programme technical and regional teams, as well as UNDP Global Policy Network, Regional and Country Offices.

While this 2023 annual report takes stock of the Global Programme’s achievements, it also provides an overview of UNDP’s broader contribution to fostering the rule of law, justice, security and human rights. The focus is on the contexts affected by crisis, conflict and fragility where the previous and, in many cases, long-term support from the Global Programme has enabled the sustainability of rule of law, human rights, justice and security programming and/or had catalytic effect for mobilizing additional resources or increased programming.

A special emphasis of the report is on the Global Programme’s role as a platform for partnerships across the UN system and beyond, in line with UNDP’s designated ‘integrator’ role and in support of the One-UN approach.

1 Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Global Peace Index 2023: Measuring Peace in a Complex World, (2023), p. 34. Available at GPI-2023-Web.pdf (visionofhumanity.org).

UNDP Rule of Law and Human Rights Annual Report | 2023 (4)


Achim Steiner,
Administrator, United Nations Development Programme

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Shoko Noda,
Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator, Director, Crisis Bureau,UNDP

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UNDP Rule of Law and Human Rights Annual Report | 2023 (2024)


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