THE United Nations Development Program (UNDP) called for judicial reforms as it noted that people all over the world perceive the judiciary as the second most corrupt public institution after the police.
In a report jointly published with the U4 Anti-corruption Resource Center, the UNDP said that corrupt judiciaries undermine reforms and impede access to justice and human rights for ordinary citizens.
The paper, entitled “A Transparent and Accountable Judiciary to Deliver Justice for All”, stated that, globally, one in four people said they paid a bribe to court officials, citing a 2013 survey by Transparency International (TI) that covered 95 countries.
“Judicial corruption disproportionately affects the poorest and most marginalized citizens of a community because they are far less likely to be able to pay a bribe or have access to influential networks,” said Patrick Keuleers, Director, Governance and Peacebuilding at UNDP headquarters.
In Bangladesh, for example, the average bribe of $108 that a court user has to pay accounts for roughly a quarter of the GDP per capita or average annual income in that country, according to the report.
“The UN system and its partners support numerous initiatives to strengthen judicial systems around the world, and corruption remains a major stumbling block to the success of these efforts,” Keuleers said.
Batting for transparency
THE UNDP report concluded that opening up judicial systems to scrutiny can strengthen integrity and increase public trust without impeding the independence of the judiciary.
“We are advocating the judiciary to open itself to peer learning by engaging with counterparts in other countries and allowing meaningful capacity assessments that will lead to increased judicial integrity” said Phil Matsheza, Regional Practice Leader in UNDP’s Bangkok Regional Hub.
The report highlights successful experiences from Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, Nepal, Nigeria, Paraguay, the Philippines, and Somalia in promoting transparency and accountability within the judiciary.
The report highlights the positive role played by internal oversight mechanisms, such as judicial councils, and external mechanisms, such as associations of judges, in reforming judiciaries around the world.
“Corruption undermines justice in many parts of the world with the poor and vulnerable suffering most,” said Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director of the International Secretariat of TI.
Role of technology
EVEN in post-conflict environments such as Afghanistan, where change is difficult, non-government organizations working with citizens to monitor trials in selected provinces have contributed to improving the administration of justice, according to the report.
While technology is not offered as a panacea to corruption within justice systems, modernization and automation of judicial services can be key enablers for judicial transparency and accountability, the report added.
For example, in Indonesia, digitizing court documents and statistics has helped increase transparency for people who can access judgments online, reduce bureaucracy, and achieve efficiency.
The recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes key targets for providing access to justice, and tackling corruption. The report provides a fresh perspective on ways to develop integrity plans as part of broader judicial reforms, by illustrating inspirational experiences that countries can adopt to deliver justice for all.