Cross-Examination: New Zealand’s Role In Improving Access To Justice Across the Pacific
CROSS-EXAMINATION IS A BLOG SERIES ABOUT CURRENT LEGAL ISSUES IN NEW ZEALAND PRODUCED BY EJP COMMUNICATIONS VOLUNTEERS.
In collaboration with international organisations, the New Zealand Aid Programme and New Zealand-based NGOs are working to improve access to justice in the Pacific. Particularly in resource-rich Pacific states, there is a discontent among the poorer rural population that development only benefits urban elites, and does not account for the rights and needs of the majority of the population. Law and policy in the Pacific has also largely been dictated from abroad. There is a need for a deeper incorporation of local customs and principles into the justice system. Corruption is also a major issue, indicating the need for strengthened institutions. Without improved overall development, the people of the Pacific will struggle to access justice in a meaningful way. This article provides an overview of some of the justice-related programmes undertaken by New Zealand in the Pacific.
The Pacific Judicial Development Programme (PJDP)
The PJDP is a two year programme which commenced in 2013 and will finish in 2015. It aims to promote the rule of law and strengthen the capacity of courts across the Pacific. The PJDP began with training and capacity building, but is now more focused on improving the responses of courts to deliver the services necessary to improve community wellbeing. To better the way courts operate, the PJDP has strengthened local management to help improve justice.
Another initiative taken by the PJDP has been the provision of practical ‘toolkits’ to help courts undertake judicial and court development. The toolkits are designed to promote local use and management of development, rather than it being implemented by foreign governments who may be unaware of the needs of local communities. The focus of the toolkits includes: developing or revising codes of judicial conduct; establishing national judicial development committees; conducting family violence and youth justice workshops; setting time-standards for case management; promoting access to justice; and developing annual court reporting. Over time, these mechanisms aim to help to improve trust in the system and allow more people to seek justice when they would not have previously. Citizens will also have an increased understanding of how their justice system works, in the hopes that they will view it as more accessible.
Tokelau is an example of the success of a PJDP toolkit. After being the first country to trial the court reporting toolkit, Tokelau produced its first Judicial Annual Report in 2012.
Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Programme (PPDVP)
With staggeringly high rates of domestic violence in many Pacific countries (well over 60% of women in Kiribati and the Solomon Islands have been victims), the PPDVP is an essential programme to help solve the issue of domestic violence. Set up in 2006, the PPDVP is a joint initiative between the New Zealand Aid Programme, New Zealand Police, and the Pacific Islands Chief of Police. The countries currently participating in the programme are the Cook Islands, Samoa, Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tonga.
The aim of the PPDVP is to reduce domestic violence through capacity building in local police services, and to facilitate cooperation between police, government agencies and NGOs to prevent and address domestic violence. The programme has shown signs of success, including the implementation of safety plans for high risk families, higher rates of women reporting domestic violence, men taking more responsibility for their actions, and the establishment of men’s counseling groups in the Cook Islands and Tonga.
New Zealand has formed specific bilateral partnerships with a number of Pacific countries. Timor Leste and Vanuatu are of particular note due to a strong focus on improving access to justice in these two countries.
New Zealand and Vanuatu have signed a Joint Commitment for Development, where increased confidence in and effectiveness of the justice system is a key aim. The policies outlined by the Commitment aim to be in line with and support the existing UN Millennium Development Goals. New Zealand has pledged to work with Vanuatu to improve the court system so an increased number of cases can be heard promptly, will provide a judge to the Vanuatu Supreme Court on a short term basis, will build a new prison with better conditions and effective rehabilitation efforts, and will provide assistance in improvements to land tribunal processes to increase efficiency and effectiveness. The New Zealand Aid Programme also funds organisations such as Wan Smol Bag (a local NGO working with chiefs, rural communities, women’s organisations, police, teachers and youth to improve awareness of rights and how the government works), Vanuatu Women’s Centre (addresses domestic violence against women and families), and the Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (which is the national focal point for civil society organisations).
In Timor Leste, there has been a reluctance to follow through on human rights initiatives, and New Zealand plays an important role in facilitating progress in this area. As a young state, Timor Leste also has significant problems building and strengthening state institutions. The Provedoria for Human Rights and justice (PDHJ) is the National Human Rights Institution in Timor Leste, and is responsible for ensuring vulnerable people are protected. It helps to train police in raising awareness of international human rights conventions. In 2012 Timor Leste also signed a Strategic Framework for Development with New Zealand (to end in 2015). The framework was designed to work with Timor Leste’s long-term Strategic Development Plan, as well as the Millennium Development Goals. Improving security and justice is one of three key thematic areas of the framework. New Zealand is working to improve access to justice and the rule of law by working with the National Police and PDHJ. By next year, the aim is to guarantee within the justice sector the principles of non-discrimination, sensitivity of gender issues, protection of vulnerable groups, and human rights. The intended outcome of all of the above aims is to make sure human rights abuses (including those perpetrated by police) are properly investigated according to the appropriate legislation.
These are only a selection of examples of the work New Zealand is doing in the Pacific to improve access to justice. The United Nations Development Programme and many NGOs and other organisations also work in the region, implementing their own development strategies, many of which also include issues surrounding access to justice.
The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Equal Justice Project. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official. The Equal Justice Project makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The Equal Justice Project will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.
Hassall, G. 2005. “Conflict in the Pacific: Challenges for Governance,” Pacific Economic Bulletin, v.20, no.1.
New Zealand Aid Programme. “Timor-Leste.” Available: http://www.aid.govt.nz/where-we-work /asia/timor-leste
New Zealand Aid Programme. “Vanuatu.” Available: http://www.aid.govt.nz/ where-we-work/pacific/vanuatu
New Zealand Aid Programme. 2013. “Strenghtening Justice Across the Pacific.” Available: http://www.aid.govt.nz/media-and-publications/development-stories/october-2013/strengthening-justice-across-pacific
New Zealand Aid Programme. 2013. “Working Toward a Pacific Free of Domestic Violence.” Available: http://www.aid.govt.nz/media-and-publications/development-stories/may-2013/working-toward-pacific-free-domestic-violenHYPERLINK “http://www.aid.govt.nz/media-and-publications/development-stories/may-2013/working-toward-pacific-free-domestic-violence”ce
New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Timor-Leste Government. “Timor-Leste Strategic Framework for Development.” Available: https://www.aid.govt.nz/webfm_send/561
United Nations Development Programme. “Mid-term Evaluation of the UNDP/OHCHR Capacity Building of PDHJ Project 2010-1014 (Final Report).” Available: erc.undp.org/evaluationadmin /downloaddocument.html?docid=7580