ILAC Holds Discussion of Customary Justice at 2018 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development

ILAC Senior Legal Expert Rhodri Williams welcomes discussants and audience to the session on “Legitimacy, Accountability and Access to Justice” at the 2018 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development. ©Vanessa Passos

For the third year running, ILAC partnered with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) to contribute to the annual Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development, held 7-9 May.  The Stockholm Forum is co-hosted by SIPRI and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and promotes interdisciplinary exchanges among global thought-leaders aiming to influence key policy and research agendas.

This year’s Forum brought together over 200 experts and policymakers to discuss ‘The Politics of Peace’ by assessing how to overcome political obstacles to building and sustaining peace in complex environments.

In support of this theme, ILAC led a session on “Legitimacy, accountability and access to justice.” The session focused on how the formal justice systems in conflict-affected and fragile countries  can engage with customary justice systems  to increase access to justice for ordinary people.

In order to provide as grounded a discussion as possible, ILAC assembled an expert team of discussants:

  • Bassam Alahmad, Co-Founder and CEO of Syrians for Truth and Justice, and a participant in a recent ILAC training on post-conflict justice issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, discussed the role of customary justice in Syria.
  • Claudia Arenas, Head of Impact and Quality Assurance, Forum Syd, discussed participation of indigenous women in customary justice systems in Colombia.
  • Ramón Cadena, Regional Director for the Central America Office of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), outlined the relevant findings of ILAC’s October 2017 justice sector assessment in Guatemala. The ICJ is an ILAC member organisation also undertaking a study of customary justice.
  • Charles Dinda, Senior Legal Advisor for the Danish Institute of Human Rights, described his work on a programme supporting cooperation between the judiciary and customary adjudicators in Zambia.
  • Habib Ur Rehman Mayar, Deputy General Secretary of the g7+ Secretariat outlined how fragile and conflict-affected states can work with customary actors to increase access to justice.
  • Maria Nystedt, Head of the Rule of Law Programme for the Folke Bernadotte Academy, addressed international policy approaches to customary justice based on work in Libya and Afghanistan.
  • Nonette Royo, Executive Director of the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, discussed the importance of recognition of customary land and natural resource rights of indigenous and local communities.
  • Ulrika Strand, Secretary General of the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, raised the importance of working with regional human rights systems in engaging with customary justice.

The well-attended session saw a full and substantive discussion of the issues. In continuing its work on customary justice, ILAC will join the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to co-host a public seminar next week on “Promoting Complementarity: How Can International Rule of Law Assistance Support Engagement with Customary Justice in Fragile Settings?”

The Forum also provided an opportunity for ILAC to launch its recent report on justice sector reform and prevention, as well as its upcoming report on a rule of law assessment conducted in Guatemala late last year. In addition, Richard Sannerholm, Director of the Assessment and Legal Analysis Department, was invited to speak in a SIPRI-led seminar on “The Politics of Peace Reform in Peace Operations”.

On the sidelines of the Forum, ILAC Executive Director Agneta Johansson met with the new Foreign Minister of Liberia to discuss the possibility of  future rule of law assistance activities there.