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Human rights and traditional justice systems in Africa

Published by: OHCHR


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This publication examines traditional justice systems in sub-Saharan Africa from a human rights perspective and, in particular, with reference to the rights enumerated in international human rights treaties. These traditional justice systems have historically functioned as an alternative or as a complement to the formal State court system. They are typically based on customary practices, traditions and rules of communities that have, over time, been deemed to be customary law. There may be a significant number of traditional justice systems within a given country, as different communities often have their own customary law. Customary law may be oral or written, and decisions may or may not be recorded as jurisprudence.

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General Information

SDGs Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions
Published
2016
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Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law are important conduits for sustainable development. We are living in a world that is increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is by no means inevitable and must be addressed.

High levels of armed violence and insecurity have a destructive impact on a country’s development, affecting economic growth and often resulting in long standing grievances among communities that can last for generations. Sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture are also prevalent where there is conflict or no rule of law, and countries must take measures to protect those who are most at risk.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to significantly reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights is key to this process, as is reducing the flow of illicit arms and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.

Promoting peace and justice is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. An integrated approach is crucial for progress across the multiple goals.

Learn more about the targets for Goal 16.

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Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law are important conduits for sustainable development. We are living in a world that is increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is by no means inevitable and must be addressed.

High levels of armed violence and insecurity have a destructive impact on a country’s development, affecting economic growth and often resulting in long standing grievances among communities that can last for generations. Sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture are also prevalent where there is conflict or no rule of law, and countries must take measures to protect those who are most at risk.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to significantly reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights is key to this process, as is reducing the flow of illicit arms and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.

Promoting peace and justice is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. An integrated approach is crucial for progress across the multiple goals.

Learn more about the targets for Goal 16.

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The SDG Fund response

The 2030 Agenda requires a greater involvement among governments, civil society, private sector and international organizations to build more peaceful and inclusive just societies. Peace also brings new business opportunities by increasing stability, improving economic prospects and by building social and economic fabric in a community.

For example,

  • The armed conflict in Colombia has damaged production, institutions, food security, and social trust. Through the sustainable agricultural production of indigenous crops and their international commercialization, the SDG-F will create employment, better nutrition, and, most importantly, peace in Cauca - one of the zones most affected by the long lasting conflict.
  • In Sierra Leone, the SDG Fund is working for improved accountability and transparency in natural resource governance. This will contribute to promoting peace in the mining communities of the project and help to generate income that will be reinvested in the development of the communities.
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The SDG Fund response

The 2030 Agenda requires a greater involvement among governments, civil society, private sector and international organizations to build more peaceful and inclusive just societies. Peace also brings new business opportunities by increasing stability, improving economic prospects and by building social and economic fabric in a community.

For example,

  • The armed conflict in Colombia has damaged production, institutions, food security, and social trust. Through the sustainable agricultural production of indigenous crops and their international commercialization, the SDG-F will create employment, better nutrition, and, most importantly, peace in Cauca - one of the zones most affected by the long lasting conflict.
  • In Sierra Leone, the SDG Fund is working for improved accountability and transparency in natural resource governance. This will contribute to promoting peace in the mining communities of the project and help to generate income that will be reinvested in the development of the communities.
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  • Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  • End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
  • Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime
  • Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  • Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
  • By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration
  • Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  • Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime
  • Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development
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  • Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  • End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
  • Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime
  • Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  • Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
  • By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration
  • Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  • Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime
  • Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development
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These traditional justice systems have historically functioned as an alternative or as a complement to the formal State court system. They are typically based on customary practices, traditions and rules of communities that have, over time, been deemed to be customary law. There may be a significant number of traditional justice systems within a given country, as different communities often have their own customary law. Customary law may be oral or written, and decisions may or may not be recorded as jurisprudence. [format] => [safe_value] => This publication examines traditional justice systems in sub-Saharan Africa from a human rights perspective and, in particular, with reference to the rights enumerated in international human rights treaties. These traditional justice systems have historically functioned as an alternative or as a complement to the formal State court system. They are typically based on customary practices, traditions and rules of communities that have, over time, been deemed to be customary law. There may be a significant number of traditional justice systems within a given country, as different communities often have their own customary law. 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