Strengthening the Justice Sector in Puntland
In March 2014, the second class of UNDP-sponsored law students graduated from Somalia’s Puntland State University. Forty five graduates, including 13 women, completed their law degrees thanks to UNDP scholarships. As part of an ongoing process to increase the number of officials with formal legal education in Puntland, UNDP’s support has increased the number of professionals with formal legal education The class represented many sectors of civil society, and included 8 members of the Judiciary, and 10 Members of Puntland’s Parliament, and officers in both the Police Force and Corrections Service.
Increasing the number of qualified government officials, law enforcement officers, lawyers and judges will build a robust legal system from the ground up. This graduation is another important step in the professionalization of the justice sector – Puntland’s new Minister of Justice, Religious Affairs and Rehabilitation (MOJRAR), the new Minister of Public Works and the Secretary to the Puntland Parliament were in the graduating class.
UNDP plays a unique role in strengthening the justice sector and building the legal system into a competent and trusted public body. This requires working closely with Somali authorities to improve the capacity and effectiveness of the courts and the judiciary. To this end, UNDP focuses on long-term legal education and job placement to fill the justice sector with qualified legal professionals. In February 2013 - for the first time in Puntland’s history - 23 law students graduated, seven of whom were women.
Access to a functioning and fair legal system is one of the pillars of sustainable peace and development. In Somalia, access to qualified and competent law enforcement and legal aid is particularly challenging. To this end, UNDP and local partners have established and strengthened access to justice and legal empowerment for vulnerable groups including women and IDPs. In 2013, UNDP supported 5 legal aid centers in Puntland which provided legal support to 2,589 Somalis – mainly women, IDPs, poor and refugees.
UNDP is also focused on gender-balanced efforts to foster a well-trained justice sector. The 13 new female graduates raise the number of female legal professionals to 21. At this time last year, there was only 1 female lawyer in Puntland. In addition, female graduates established the Puntland Women Lawyers Association (PUWLA) to advance women`s legal rights in Puntland. This organization is the first of its kind in Puntland.