22 Aug 2017 - by A4ID

Getting to grips with ending poverty – Yasmin Batliwala writes in The Times Law Brief

Chief Executive Yasmin Batliwala discusses the Sustainable Development Goals and calls on the legal industry to assist in achieving these in The Times Law Brief.

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Chief Executive Yasmin Batliwala discusses the Sustainable Development Goals and calls on the legal industry to assist in achieving these in The Times Law Brief.

Yasmin’s article was published in The Times Law Brief, 7th September 2016, and can be found here.

Overseas aid and alleviating global poverty are issues that always seem to have less of the limelight than they merit.

That problem was recently addressed when the House of Commons international development committee published a report on the UK‘s implementation of sustainable development goals. The committee fully supported the goals, which were adopted by the UN last September with 193 countries signing up.

Words of support come easily; huge sums of money far less so. The report stresses the need for “financial investment of trillions of dollars from a variety of sources”.

Via the Department for International Development, the UK already provides 0.7 per cent of its gross national income – making our country one of only six to meet the UN’s aid spending target.

The report highlights the need for encouraging private sector investment and maximising capital markets, with a focus on the London Stock Exchange and City of London. It also endorses a government-devised business case for private sector engagement and promotes the government taking a leading role in communicating the goals to the private sector.

These and other recommendations are welcome as a step in the right direction. In reading the report, one can only conclude that although significant goodwill exists not much is actually being done. And what contribution can the UK’s legal profession make to the implementation of the goals?

Pro bono legal support and training to those working in the development sector in poverty stricken regions is a clear avenue for UK lawyers. Local lawyers are often highly motivated but they lack the in-depth knowledge of international law required to make effective petitions to either their national governments or international bodies. The UK’s reputation as a hub for international disputes is well deserved, making our firms uniquely placed to assist these lawyers.

UK human rights lawyers can also contribute by leading in the fight against discriminatory laws. Attempts by large international firms to exploit local resources, potentially at the expense of the environment, can be more effectively fought with the help of lawyers knowledgeable in the law of the firm’s home country. And assisting local entrepreneurs in contract negotiations will promote job creation and boost local economies.

But the goal relating to peace, justice and strong institutions is where UK lawyers could make the largest difference. UK legal expertise in arbitration across multiple jurisdictions can assist in establishing peace between groups, while the focus on the rule of law is self-evident.

Similarly, experience in corruption investigations can be transferred, allowing for a more even application of justice while strengthening various state institutions.
It is clear that the UK, particularly the legal sector, has a lot to offer in achieving these goals. A strong, concerted strategy for implementation will assist in turning the goodwill that is already evident into results that benefit everyone.

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