EC-UNDP Governance for Equitable Programme strengthens rule of law and civil society participation in China

25 Jun 2012

After five year of close cooperation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Union and the government of China held a closing ceremony to mark the end of the Governance for Equitable (GED) programme. Since its inception in 2007, this groundbreaking project has been supporting China in its efforts to strengthen the rule of law and ensure more people can engage in the country’s law making processes.

By identifying appropriate principles learned through the development of Europe’s century-old legal system and civil society, the GED has provided international technical exchanges that have enhanced the capacities of the Supreme Court and local courts to deliver a fairer and more consistent application of China’s complex laws and regulations. In the past, this has been seen as an important step in promoting greater legal harmonisation, given the fact that China’s legal system does not currently recognise judicial precedent.

The success of initiatives like the People’s Assessors pilot in Wuzhong District Court, where trained members of the public are able to participate directly in court proceedings, has led to increased transparency and respect for court rulings. Similar pilots are to be introduced in courts across the country. Meanwhile, other notable achievements include the setting up of a provincial filing and monitoring system, to be used in reviewing past cases and improving efficiency in the application of constitutional, provincial and local laws. A new state policy on compensation for victims of crime, and specific guidelines on the use of alternate dispute resolution are also results that have been achieved through cooperation under the GED.

Civil society is another area in which major breakthroughs have been made. In particular, new tax relief regulations on charitable donations have led to significant improvements in the long-term sustainability of civil society organisations, who have also benefitted from advanced training and improved registration processes with government ministries.

“Strengthening governance and the rule of law, and promoting civil society participation in legal spheres have been an essential part of our cooperation with China over the last five years,” said Mr. Christophe Bahuet, UNDP Country Director. “The value of pilot projects in this area cannot be overstated, and UNDP remains committed to working with the government to build inclusive institutions and legal frameworks that help meet the needs of its people”.

During a period of rapid reform spanning most of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) and the start of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the conclusion of the GED provides an ideal opportunity for reflection on lessons learned over the course of more than 350 activities in the areas of equitable development, good governance, and the development of a harmonious legal system. Together with key State organs that include the Supreme People’s Court, the National People’s Congress and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, such a legal framework will be an important prerequisite in China’s pursuit of a Xiaokang Society.

“The GED has produced some remarkable results,” said EU Ambassador to China and Mongolia, Mr. Markus Ederer. “Increased public participation in legal decision-making has been accompanied by greater transparency and trust, as well as the building of a foundation upon which civil society can flourish in China.”

Participants at the ceremony included Chinese government officials from the National People’s Congress and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, as well as representatives from the European Union, UNDP, foreign embassies in China and civil society organisations.

More information on the GED project can be found at: www.ged-china.org.