Closing Remarks at Conference on Rule of Law and Civil Society – A Path to the Future, GED Closing Event

25 Jun 2012

By Christophe Bahuet, Country Director
25 June 2012, Grand Hyatt Hotel

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This afternoon we have been privileged to hear some insightful presentations and discussions. I would like to thank the European Union, National People’s Congress, Supreme People’s Court, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and colleagues at CICETE for the fruitful partnership that has been built over the last five years. I would also like to extend my deep appreciation to the four teams of experts for providing some very substantive recommendations for strengthening the rule of law and civil society in China. The bringing together of government representatives, experts and practitioners is significant and indicates the importance China has attached to good governance.

Advancing inclusive governance and the rule of law is a key priority of UNDP’s cooperation with China. For China’s remarkable development gains to benefit everyone, it is important that legal processes are accountable and accessible for all people. This is especially important for poor and vulnerable groups. By the same token, improving equity in legal spheres requires increased participation from citizens. Thus, in addition to reinforcing respect for the rule of law through increased transparency, the Governance for Equitable Development (GED) initiative has demonstrated the potential for a robust civil society to contribute to more efficient governance. By incorporating public concerns and aspirations within the shaping of new laws and policy decisions that directly affect their lives, civil society is uniquely positioned to contributed to greater certainty and trust in China’s legal and institutions, making laws more relevant and enforceable.

As indicated by the research and assessments conducted under the GED, this deep cooperation has yielded impressive results. In partnership with the Supreme People’s Court new laws and policies have been introduced, including amendments made to national Civil Procedure Laws that have simplified small claims cases, the majority of which are filed by people from poorer communities. Under this amendment, claims below 5,000 yuan will only have one trial, reducing the cost of legal proceedings for poor people and improving the efficiency and availability of courts to pursue other cases.

Together with the National People’s Congress, new systems have been put in place for the drafting of laws and review and filing systems have been set up to ensure China’s complex legal system is more fairly applied across provinces. Capacity-building training for 1,300 national and local People’s Congresses has focused on increasing consistency and encouraging public participation throughout the law-making process, and policy breakthroughs have also been made through the introduction of tax break and registration policies that are supporting the development of civil society organisations.

In partnership with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the GED has contributed to the first ever full chapter to be included in a Five-Year Plan that specifically recognises the important role of civil society organisations as a national priority. Rules to ease pre-tax deductions on pro–bono, charitable donations to organisations have been introduced and a ministerial regulation to simplify registration process has been tabled at the State Council. Together, these breakthroughs have the potential to significantly improve the effectiveness of some 440,000 registered, and an estimated 1-3 million unregistered  civil society organisations, to contribute to equitable development in China.

I have been particularly encouraged by what I have heard today, and believe these achievements to represent a starting point upon which we can work together with China to strengthen the rule of law and develop a durable civil society framework. As the Third Judicial Reform Programme (2009-2013) draws to a close, there may also be opportunities to broaden technical cooperation in planning the Fourth Judicial Reform Programme. In such cases, UNDP stands ready to offer further technical assistance to increase public participation in law making, as China strives towards promoting further scientific development and social harmony through greater respect for the rule of law.

Having seen the positive impact that the GED has had on governance, and in light of China’s commitment to ensuring its laws are both equitable and fair, I would like to conclude with the following Chinese quote:

不聞不若聞之,聞之不若見之,見之不若知之,知之不若行之;學至於行之而止矣。

(Meaning: Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.) From Xun Zi (荀子 8.儒效 23).

Thank you!