EU, UNDP support rule of law in China

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-15 07:03

The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed an agreement in Beijing yesterday to support an initiative to strengthen the rule of law and development of civil society in China.

The four-year, $10.5-million "Governance for Equitable Development" is the most comprehensive program of its kind, addressing key issues in the enactment of laws by the National People's Congress (NPC), the judicial process through the Supreme People's Court (SPC) and people's participation through the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in China.

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"While China has enjoyed remarkable economic growth and (seen) much improved living standards in the past (three) decades, social inequality, corruption, and inadequate law enforcement have created severe barriers for vulnerable groups," Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China, said at the signing ceremony.

That has necessitated the program, Malik said.

Nearly half of the program's budget will be spent on developing a better legal and policy framework for CSOs and increasing their interaction with government agencies and other social institutions.

The program will help the MCA continue reforming and streamlining the registration process for CSOs one of the greatest obstacles for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking legal status in China.

Besides, the joint initiative will assist the SPC in various policy and legal reforms aimed at creating a more transparent and equitable legal system in China.

For example, it will help the SPC increase the legal channels for plaintiffs seeking compensation for crimes and rights violations.

Also, it will sponsor training workshops and international and inter-provincial study tours for legal professionals, and help the Legal Affairs Committee of the NPC Standing Committee increase public participation in the law drafting process.

Moreover, the process of appointing judicial officials and publicizing of judicial decisions will be reviewed and overhauled.

"The Chinese government has long attached great importance to the rule of law in developing a harmonious society and has pursued close cooperation with the international community," said Zhang Shaogang, deputy director of department of international trade and economic affairs, under the Ministry of Commerce.

"The program signed today is an example, and we deeply appreciate the contribution of the EU and the UNDP," Zhang said.

The programs will be implemented in Beijing and other select areas across China from June 2007 to December 2010 by the SPC, the MCA and the Legal Affairs Committee of NPC Standing Committee.

The EU will contribute $8 million of the budget, the UNDP, $2 million, with the Chinese government providing the rest.

The EU and the UNDP have a history of supporting legal and judicial reforms in China, with the former currently being involved in setting up of a "EU-China School of Law".

And the UNDP recently elevated the level of its partnership with CSOs in China.

(China Daily 05/15/2007 page2)

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