Below follows a recitation of the Norwegian Ambassador’s keynote address:
Dear Minister Getachew Abaye, State Minister Tesfalem , Pastor Daniel, and Dr. Rasmus, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honour for me to be invited to address this workshop on the new guidelines for the Ethiopian prosecution service.
Norway and Ethiopia has a long-standing and good relationship. Among our fields of cooperation is support to the Ethiopian justice sector – a cornerstone in our broader engagement within governance and human rights.
Norway has been supporting the work of Justice for all – Prison fellowship Ethiopia since 2013. Through this partnership, we have contributed to the capacity building of federal and regional police and militia, as well as to the prosecution service, prison officers and other key officials in the justice sector.
Norway values this collaboration, involving both the Ethiopian government, Justice for All as a civil society organization, and Norway as a partner country. It is my firm belief that cooperation can bring about substantial results when working together towards common goals. Today’s workshop, involving a range of different stakeholders, from public officials and civil servants to civil society and academia, is testament to that.
Protecting human rights and the rule of law in the justice sector is not an easy task, and there are no quick fix solutions for ensuring justice. In order to achieve concrete results and improvement, constant commitment is required.
In this respect, it is particularly challenging, but equally important, to safeguard the human rights of the least privileged in society. This includes the poorest, as well as prisoners. This challenge applies to all countries, in all stages of economic and democratic development.
Naturally, Norway and Ethiopia face different realities and challenges when it comes to the justice sector. However, I do believe that there is potential for mutual exchange of experiences and reflections. It was therefore with great appreciation that Norway, together with Justice for All, facilitated an experience-sharing visit to Oslo for high-level officials within the Ethiopian justice sector, including His Excellency Minister Getachew, in June.
Human rights and the rule of law are central principles in Norwegian foreign policy and development cooperation. In December last year, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented a white paper on human rights entitled “opportunities for all” – a title that indicates the close link between human rights and individual freedoms.
In an effort to make this vision a reality – in promoting equal opportunities for all – Norway has been supporting legal aid services in Ethiopia since 2012, through a partnership with the Centre for Human Rights at Addis Ababa University. Through this project, legal aid centres in Addis Ababa, Hawassa, Adama and Ambo aim to deliver justice to those who are less likely to seek and obtain legal protection.
One of Norway’s key priorities when supporting and promoting human rights in development cooperation is the justice sector. Rule of law is the cornerstone of a democratic society, and essential to ensure that everyone – regardless of who they are – enjoy the human rights protection from all legal institutions, be they police, prosecution, courts or prison authorities.
In practice, this means that the protection of human rights is completely dependent upon effective institutions that can ensure that the rights are upheld and protected.
Further, I believe that the work of the practitioners, such as the prosecutors, play an important role in ensuring just and accountable legal processes. I am therefore pleased to get the opportunity to support and take part in the development of guidelines to ensure that human rights are incorporated into the prosecution working methods.
Once the legal institutions are in place, ensuring their independence is a prerequisite for their effective functioning. The principle of the judiciary’s independence is well known and widely adopted, but ensuring true independence requires expertise, capacity, resources and adequate legislation. Further, the setting-up of checks and balances, such as human rights institutions and Ombudsman offices, does provide a means of control outside the judiciary itself.
Enhancing the transparency and accountability of court systems is an area where Norway has developed experience through supporting institution building in partner countries. Thus, it is encouraging to see that the Growth and Transformation Plan II, which provides the roadmap for development in Ethiopia towards 2020, gives priority to securing good governance, particularly in the justice sector. I do hope that Norway, as a partner to Ethiopia and to Justice for All, has something to contribute with in this regard.
Finally, I would like to commend Justice for All and all other stakeholders involved for their efforts and commitment to promote human rights in the Ethiopian justice sector. I wish you all a productive workshop!