The ICJ has issued its Annual Report 2019, which offers a concise summary of the work carried out by the ICJ over the past year.
Human rights work is tough at the best of times and while some years it feels like more progress is being made than lost, in other years the challenges faced seem almost overwhelming.
In 2019 the ICJ has continued its work in defense of the rule of law and human rights but there is no doubt that this has been a challenging year and that more challenges, predictable and unpredictable, await us in the years ahead.
These threats are serious but over the past seven decades the ICJ has learned how to face dark times effectively. As the lawyers of the human rights movement, we have fostered global institutions and grassroots human rights defenders; drafted international treaties and used them to defend the rights of individuals; worked hand in hand with the most marginalized people and advocated for their rights face to face with the most powerful authorities.
In early 2019, the ICJ was able to bring together its Commissioners, Sections and Affiliates, and supporters in a full Congress that emphasized the organization’s commitment to the core mandate issues that have directed our work for almost 70 years. These continued challenges include the fettered and ineffective judiciaries that cannot properly dispense justice (or worse, become tools of injustice), the continued marginalization of vulnerable groups, attacks on rights defenders and the inaccessibility of justice.
The Tunis Declaration that resulted from the 2019 Congress reaffirmed the ICJ’s unyielding commitment to defend and advance the rule of law and human rights at a time when commitment to them by States and other powerful actors has been wavering.
The Declaration also stressed that not only are human rights and the rule of law indispensable to the betterment of the human condition but must also be harnessed to address contemporary challenges identified by the Commission including those posed by resurgent authoritarian populism, unprecedented movements of people driven by increasing social disparity and climate change and intrusive new technologies.
These challenges in 2019 all prefigured, and were aggravated by, the unprecedented and catastrophic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods, the repercussions of which can be expected to impact human rights development for years to come.
Throughout 2019, the ICJ has continued working against discrimination that inhibits access to justice and accountability, particularly barriers to justice on the basis of gender in Asia and the Middle East and North Africa and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
We have pushed for accountability for human rights violations in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, and pushed to develop new global norms necessary to hold businesses responsible for their impact on human rights
As existing and new threats to human rights and the rule of law evolve and emerge the ICJ knows that it needs to adapt to be able to meet these challenges.
In 2019, we accelerated efforts to make sure the ICJ has sufficient resources and an infrastructure that is fit for purpose, which included investing in a number of new systems and processes to support staff, improve accountability and ensure we are capable of delivering the ICJ’s expertise in a way that really benefits the lives of the people on whose behalf we work.
The implementation of some of these changes, such as technological improvements that facilitated information and resource sharing, have immediately helped us continue our work despite the movement restrictions that are currently binding our Commissioners, staff and partners. However, some of the changes we have attempted have taken longer than we hoped to implement and we know we have more work to do to guarantee we are ready to address the challenges ahead.
It can be hard to remain optimistic when there is so much work to do but the ICJ has proven itself as an organization that can stand fast in the face of extraordinary pressures and bring to bear a weight, that far exceeds its resources, in bringing about real change that improves lives. With your support we will keep doing the good work that is showcased in this report and will continue working towards our vision of a rule of law that upholds the dignity and human rights of every person everywhere.
(Message from Sam Zarifi, ICJ Secretary General)