A message from Director-General Irene Khan


Dear friends,

2016 was a year of unrest and disruptive change around the world. International law, human rights and humanitarian principles came under renewed pressure from entrenched conflicts, violent extremism, rising authoritarianism, and xenophobic trends. Marginalized and poor people - refugees, migrants, minorities, women, children, those living with disabilities - paid a heavy price because institutions were mismanaged or too weak, laws were outdated or manipulated, and calls for accountability and respect for the rule of law often went unheeded.

This volatile and challenging context formed the backdrop to our work in 2016, and brought to a close IDLO’s 2013 - 2016 Strategic Plan, a period during which we experienced significant growth and achievement, change and challenge. The past year also marked the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which acknowledges that development can be sustainable only if it is grounded in good governance, access to justice and the rule of law.

The 2016 Annual Report covers the three thematic pillars of IDLO’s 2013- 2016 Strategic Plan:   

  • building effective legal institutions;
  • ensuring access to justice; and
  • promoting legal solutions to advance economic opportunity and sustainable development.


The Report highlights the geographic expansion of IDLO’s programs. Stretching from Kenya to Kyrgyzstan, Mali to Mongolia, and Honduras to Indonesia, IDLO is now operating in over thirty countries on four continents. This organizational growth is both a reflection of the greater demand for rule of law assistance as well as a recognition of IDLO’s successful contribution to that endeavor.

Most of IDLO’s work on institution-building was carried out in transitional, fluid, fragile or post-conflict situations, where we sought to build or reform justice sector institutions through capacity development and technical assistance.

Among our key achievements was the completion of a three-year long program in Afghanistan to strengthen the skills of some 9000 investigators, prosecutors, defenders and judges and build the capacity of the respective criminal justice institutions to carry out their own training in future.

Participation and local ownership are key to successful institution-building. The independent evaluation of IDLO’s work in Kenya confirmed that we followed a demand-driven model to respond to requests from the executive and the judiciary, and contributed to the critical processes of constitutional devolution, legislative reform and judicial transformation.  In our effort to enhance local participation, in Mali we used innovative programming approaches to engage both formal state institutions and local, community based entities in the criminal justice chain to identify gaps and to address them.  In Ukraine, we launched a new program to support local partners to build institutions to fight corruption and to provide public services in more accessible, transparent and accountable ways.

While institution-building is state-centric, access to justice, the second pillar of IDLO’s Strategic Plan, is people centered. Our most impressive achievement in this area has been enhancing women’s access to justice. Based on our first ever gender strategy, adopted in 2014, we expanded our programs on women and girls. Working with a wide range of actors, from judges, prosecutors and government officials to community leaders and women’s groups, we contributed to the fight against gender-based violence, inequality and discrimination in countries as varied as Afghanistan, Kenya, Honduras, Liberia, Mongolia and Somalia. Engaging with informal justice systems to address discrimination against women, in 2016 we piloted a project in Burundi to protect women’s access to land.

While we are proud of what has been achieved, we are acutely aware of entrenched patriarchal and traditional values, fragile security, debilitating poverty and inadequate political will that constrain progress for women and girls in many of the countries where we operate.

An important aspect of our access to justice work has been to bring together service providers and organizations representing justice seekers so that people can be empowered to claim their rights and institutions can be more responsive. A key example was our program in Honduras where we supported institutions and civil society groups to work together to reduce homicide and improve access to justice for women, children and youth. Another example was in Myanmar, where, in partnership with UNDP, we established Rule of Law Centers to increase awareness of legal rights and build trust between citizens and state officials.

The third pillar of our work – promoting sustainable development through the rule of law – focused on strengthening legal and judicial capacity on commercial law, particularly in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Mediterranean regions, and strengthening legal understanding of biodiversity, with a focus on the Nagoya Protocol.

The 2016 Annual Report highlights our increased collaboration with international, regional and national actors. Our most important partnership-building initiative was a major pan-African multi-stakeholder conference, which we co-hosted, together with the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Dar es Salaam in June 2016. Bringing together a hundred participants, including African Ministers of Justice, senior government officials, judges, lawyers, scholars, practitioners and representatives from civil society, it generated a frank debate on the challenges and opportunities in the justice sector in Africa and led to concrete proposals for collaboration with IDLO, which we are actively following up.

The growth of IDLO’s programs, research and advocacy in 2016 underlined the need to strengthen operational capacity and enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the organization. A major achievement in this respect was the completion of the Independent Management Review and rapid implementation of the recommendations flowing from it. We believe that thanks to such reforms, we are in a better position to broaden our donor base, expand our resources and put IDLO on a more stable financial footing for the future.

Thanks also to the resilience, creativity and commitment that my colleagues continued to display through the many challenges we faced and overcame this past year, IDLO today is better prepared to face the next phase of our journey as we embark on our next Strategic Plan 2017 – 2020 (Strategy 2020).

Strategy 2020 maps out clearly IDLO’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It reinforces our commitment to empower people to realize their rights and ensure that laws and institutions are fair, effective and accountable. It articulates the changes we will instigate, with our partners and other stakeholders, to combat discrimination and enhance social inclusion, empower civil society and justice seekers, strengthen the capacity and integrity of institutions to deliver justice and promote sustainable development.

My colleagues and I are energized by the opportunities that lie ahead and encouraged by your support. We look forward to working with you to build inclusive, peaceful societies based on the rule of law and a culture of justice.

Where we worked

Biodiversity Gender Health Freedom of Religion or Belief Land Rights and Food Security Honduras Regional: HIV Responsible Investment in Agriculture Benin Burundi Kenya Liberia Mali Somalia South Sudan DREAMS Partnership Eastern Europe and Central Asia Kyrgyzstan Mongolia Economic Development Ukraine Egypt and HIV Jordan Kuwait Tunisia Regional: HIV Afghanistan IDLO in ASEAN Myanmar Philippines