May 2020 Newsletter


Welcome to your monthly roundup of 16+ news and views from the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. If you find this newsletter useful, please pass it on to others working on the SDG16+ targets for peace, justice and inclusion. Subscribe or unsubscribe here — and check out the website.

1. Global cooperation in the COVID-19 era


As the world enters an unstable new phase amid the coronavirus pandemic, a profound lack of international cooperation and concerted global action is threatening hopes for a comprehensive response and recovery plan.

In a new opinion piece, Pathfinders’ Liv Tørres, alongside Robert Muggah and David Steven, outline the urgent need for global cooperation to tackle the challenges of recovering from COVID-19, and elaborate on five courses of action that global leaders should take to head off emerging security threats.

Read the piece in World Economic Forum.

2. Pathfinders at the 2020 Stockholm Forum

The COVID-19 emergency is triggering a political, social, and cultural dislocation that may transform societies and the international order for at least a generation. Public trust in government and institutions is an essential feature of an effective response. At a time of flux, we have a unique opportunity to establish a new social contract that can rebuild trust and social cohesion. We can rewire our institutions to respond to people’s everyday experiences of injustice and violence, and push for a fairer, more inclusive world. One that is resilient and sustainable. What would such a Social Contract look like? And who should be part of it?

The Pathfinders’ panel at the 2020 Stockholm Forum, “The Wake-up Call — Rebuilding Trust and Rewiring Institutions in a new Social Contract,” showcased solutions and actions, provided a platform for national leadership and ownership, and challenged the international community to step up ambition ahead of the UN’s 75th anniversary and the Decade of Action. High-level speakers included:

  • Dr. Liv Tørres, Director, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies
  • H.E. Dr. Priscilla Schwartz, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice
  • H.E. Ms. Allyson Maynard-Gibson QC, former Attorney-General, The Bahamas
  • Ms. Laura Thornton, Director of Global Programs, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA)
  • Ms. Rachel Locke, Director, Impact:Peace
  • H.E. Ms. Elinor Hammarskjöld, Director-General for Political Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden

Missed the live panel? Watch it in full on YouTube.

3. Pathfinders working with UN75

(UN Photo / Mark Garten)

In this, the UN’s 75th anniversary year, the UN Secretary-General issued a call for a global conversation to provide citizen and grassroots input into shaping the UN for the future — a global institution that works for everyone.

This conversation has continued virtually and in April, the UN75 report on initial findings was published. The results indicate that the top priorities for building the ‘world we want to create’ are environmental protection, protection of human rights, less conflict, equal access to basic services, and zero discrimination. In addition, and more now than ever in face of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, global cooperation and multilateralism are key to “building back better”, as USG Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary, pointed out in a recent speech.

At the intergovernmental level, member states have started the process of drafting the UN75 declaration. The co-facilitators for these negotiations, the Permanent Representatives of Qatar and Sweden, issued an Elements Paper on April 9th requesting inputs from member states, civil society and partner organizations. A zero draft is being prepared on the basis of these inputs and the negotiations will start with a view to finalizing the declaration by June.

Pathfinders have been very active in trying to ensure that the actions required for SDG16+ implementation are well reflected in the declaration. If anything, COVID-19 has laid bare the need for better governance and more trust in institutions, while pushing for justice for all, as well as combatting inequality, violence and exclusion.

4. Coming soon: Justice for Women Amidst COVID-19

(arun sambhu mishra /

The justice gap for women is growing as women face major challenges to resolve their justice problems in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are seeing an increase in the number of justice problems that women face: lockdowns have caused a spike in domestic violence, the economic crisis threatens women’s companies and investments, their jobs or their health may be at risk — if they do continue to work.

Simultaneously, the capacity to deal with these justice problems is decreasing, amongst formal as well as informal justice actors, due to the health impacts of the pandemic and the emergency measures in force. As a result, the justice gap for women is widening.

The forthcoming report, Justice for Women Amidst COVID-19, gathers available data and puts forth recommendations to accelerate action and increase justice for women in the current context.

The soon-to-be-released report was developed by a cohort of international organizations, led by UN Women, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), The Elders, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the Pathfinders for Justice.

5. New: COVID-19 and Domestic Violence

(UN Photo / Staton Winter)

As many countries initiated lockdowns or “shelter-in-place” orders in March and April, a frightening truth became ever more apparent: home is not a safe place for everyone.

The pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders have forced victims to be locked in with their abusers with no escape in sight. The number of people, including women, children, and members of the LGBTQ+ community experiencing physical, sexual and emotional abuse is unprecedented. This is a public emergency.

This fact sheet is the first in a series about country responses on justice, peace and inclusion in the pandemic, meant to provide information and solutions for justice leaders and policymakers. It is a cursory overview of the scale of the problem and presents emerging country responses.

6. New: COVID-19 and Court System Innovations

The COVID-19 pandemic has made formal brick and mortar justice delivery systems all over the world do something they’re very resistant to do: change. What would have been considered impossible just weeks before the pandemic, is now becoming the norm. In some ways, the crisis has created opportunities for new and easy methods of communication and for navigating court systems. By the same token, the pandemic lays bare deep-rooted issues related to accessing justice.

From YouTube criminal justice cases to AI judges, this fact sheet — the second in a series on justice issues in the pandemic — explores the emerging country responses to social distancing in the formal justice sector, identifies key challenges to preventing the justice gap from widening, and lists normative resources relating to policy and practice.

7. A Call to Action from Former Ministers, Attorneys-General, and Senior Judges

“Like health ministers, the world’s ministers of justice are on the frontline of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike health ministers who meet regularly through the G20, regional organizations, and other fora, ministers of justice of the world do not have the same opportunities to work together across borders. This lack of international collaboration has put a brake on innovation in the best of times. Let’s change that — fast.”

This call to action comes from a group of justice leaders, former ministers, attorneys-general, and chief justices from all continents, who come together as the Justice Leadership Group.

Building on the Justice for All report of the Task Force on Justice, the justice leaders call for the creation of a forum for ministers of justice to share best practices and identify urgent actions to put justice at the heart of pandemic response. They also emphasize the need to build a knowledge and solutions platform, and to bring together funders to provide financing for justice innovations.

Read the full text Global Dashboard.

8. Rallying beneath the banner for May Day

“It is the moment to dream of a more equal, prosperous, safer, and more sustainable future, and to commit ourselves to supporting the most vital ally in fulfilling it. Solidarity forever… for the unions make us strong.”

This past May Day, NYU CIC’s, Sarah Cliffe and Pathfinders’ Liv Tørres reflected on the need to support and learn from trade unions, in the effort to recover and build back better from the COVID-19 crisis.

Read their blog here.

9. Guns, gender, peace and the pandemic

On the heels of first-ever GENSAC conference in Berlin (held in February, 2020), the Pathfinders, together with IANSA and the German Federal Foreign Office, convened the first in a series of online dialogues on “Guns, Peace and Pandemic.”

More than sixty people attended a webinar to discuss how the pandemic has changed patterns of violence and the use of firearms. Participants noted that the pandemic has increased the demand for firearms globally, eased access to firearms in certain countries, and has enabled criminal networks to channel more arms into conflict-affected regions. Ideas on how to how to keep small arms control high on the policy agenda, both national and international, were also shared, with several calls for greater support for effective civil society advocacy on these issues, more networking between stakeholders, and enhanced support to those on the frontlines.

10. Champions of Change: The Advocates with a simple message: “Poverty is not a crime”

(Clinton Washington, Photo: Bronx Freedom Fund)

In 2019, New York State implemented a major reform of its bail system: eliminating cash bail and pretrial detention for the vast majority of charges. The reform means that people’s poverty will not cause them to languish in jail without being convicted of a crime. It makes it less likely that their lives will be upended, and saves New York State the costs of keeping them incarcerated.

In our latest Justice Champions of Change interview, we spoke with Clinton Washington of the Bronx Freedom Fund, whose work was at the heart of this reform. Since 2007, the Fund has been helping people who are unable to afford bail for misdemeanor charges, to post it. Bronx Freedom Fund’s people-centered justice work doesn’t stop there. They connect individuals to services and support them throughout the course of their cases. Clients of the Fund have been able to go on with their lives, avoiding pretrial detention, while being supported and empowered by Clinton and his colleagues.

Read the interview to learn how Clinton and his colleagues made this change happen: here.

11. From the SDG16+ Community

Over the past weeks, friends and partners of the Pathfinders have published a number of vital resources, commentaries, statements and initiatives on the impact of and response to COVID-19 and efforts to build a more peaceful, just and inclusive world in its wake. Find a selection of the latest, below:


  • UNDP’s The South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) produced briefs exploring the connection between the COVID-19 lockdown and an upsurge in domestic violence and firearms in the home
  • Reaching Critical Will launched a database gathering resources on gender and disarmament
  • USIP hosted a discussion on tackling COVID-19 in conflict and fragile settings
  • Men Engage Alliance launched a webpage and online platform to share resources, tools, and advocacy activities relevant to those working to engage men and boys for gender justice during COVID-19
  • C40 Knowledge Hub created a COVID-19 portal for cities during the crisis
  • Control Arms gathered resources on arms control during the COVID-19 crisis
  • The Center for Feminist Policy also launched a new webpage dedicated to sharing feminist resources in the pandemic

Justice for All:

Inequality and Exclusion:

Plus 16 things we’re reading

  1. ‘Why we cannot lose sight of the Sustainable Development Goals during coronavirus’ by Erna Solberg and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (World Economic Forum)
  2. ‘How Life in Our Cities Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic’, featuring Robert Muggah (Foreign Policy)
  3. ‘Covid-19 Threatens Global Safety Net’ by The New York Times’ Editorial Board (New York Times)
  4. “One governance challenge, three vaccines” by Jairo Acuña-Alfaro (UNDP)
  5. Interview: “The coronavirus slayer! How Kerala’s rock star health minister helped save it from Covid-19” (The Guardian)
  6. “COVID-19 impact on racialised communities: interactive EU-wide map” (ENAR)
  7. ‘’Separation by sex’: gendered lockdown fuelling hate crime on streets of Bogotá’ (The Guardian)
  8. ‘Making the Best of a Post Pandemic World’ by Dani Rodrik (Project Syndicate)
  9. “‘The way we get through this is together’: the rise of mutual aid under coronavirus” (The Guardian)
  10. ‘UN sets out COVID-19 social and economic recovery plan’ (UNDP)
  11. ‘Peace and the pandemic: the impact of COVID-19 on conflict in Asia’ by Aram Burke (DevPolicy Blog)
  12. ‘Civil Society and the Coronavirus: Dynamism Despite Disruption’ by Saskia Brechenmacher, Thomas Carothers, Richard Youngs (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
  13. ‘Calibrating the COVID-19 Crisis Response to the SDGs’ by Keven P. Gallagher, William R. Kring, and Jose Antonio Ocampo (UN)
  14. ‘After coronavirus: how will Europe rebuild?’ (The Guardian)
  15. ‘The low-tech way to engage citizens in lockdown’ by Aidan Eyakuze (Apolitical)
  16. ‘A world where rights are restricted is a world where business is restricted’ by Sharan Burrow (B Team)