(Left to Right: Mr. Ndaba Mandela, Chairman & Co-Founder of the "Africa Rising" Foundation; and, Jason Huf)
Mr. Huf grew up in New Jersey, and has lived there for roughly half the sum total of his life thus far. He knows, first-hand, the economically and socially corrosive effects of political corruption, and the crippling effect a government that serves only to facilitate corruption can have on a state and the people who live in such a place.
That said, Mr. Huf limited himself to listening. After all, while lawyers may be at the bottom rung of the ladder among the governing class, lawyers are still part of the governing class. Mr. Huf thought it best to listen to - and learn from - someone who speaks for some of the people of the developing world who have been poorly served (and, often, downright exploited and oppressed) by those who govern their countries: "Far be it from me to tell him what he should want. He knows what he wants!", Mr. Huf later said of his interraction with Mr. Mandela.
More judges, better educational opportunities, and the like were offered up as being helpful tools in pursuit of SDG # 16. But, Mr. Mandela most strongly asserted that it was up to the people themselves, not judges appointed by corrupt dictators and oligarchs, to assert themselves and demand access to the clean water, medical treatment and other resources which are rightfully theirs.
He has a point - who would simply sit there watching their child die of a perfectly preventable disease and patiently wait for a UN team to swing by and, after some years, convince the multi-millionare colonel/ President of their otherwise poor country to suddenly have a change of heart and appoint honest judges and fly in doctors, food, agriculture & water treatment specialists instead of buying that third villa in Switzerland?
And, he makes that point with evident sincerity and passion, as one might expect given the heavy legacy he inherits from his iconic grandfather. The SDGs are ambitious and, if only because of that ambition, useful. But, absent people demanding responsibility for, and power over, their own futures, the progress that can be made toward the SDGs is likely somewhat limited.
Specifically, it does not seem possible to accomplish any of the SDGs without first making serious advances on SDG # 16, given the destructive and stifling effect bad governance and political corruption consistently have on factors necessary to achieve the other Sustainable Development Goals. Rule of Law is, quite simply, a must for any civilization to achieve real success, whether it be Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the Republic of South Africa, or New Jersey. And SDG # 16 is unlikely to be accomplished without the engagement of an affected population.
Mr. Huf expressed genuine pleasure over meeting Mr. Mandela and looks forward to similar opportunities as he tracks the progress of the SDGs at the UN as Representative (Observer) of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), particularly as and when such may impact the "corporate responsibilities" of companies doing business internationally.
The evening with Mr. Mandela was organized by the New York City Bar Association's UN Committee, which invited the New York County Lawyers' Association's (NYCLA) Foreign & International Law Committee to co-sponsor the event. As Co-Chairman of NYCLA's Foreign & International Law Committee, Mr. Huf hopes the success of this event provides the basis for establishing a model of cooperation between committees of different bar associations on synergetic issues of importance to the legal community and society more broadly.