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The Concept of Social Justice and Sustainable Development Goals



By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), Winner of Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021, ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021*

Social justice has been defined as an aspect of distributive justice that seeks to achieve fair distribution of benefits among the members of various associations. Notably, while some authors consider social justice equivalent to ‘distributive justice’, others differentiate it from both general justice and distributive justice where social justice is seen as a unique type of justice characterized by a focus on the ‘common good’ and the individual’s obligation and right to make a contribution to that (hence, sometimes called ‘contributive’ justice) while acknowledging the role of the state and civil society to remove barriers that prevent individuals from so doing.

While advocating for social justice, some of the earliest scholars commenting on the subject have asserted that: ‘Society should treat all equally well who have deserved equally well of it, that is, who have deserved equally well absolutely. This is the highest abstract standard of social and distributive justice; towards which all institutions, and the efforts of all virtuous citizens, should be made in the utmost degree to converge’. Social justice is based on several principles including equality and fairness. It has been argued that social justice should be based on three biologically grounded fairness principles which, must be combined and balanced in order to achieve a society that is fair to everyone. The three fairness principles are equality, equity, and reciprocity, derived from the emerging, multidisciplinary science of human nature and the mounting evidence that a sense of fairness is an evolved and distinctively human behavioral trait.

For instance, in the case of In the Matter of the Principle of Gender Representation in the National Assembly and the Senate [2012] eKLR11, the Supreme Court of Kenya, while rendering its advisory opinion on the one third gender rule, stated, inter alia: 1.6 I believe the immediate implementation of the two-thirds gender principle is reinforced by values of patriotism, equity, social justice, human rights, inclusiveness, equality and protection of the marginalized. Such values would be subverted by an interpretation of the provisions that accepts progressive realization of this principle. The United Nations has defined social Justice as “the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.”

Social justice is also viewed as the extension of principles, enshrined in [our] Constitution, of human dignity, equity, and freedom to participate in all of the political, socio-economic and cultural spheres of society. Indeed, it has also been argued that the legal needs of low-income persons are basic to their survival and ability to thrive. As such, fundamental legal rights need to been forced as they relate to such basic necessities as nutrition, health, shelter, income, education, and protection from violent physical abuse, to uphold the foundational tenets of social justice. According to the Center for Economic and Social Justice, “Social justice encompasses economic justice. Social justice is the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions.

In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development.” It has been observed that while formal definitions for social justice vary in wording, they all encompass: Equal rights; Equal opportunity; and Equal treatment. Also worth pointing is the assertion that the principles of social justice are of three general types: procedural, redistributive/compensatory, and distributive whereby principles pertaining to procedural justice concern the fairness of the process for determining what is just, independent of the outcome; principles pertaining to redistributive/compensatory justice are concerned with the determination of punishment and compensation for wrongs, injuries, and losses; and the principles that are concerned with the just allocation of limited benefits and resources pertain to distributive justice.

Both procedural justice and distributive justice have a close relationship with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and bearing on SDGS as captured under SDG Goal 16 which seeks to: Promote Peaceful And Inclusive Societies For Sustainable Development, Provide Access To Justice For All And Build Effective, Accountable And Inclusive Institutions At All Levels; SDG Goal 6 seeks to: Ensure Availability And Sustainable Management Of Water And Sanitation For All; SDG Goal 7 seeks to: Ensure Access To Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable And Modern Energy For All; and SDG Goal 10 seeks to Reduce Inequality Within And Among Countries, among others. Form the foregoing meaning and concepts of ‘social justice’, sustainable development debates should be informed by the desire to ensure the creation of a just and conducive living environment where all persons get to satisfy all their basic needs but also get to fulfil their self-actualization dreams.

*This article is an extract from the Article: “Sustainable Development Goals and Social Justice in Kenya,” (2021) Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development Volume 7(1), p. 23  by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya). Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2022.


Almgren G, ‘A Primer on Theories of Social Justice and Defining the Problem of Health Care’, Health Care Politics, Policy, and Services (Springer Publishing Company 2017) /content/book/978-0-8261-6898-6/chapter/ch01 , 2.

Center for Economic & Social Justice, ‘Defining Economic Justice and Social Justice’ (28 May 2012) (accessed 6 February 2021).

Corning P, ‘Equality, Equity, and Reciprocity: The Three Pillars of Social Justice | Institute for the Study of Complex Systems’ (accessed 6 February 2021).

David Miller, ‘Distributive Justice: What the People Think’ (1992) 102 Ethics 555.

Dexter, P. “Social cohesion and social justice in South Africa.” Report prepared for the Department of Arts and Culture by the Human Sciences Research Council (2004), i.

In the Matter of the Principle of Gender Representation in the National Assembly and the Senate [2012] eKLR, Advisory Opinions Application 2 of 2012.

Sumpf D, ‘A Review of the Relationship between Corruption and Social Justice’ (Social Science Research Network 2015) SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 2744590 (accessed 6 February 2021).

Tyner A, ‘Planting People, Growing Justice: The Three Pillars of New Social Justice Lawyering’ (2013) 10 Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal 219.

TSDF, ‘What Is Social Justice?’ (The San Diego Foundation, 24 March 2016) (accessed 26 January 2021).

Utilitarianism Blog, ‘Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill’ (accessed 6 February 2021).

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News & Analysis

The Roles of the Three Parts of the Permanent Court of Arbitration




H.E. Amb. Marcin Czepelak, the Fourteenth Secretary-General of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

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Brief History of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)




By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, C.Arb, Current Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Representing the Republic of Kenya.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is a 124 Years Old Intergovernmental Organization currently with 122 contracting states. It was established at the turn of 20th Century during the first Hague Peace Conference held between 18th May and 29th July 1899. The conference was an initiative of then Russian Czar Nicholas II to discuss peace and disarmament and specifically with the object of “seeking the most effective means of ensuring to all peoples the benefits of a real and lasting peace, and, above all, of limiting the progressive development of existing armaments.” The culmination of the conference was the adoption of a Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which dealt not only with arbitration but also with other methods of pacific settlement, such as good offices and mediation.

The aim of the conference was to “strengthen systems of international dispute resolution” especially international arbitration which in the last century had proven effective for the purpose with number of successful international arbitrations being concluded among Nations. The Alabama arbitration of 1871-1872 between the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) under the Treaty of Washington of 1871 culminating in the arbitral tribunal’s award that the UK pay the US compensation for breach of neutrality during American Civil War which it did had demonstrated the effectiveness of arbitration in settling of international disputes and piqued interest of many practitioners in it as a mode of dispute resolution during the latter years of the nineteenth century.

The Institut de Droit International adopted a code of procedure for arbitration in 1875 to answer the need for a general law of arbitration governing for countries and parties wishing to have recourse to international arbitration. The growth of arbitration as a mode of international dispute resolution formed the background of the 1899 conference and informed its most enduring achievement, namely, the establishment of the PCA as the first global mechanism for the settlement of disputes between states. Article 16 of the 1899 Convention recognized that “in questions of a legal nature, and especially in the interpretation or application of International Conventions” arbitration is the “most effective, and at the same time the most equitable, means of settling disputes which diplomacy has failed to settle.”

In turn, the 1899 Convention provided for the creation of permanent machinery to enable the setting up of arbitral tribunals as necessary and to facilitate their work under the auspices of the institution it named as the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). In particular, Article 20 of the 1899 Convention stated that “[w]ith the object of facilitating an immediate recourse to arbitration for international differences which it has not been possible to settle by diplomacy, the signatory Powers undertake to organize a Permanent Court of Arbitration, accessible at all times and operating, unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, in accordance with the rules of procedure inserted in the present Convention.” In effect, the Convention set up a permanent system of international arbitration and institutionalized the law and practice of arbitration in a definite and acceptable way.

As a result, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was established in 1900 and began operating in 1902. The PCA as established consisted of a panel of jurists designated by each country acceding to the Convention with each country being entitled to designate up to four from among whom the members of each arbitral tribunal might be chosen. In addition, the Convention created a permanent Bureau, located in The Hague, with functions similar to those of a court registry or secretariat. The 1899 Convention also laid down a set of rules of procedure to govern the conduct of arbitrations under the PCA framework.

The second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 saw a revision of the 1899 Convention and improvement of the rules governing arbitral proceedings. Today, the PCA has developed into a modern, multi-faceted arbitral institution perfectly situated to meet the evolving dispute resolution needs of the international community. The Permanent Court of Arbitration has also diversified its service offering alongside those contemplated by the Conventions. For instance, today the International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration serves as a registry in important international arbitrations. In 1993, the Permanent Court of Arbitration adopted new “Optional Rules for Arbitrating Disputes between Two Parties of Which Only One Is a State” and, in 2001, “Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Natural Resources and/or the Environment”.


PCA Website: (accessed on 25th May 2023).

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Former KCB Company Secretary Sues Over Unlawful Dismissal




Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania who has sued the Bank for Unlawful Dismissal

Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania has sued the lender seeking reinstatement or be compensated for illegal sacking almost three years ago. Lawyer Kania was the KCB Group company secretary until restructuring of the lender in 2021 that saw some senior executives dropped.

Through the firm of Senior Counsel Wilfred Nderitu, Kamau wants the court to order KCB Group to unconditionally reinstate him to employment without altering any of the contractual terms until his retirement in December 2025.

In his court documents filed before Employment and Labour Relations Court, the career law banker seeks the court to declare the reorganization of the company structure a nullity and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution. He further wants the court to declare that the position of Group Company Secretary did not at any time cease to exist within the KCB Group structure.

He further urged the Employment Court to declare that the recruitment and appointment of Bonnie Okumu, his former assistant, as the Group Company Secretary, in relation to the contemporaneous termination of his employment, was unprocedural, insufficient and inappropriate to infer a lawful termination of his employment.

“A declaration that the factual and legal circumstances of the Petitioner’s termination of employment were insufficient and inappropriate to infer a redundancy against him, and that any redundancy declared by the KCB Group in relation to him was therefore null, void and of no legal effect and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau says he was subjected to discriminatory practices by the KCB Bank Group in violation of his fundamental right to equality and freedom from discrimination as guaranteed in Article 27 of the Constitution and the termination of his employment was unfair, unjustified, illegal, null and void.

Lawyer Kamau further seeks the court to declare that the Non-Compete Clause in the 2016 Contract is unenforceable by the KCB Group as against him and is voidable by him as against the Bank ab initio, byreason of the termination of the Petitioner’s employment having been a violation of Articles 41(1) and 47(1) and (2) of the Constitution, and of the Employment Act.

He also wants the Employment Court to find that finding that KCB’s group legal representation by Messrs of Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates law firm in respect of his claim for unlawful termination of employment resulted in a clear conflict of interest by reason of the fact that a Founding and Senior Partner at the said firm lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga is also the Chairman of the CBK’s Board of Directors.

“A Declaration that the circumstances of KCB’s legal representation by Messrs. Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates resulted in a violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to have the employment dispute decided independently and impartially, as guaranteed in Article 50(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau is seeking damages against both KCB Group and Central Bank of Kenya jointly and severally for the violation of his constitutional and fundamental right to fair labour practices.

He wants  further wants court to declare that CBK is liable to petitioner on account of its breach of statutory duty to effectively regulate KCB Group to ensure that KCB complied with the Central Bank of Kenya Prudential Guidelines and all other Laws, Rules, Codes and Standards, and that, as an issuer of securities, it complied with capital markets legislation.

Kamau through his lawyer Nderitu told the court that he was involved in Shareholder engagement in introducing the Group aide-mémoire that significantly improved the management of the Annual General Meetings, including obtaining approval without voting through the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Kenya Commercial Bank Limited among others.

He said that during his employment at KCB Bank Kenya and with the KCB Group, he initially worked well with former KCB CEO Joseph Oigara until 2016 when the CEO allegedly started sidelining him by removing the legal function from his reporting line.

He further claims he was transferred from the Group’s offices at Kencom House to its offices Upper Hill under the guise that the Petitioner was merely to support the KCB Group Board.

He adds that at that point his roles were given to Okumu for reasons that were not related to work demands.  He stated that Oigara at one time proposed that he should leave his role in the KCB Group and go and serve as the Company Secretary of the National Bank of Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of the Group, a suggestion which he disagreed with to Oigara’s utter annoyance.

Kamau stated that his work was thenceforth unfairly discredited, leading to his being taken through a disciplinary process whose intended outcome failed miserably, and the Petitioner was vindicated.

“More specifically, the Petitioner contends that the purported creation of a new organizational structure towards the end of 2020 was in fact Oigara’s orchestration targeted to remove certain individuals by requiring them to undergo interviews in the pretext that new roles were created, and amounted to a further violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to fair labour practices under Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” said in his court documents.

He further adds that this sham reorganization demonstrates how the role of the KCB Group Company Secretary purportedly ceased to be and was then very briefly replaced with a new role of the KCB Group General Counsel. The role of KCB Group Company Secretary then ‘resurfaced’ immediately thereafter, in total violation of legal and regulatory requirements.

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