United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

25 October 1996



General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Agenda Item 110 (b)


                       Strengthening of the rule of law

                        Report of the Secretary-General

                                 I.  FRAMEWORK

1.   At its fiftieth session, the General Assembly, in its resolution
50/179 of 22 December 1995, recalling relevant provisions of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action and its own resolutions 48/141 of 20 December 1993
and 49/194 of 23 December 1994 and taking note of Commission on Human
Rights resolution 1995/54 of 3 March 1995, as it further considered
the importance of the rule of law to the promotion and protection of
human rights, took note of the report of the Secretary-General on the
subject (A/50/653) and requested him to submit a report to it at its
fifty-first session on developments pertaining to the implementation
of the resolution.

2.   In accordance with resolution 48/141 and as indicated in the
previous reports of the Secretary-General (A/49/512 and A/50/653),
ultimate authority and responsibility for the coordination and
implementation of activities in support of the rule of law through the
technical cooperation programme rests with the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights, under the overall authority of the
Secretary-General.  As other agencies and programmes in the United
Nations system begin to undertake national assistance programmes in
areas that touch upon human rights and the rule of law, it becomes
increasingly important that due attention be given to the coordinating
and substantive role of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in
order to incorporate the substantive expertise of the Centre for Human
Rights into such programme activities, to enhance effectiveness of
action and to avoid unnecessary duplication.

3.   The technical cooperation programme of the Centre offers support
to States seeking to strengthen the rule of law and, thereby, to
secure the effective enjoyment of human rights and democracy.  Such
support takes the form of comprehensive country programmes and
targeted projects, in the form of advisory services of experts,
training courses, workshops and seminars, information and
documentation projects, fellowships, and some forms of financial
assistance.  The programme, as presented in the annual report of the
Secretary-General to the Commission on Human Rights on advisory
services in the field of human rights (most recently, in document
E/CN.4/1996/90), offers assistance based on international standards
and rules in the following areas:

     (a) Constitution-making.  Assistance in the legislative process,
especially with regard to the following areas:  (i) human rights and
fundamental freedoms, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights; (ii) guarantees against violations of those rights;
(iii) independent judiciary and limits of State powers; (iv) limits of
emergency powers, including the problem of permissible derogations of
human rights and freedoms under states of emergency in accordance with
the international standards; (v) non-discrimination and protection of
persons belonging to minorities; (vi) national human rights
institutions (human rights commission, ombudsman); (vii) place of
international human rights treaties within the domestic legal order;

     (b) Legal framework under the constitution, which protects human
rights and democracy.  Assistance especially in the following areas: 
(i) immigration, nationality and asylum laws; (ii) penal law and
criminal procedure; (iii) prison laws and regulations; (iv) protection
of minorities, women, children and other  groups requiring special
protection; (v) administration of justice; (vi) law on police and
other security forces; (vii) remedies to protect human rights under
civil law and administrative law; and (viii) any other laws that may
have a direct impact on the realization of internationally guaranteed
human rights;

     (c) Electoral system.  Assistance in the legislative process,
especially with regard to the following areas:  (i) right of everyone
to take part in the government of his or her country; (ii) equal
access to public service; (iii) criteria of democratic elections (e.g.
universal and equal suffrage; the secrecy of the ballot; respect for
freedom of opinion, expression, information, assembly and
association); (iv) independent review of alleged irregularities; and
(v) objective and independent electoral administration;

     (d) Institution-building and training.  Assistance especially in
the following areas:  (i) national human rights institutions (national
commissions on human rights, ombudsman, etc.); (ii) independent
administration of justice (national training regime for lawyers,
judges, prosecutors, police and prison officials, which includes
attention to their role in the protection of human rights); (iii)
training for military (human rights, allegiance to the Constitution
and laws of the land and to the democratic government);
(iv) mechanisms for conflict resolution; (v) assistance in
ratification of or accession to international human rights treaties
and training of government officials in reporting under those
treaties; (vi) education in human rights, including through model
human rights curricula in primary, secondary and post-secondary
education and training of teachers for human rights and democracy;
(vii) assistance to civil society, including training for
non-governmental human rights organizations, women's groups, labour
unions and community organizations; and (viii) training in human
rights for mass media.

                               II.  DEVELOPMENTS

4.   To enhance inter-agency cooperation and coordination of assistance
for the strengthening of the rule of law, the High Commissioner has
initiated a series of consultations and contacts with other partners
in the United Nations system.  Among the measures initiated by the
High Commissioner have been, inter alia,  meetings with executive
heads of United Nations agencies and programmes on matters of policy
and coordination, meetings and working-level contacts with agencies
and programmes on thematic issues and field-level cooperation.  The
strengthening of the rule of law has also been placed among the
objectives of memoranda of understanding concluded (or being under
preparation) by the High Commissioner with various agencies and

5.   Most recently, on 24 and 25 July 1996, a seminar of the World Bank
and of the Centre for Human Rights was held in Washington, D.C., with
a view to discussing various aspects of possible cooperation between
the two institutions. The High Commissioner and the President of the
World Bank stressed the need for close contacts and mutual support,
inter alia, in envisaging and implementing programmes for the
strengthening of the rule of law.  Implementation of specific country
projects, cooperation between field offices, exchange of information
and joint staff training should be the vehicles of cooperation.

6.   In accordance with the recommendations of the General Assembly in
paragraph 6 of its resolution 49/194 and of the Commission on Human
Rights in paragraph 6 of its resolution 1995/54, the High
Commissioner, by a letter of 28 August 1995 addressed to all relevant
United Nations agencies and financial institutions, has sought to
explore possibilities for obtaining from such institutions, acting
within their mandates, technical and financial assistance for
supporting the Organization's efforts to promote human rights and the
rule of law.  Replies from several agencies and institutions to the
High Commissioner's letters welcomed his initiative for increased
cooperation.  One of the examples, illustrating how fruitful such
cooperation could be, is provided by joint assistance by the High
Commissioner and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to
countries establishing national human rights institutions (e.g. Latvia
and the Republic of Moldova).  Another example is the Conference on
Refugees, Returnees, Displaced Persons and Related Migratory Movements
in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Relevant
Neighbouring States, which was organized by the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International
Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and held in Geneva on 30 and 31 May 1996. 
The Centre for Human Rights participated in and contributed to the
overall process of the CIS Conference since it started in January 1995
and maintained a close working relation with the CIS secretariat by
sharing its expertise and providing background materials and
contributions concerning, inter alia, application of the principles of
the rule of law and human rights to groups of persons under
discussion, which were reflected in the final document.  The
Conference is expected to have a substantial impact on developments in
the interested countries.

7.   Further evidence of the importance attached to such initiatives by
the international community is contained in the Managua Declaration
adopted at the Second International Conference of New or Restored
Democracies, held at Managua from 4 to 6 July 1994 (A/49/713, annex
I).  The Declaration, stressing that the stimulus of bilateral and
multilateral cooperation, of the private sector, of the United Nations
system and of regional and non-governmental organizations is vital for
the consolidation of democratic processes and changes in the new or
restored democracies, welcomes international aid in support of reforms
in countries with new or restored democracies.  Based upon the crucial
link between democracy, development and human rights, the Declaration
states the conviction that international aid will continue to play an
important role in alleviating the social costs of transition, in
increasing popular participation and in strengthening the rule of law. 
To those ends, it calls specifically for greater cooperation and
coordination among donor countries and institutions and recipient

8.   The Managua Declaration, viewed together with the Vienna
Declaration and Programme of Action, provides an important framework
for the improvement of United Nations efforts aimed at the
strengthening of the protection of human rights, democracy and the
rule of law in the countries in transition.  The vast majority of the
countries with which the Centre's technical cooperation programme
cooperates, are in fact new or restored democracies.  Projects
concerning the broadly understood rule of law constitute one of the
pillars of this programme, which should therefore be seen as a central
vehicle for meeting the concerns expressed in the Managua Declaration
and Plan of Action (A/49/713, annex I).


9.   The rule of law, as the prerequisite of the protection of human
rights, democracy and sustainable development, should continue to
attract the attention of the international community.  The rule of law
is understood as a human right in itself but also as essential means
for the protection of all human rights, civil, cultural, economic,
political and social.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the
central authority for United Nations efforts to assist States in the
strengthening of the rule of law, should receive full support in his
efforts aimed at enhancing system-wide cooperation.  A sustained
commitment of all relevant parts of the United Nations towards
increased cooperation under the guidance of the High Commissioner,
increased resources for both technical and financial assistance and
continued substantive programme development are required in order to
provide an effective response to the growing demand by the Member
States for cooperation with the United Nations regarding the rule of

10.  In order to make substantive progress in strengthening the rule of
law worldwide, the following proposals of the High Commissioner should
be pursued, in addition to those identified in the previous reports of
the Secretary-General (see, in particular, A/50/653):

     (a) Convening by the High Commissioner of a high-level meeting of
United Nations agencies and programmes involved in the promotion of
human rights and of sustainable development, in order to analyse
means, modalities, financing and allocation of responsibilities for
the implementation of a comprehensive United Nations programme of
assistance for the rule of law, taking into account the experience of
the technical cooperation programme of the Centre for Human Rights;

     (b) Development of a structural framework to facilitate ongoing
cooperation between United Nations agencies and programmes involved in
the promotion of human rights and of sustainable development, aimed at
strengthening the rule of law; 

     (c) Strengthening of the technical cooperation programme of the
Centre for Human Rights with regard to the rule of law, through
increased financial and staff resources and continued substantive
programme development, as described in the previous reports of the
Secretary-General (A/49/512 and A/50/653).


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Date last posted: 28 December 1999 17:35:10
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