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General Assembly Interactive Thematic Debate
The rule of law and global challenges

“Promoting universal adherence to and implementation of the rule of law at the national and international levels”

11 April 2011, New York

The President of the 65th session of the General Assembly, in partnership with the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and the Rule of Law Unit, will convene an interactive thematic debate of the General Assembly to examine how strengthening the rule of law can assist in addressing the key global challenges the international community is facing today.


The interactive thematic debate is a key step in the process leading to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on rule of law, mandated for the high-level week of the Assembly’s 67th session. It will help draw out common ground among Member States and foster agreement on the modalities of this high-level meeting, to be finalized during the 66th session (A/RES/65/32). A thematic debate on rule of law and global challenges in the spring of 2011 is thus a critical stepping stone in the process leading up to the high-level debate to focus Member States’ attention and develop momentum for potential outputs for the high-level meeting of the General Assembly.


The rule of law is a principle of governance which lies at the heart of the United Nations’ mission. It is an end in itself as well as a means to attain the fundamental goals of the Charter in the fields of peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. In the 2005 World Summit Outcome (A/RES/60/1), Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter and international law and to an international order based on the rule of law, which is essential for peaceful coexistence and cooperation among States. They also acknowledged that the rule of law at the national and international levels is essential for sustained economic growth, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger. Since the 61st session of the General Assembly, the Sixth Committee has considered every year the agenda item “The rule of law at the national and international levels.”



The one-day interactive debate will be opened by the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General, followed by two keynote addresses, two thematic panel discussions and a wrap-up session. An interactive discussion will be part of each panel. The format will allow for the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders involved in strengthening the rule of law, including Member States, the United Nations system and civil society.

Panel 1: “Rule of law and conflict situations”
Conflict prevention involves measures targeted at reducing the risk of conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management and laying the foundations for sustainable peace and development. Essential to these tasks is enhancing the delivery of security and justice, including through strengthened law enforcement, judicial and corrections services, legal protection and access to justice for all and the peaceful settlement of disputes within communities. Reinforcing capacities in these areas also plays a critical role in peacebuilding in the aftermath of violent conflict. At the international level, a rules-based international system and dispute settlement mechanisms, such as the International Court of Justice, as well as non-judicial ones, play an important role in preventing conflict. Transitional justice mechanisms which address the legacy of large-scale human rights abuses can contribute to achieving the broader objectives of prevention of further conflict, peacebuilding and reconciliation.

Key questions:

Panel 2: “Rule of law and development”
Access to justice and the rule of law are critical to creating an overall enabling environment in countries for social and economic progress and achievement of the MDGs. Addressing poverty reduction involves ensuring that the poor are able to adequately voice their needs, seek redress against injustice, protect or leverage their resources, participate in public life, and influence policies that ultimately shape their lives. An effective legal and judicial system with harmonized investment protection and trade laws can also spur economic progress and improve living conditions. In today’s globalized world, development is also increasingly affected by transnational challenges, such as transnational crime and corruption. To address them, global responses, grounded in the rule of law at the national and international levels as well as in local needs and realities, are essential.

Key questions:

Wrap-up session: “The United Nations and Global Governance: Our shared responsibility in strengthening the rule of law”
Drawing on the experience in all key areas of the rule of law discussed throughout the event, the wrap-up session will summarise the progress that has been achieved by the UN since the 2005 World Summit Outcome in strengthening the rule of law. It will further explore how to best address the most pressing global challenges to effectiveness of rule of law assistance in the context of global governance. A focus will be given to the need for increased partnerships and resources and for greater coordination and coherence among all stakeholders involved in strengthening the rule of law at the national and international levels, including steps that can be taken to enhance UN cooperation and coordination with international actors, regional organizations and other expert networks.



Contact Information

Professor Giuseppe Nesi, Legal Adviser, Office of the President of the General Assembly (nesi@un.org)