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Sixty-second session

The rule of law at the national and international levels (agenda item 86)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/62/100)

This item was included in the provisional agenda of the sixty-first session at the request of Liechtenstein and Mexico (A/61/142).

At the same session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on matters pertaining to the rule of law at the national and international levels and to submit a report thereon at its sixty-second session; also requested the Secretary-General to prepare an inventory of the current activities of the various organs, bodies, offices, departments, funds and programmes within the United Nations system devoted to the promotion of the rule of law at the national and international levels for submission at its sixty-third session, and to submit an interim report thereon to the Assembly for its consideration at its sixty-second session; and recommended that, as from the sixty-second session and after consultations among Member States, the Sixth Committee should annually choose one or two sub-topics to facilitate a focused discussion for the subsequent session, without prejudice to the consideration of the item as a whole (resolution 61/39).
Consideration at the sixty-second session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 14th, 15th, 16th and 28th meetings, on 25 and 26 October and on 19 November 2007.

Statements were made by the representatives of New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia and Canada), the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Rio Group), Portugal (on behalf of the European Union; the candidate countries: Turkey, Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process; and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and Georgia which aligned themselves with the statement), Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Benin (on behalf of the African Group), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, China, Myanmar, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Guatemala, Sudan, Mexico, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mozambique, Egypt, Bangladesh, Colombia, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Chile, Algeria, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), the United Republic of Tanzania, Japan, Tunisia, Republic of Korea, Kenya, South Africa, the United States, Kuwait, Norway, Israel, Pakistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), El Salvador, the Russian Federation, Morocco, Albania, the Syrian Arab Republic, Latvia, the Holy See (Observer) and the International Development Law Organization (Observer).

Delegations expressed support for the inclusion of this item on the agenda of the Sixth Committee, while indicating that the duplication of work being done in other fora should be avoided. Some delegations were of the view that the Committee should first try to reach a common definition of the rule of law, whereas others considered that the understanding of the concept was sufficiently shared within the Committee, for it to be in a position to start studying further aspects of the topic. Delegations stated that consideration of this item by the Committee should be action-oriented and focused on concrete outcomes.

Delegations welcomed the report of the Secretary-General reflecting the views expressed by Member States on the rule of law (A/62/121 and Add.1) as well as the interim report on the preparation of an inventory of all rule of law activities undertaken by United Nations entities (A/62/261).

The importance of the rule of law both at the national and international levels, and within the Organization itself was emphasized. While some delegations indicated that the General Assembly should give balanced consideration to the national and international aspects of the rule of law, others considered that, as a matter of priority, specific attention should be devoted to what was termed the “international rule of law”. Several delegations described their actions to promote the rule of law at the national level and indicated that international assistance in that field should be provided at the request and with the consent of the national authorities.

As to concrete sub-topics that could be chosen to facilitate a focused discussion of the item, during the discussions, delegations suggested the following: technical assistance and capacity-building, especially for the implementation and interpretation of international obligations and in post-conflict situations; implementation in good faith of international obligations; the role of international tribunals in the peaceful settlement of disputes and the review of corresponding provisions in treaties; coordination and effectiveness of rule of law assistance; strengthening and development of criminal justice at the international and national levels; transitional justice at the national level; and identification of the concept and scope of the rule of law at the national and international levels.

The Deputy-Secretary-General gave an informal briefing on the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, the establishment of which, together with its Secretariat unit, was welcomed by delegations as a significant measure to enhance overall coordination of rule of law activities within the United Nations. The suggestion was made that the progress of the Group should become a regular aspect of discussion of the item by the Committee, some delegations being of the view that the Group and its secretariat Unit should keep the Sixth Committee informed of their work since it was closely linked with the consideration of this item. It was also indicated that the establishment within the Secretariat of the Rule of Law unit was a cross-cutting issue, which deserved to be addressed in plenary. The view was expressed that the role of the Group and the Unit should be confined to operative aspects, with no bearing on policy issues debated elsewhere.

It was indicated that the Group and the Unit should be given adequate resources and cooperation to fulfil their mandate. As to the financing of the unit, some delegations indicated a preference for adequate resources being provided through the regular budget, while others supported funding through assessed contributions. Other delegations expressed the view that the Group and the Unit should be financed within existing resources.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 28th meeting, on 19 November 2007, Liechtenstein introduced and orally revised, on behalf of the Bureau, a draft resolution entitled “The rule of law at the national and international levels” (A/C.6/62/L.9). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/62/L.9, as orally revised, without a vote. The representative of Germany spoke in explanation of position after taking action on the draft resolution.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-third session (2008)