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Sixty-fifth session

The rule of law at the national and international levels (Agenda item 85)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/65/100)

This item was included in the provisional agenda of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, in 2006, at the request of Liechtenstein and Mexico (A/61/142). The Assembly considered the item from its sixty-first to its sixty-third sessions (resolutions 61/39, 62/70 and 63/128).

At its sixty-fourth session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit his next annual report on United Nations rule of law activities pursuant to paragraph 5 of resolution 63/128, taking note of paragraph 97 of his report contained in document A/64/298; invited the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and the International Law Commission to continue to comment, in their respective reports to the Assembly, on their current roles in promoting the rule of law; invited the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and the Rule of Law Unit to continue to interact with Member States on a regular basis, in particular in informal briefings; and invited Member States to focus their comments in the Sixth Committee debate at the sixty-fifth session on the sub-topic “Laws and practices of Member States in implementing international law” (resolution 64/116).

Consideration at the sixty-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th and 28th meetings, on 12, 13, and 15 October and on 11 November 2010.

During the 8th meeting, the Deputy Secretary-General made a statement introducing the report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (A/65/318). Statements were made by the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union, the Candidate Countries Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Ukraine and Azerbaijan aligned themselves to the statement), New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Ghana (on behalf of the African Group), Indonesia (on behalf of ASEAN), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Liechtenstein, Guatemala, Belarus, Honduras, Zambia, the Russian Federation, Lebanon, Mexico, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Norway, the United States of America, Mozambique, the Republic of Korea, Senegal, Ghana, Monaco, China, Egypt, South Africa, Argentina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Myanmar, the United Republic of Tanzania, Costa Rica, the Syrian Arab Republic, El Salvador, Japan, Turkey, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, India, the Sudan, Azerbaijan, Trinidad and Tobago, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Tunisia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Malaysia and Algeria. Statements were also made by the observers of the Holy See, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Development Law Organization. Israel and Kuwait exercised their right of reply.

In their general observations, many delegations reaffirmed their commitment to uphold and develop an international order based on the rule of law and international law. In this respect, they stressed that the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law are paramount to peace and security, rule of law, the advancement of socioeconomic development and human rights. It was pointed out that the principles enshrined in the Charter provide normative guidance as to the basis of the rule of law at the international level. The view was expressed that the Organization should pay greater attention to the rule of law at the international level. Some delegations expressed concern regarding the negative impact of the resort to unilateral measures on the rule of law at the international level. Several delegations further noted the intrinsic relationship between rule of law at the national and international levels, insisting on the need to maintain a balance in developing both aspects. They reaffirmed the conviction that human rights, the rule of law and democracy are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.

Delegations generally expressed their appreciation for the second annual report of the Secretary-General (A/65/318). A number of delegations expressed regret for the late release of the report.

With reference to the rule of law within the United Nations, delegations underlined the need to reform the UN system, balancing the powers and responsibilities of the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Delegations emphasized the importance of the peaceful settlement of disputes under international law, highlighting the central role of the International Court of Justice. Delegations also referred to the role of other tribunals, specialized in particular branches of international law, such as the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

Delegations attached great importance to the strengthening of international criminal justice and the fight against impunity. The essential role of the International Criminal Court in this regard was noted by some delegations. Some delegations noted the new momentum that the Review Conference of the Rome Statute had brought to efforts to strengthen domestic criminal justice, in line with the principle of complementarity.

With regard to the subtopic “Laws and practices of Member States in implementing international law”, some delegations underlined the importance of full domestic implementation of international obligations for the rule of law at the international level. Many delegations described their national practices with regard to implementing international law in their respective domestic legal systems. Several delegations made reference to the role of regional cooperation and coordination for strengthening the rule of law.

With regard to the role of the UN in promoting the rule of law, delegations underlined the importance of strengthening national capacities of States in domestic implementation of international obligations through enhanced technical assistance and capacity building. Many delegations noted that these activities should be undertaken only at the request of the respective States and in full respect of the specificities of each country’s culture.

Delegations endorsed the idea of convening a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law in 2011, as suggested in the Joint Strategic Plan for 2009-2011 of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, to reiterate States’ commitment to the rule of law at the national and international levels.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 28th meeting, on 11 November 2010, the representative of Mexico, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “The rule of law at the national and international levels” (A/C.6/65/L.17). The Secretary of the Committee made a statement regarding the financial implications of draft resolution A/C.6/65/L.17. The Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/65/L.17 without a vote. Under this draft resolution, the Assembly would call for enhancing dialogue among all stakeholders with a view to placing national perspectives at the centre of rule of law assistance in order to strengthen national ownership, request the Secretary-General to submit, in a timely manner, his next annual report on United Nations rule of law activities, and decide to convene a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels during the high-level segment of its sixty-seventh session, the modalities of which would be finalized during the sixty-sixth session. The Assembly would also invite Member States to focus their comments in the upcoming Sixth Committee debate on the sub-topic “rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict situations”, without prejudice to the consideration of the item as a whole, and invite the Secretary-General to provide information on this sub-topic in his report, after seeking the views of Member States.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-sixth session (2011).