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Sixty-sixth session

The rule of law at the national and international levels (Agenda item 83)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/66/100)

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-fourth sessions (resolutions 61/39, 62/70, 63/128 and 64/116).
At its sixty-fifth session, the Assembly called 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, requested the Secretary-General to submit, in a timely manner, his next annual report on United Nations rule of law activities and decided to convene a high-level meeting of the 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 also invited 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 invited the Secretary-General to provide information on the sub-topic in his report after seeking the views of Member States (resolution 65/32).

Consideration at the sixty-sixth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 5th, 6th, 7th and 30th meetings, on 5 and 6 October and on 11 November 2011 (see A/C.6/66/SR.5, 6, 7 and 30).
During the 5th meeting, the Deputy Secretary-General made a statement. Statements were made by the representatives of  Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Viet Nam (on behalf of the States of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Egypt, Senegal, Switzerland, Guatemala, Norway, China, the United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa, Liechtenstein, the Syrian Arab Republic, Japan, Colombia, the United States of America, Zambia, Kuwait, Myanmar, El Salvador, Azerbaijan, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, Ethiopia, the Russian Federation, Costa Rica, Argentina, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Côte d’Ivoire, Bangladesh, Cuba, Kenya, Tunisia and the Sudan. A statement was made by the Permanent Observer of Palestine. Statements were also made by the observers of the International Development Law Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The representatives of Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine exercised their right of reply.

In their general observations, delegations emphasized that the rule of law at the national and international levels was an essential condition for peaceful cooperation and coexistence among States, and critical to effectively addressing global challenges on the basis of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Delegations referred to theintrinsic relationship between the rule of law at the national and international levels. Some delegations referred to the link between development and the rule of law. Other delegations emphasized that the promotion of human rights and democratic values were at the core of rule of law at the national and international levels. Some other delegations were of the view that more attention to rule of law at the international level was warranted at this time. Avoiding unauthorized intervention in States’ internal affairs or the use of force was also emphasized by some delegations.

Some delegations highlighted the central role of the United Nations in promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and expressed their appreciation for the work carried out by the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, supported by the Rule of Law Unit for their efforts in contributing to the advancement of the rule of law and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities. The issuance of a guidance note by the Secretary-General in May 2011 on the United Nations approach to rule of law assistance at the international level was welcomed.

Delegations highlighted the significance of the peaceful settlement of disputes under international law and the important role played by the International Court of Justice, as well as the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and hybrid tribunals.

With regard to the subtopic “The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict situations”, delegations commented on the issues of combating impunity and strengthening criminal justice, the role and future of national and international transitional justice and accountability mechanisms as well as informal justice systems.  Some delegations noted the growing trend towards universal agreement on the need to combat impunity for serious crimes. The recent decision of the Human Rights Council to appoint a United Nations Special Rapporteur for promoting the right to truth, to justice, to reparation and the guarantee of non-recurrence in cases of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law was welcomed by some delegations.

Some delegations shared their experiences in restoring the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations. It was pointed out that there was no one-size-fits all approach in assisting States afflicted by conflicts to restore the rule of law in their territories. 

Delegations expressed support for the decision of the General Assembly to convene a high-level meeting of the Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels during the high-level segment of its sixty-seventh session, and expressed their willingness to participate in the deliberations to this end.  It was noted that, following the high-level meeting with concrete results, rule of law issues should remain high on the international agenda.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 30th meeting, on 11 November 2011, the representative of Liechtenstein, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “The rule of law at the national and international levels” (A/C.6/66/L.20) and oral revisions thereto (see A/66/475, para. 5). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.20, as orally revised, without a vote. Also at the same meeting, the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, spoke in explanation of position after the adoption of the draft resolution (see A/C.6/66/SR.30).

Under the terms of this draft resolution, the Assembly would, inter alia, 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 hold a one-day plenary on the rule of law at the national and international levels during the high-level segment of the sixty-seventh session, on 24 September 2012.  The high-level plenary would result in a concise outcome document and the President of the General Assembly would be requested to produce a draft text, in consultation with Member States.  The President of the General Assembly would be requested to finalize, in consultation with Member States, the organizational arrangements of the meetings. The Assembly would also invite Member States as well as the Secretary-General to suggest possible sub-topics for future Sixth Committee debates for inclusion in his forthcoming annual report, with a view to assisting the Sixth Committee in choosing future sub-topics.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-seventh session (2012).