Sixth Committee (Legal) — 67th session

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

Summary of work

Background (source: A/67/100)

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-fifth sessions (resolutions 61/39, 62/70, 63/128, 64/116 and 65/32).

At its sixty-sixth session, the General 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 the organizational arrangements for the high-level meeting of the Assembly during the high-level segment of its sixty-seventh session, on the topic “The rule of law at the national and international levels”, to be held as a one-day plenary on 24 September 2012. The Assembly requested the President of the General Assembly, in consultation with Member States, to finalize the organizational arrangements of the meetings, and requested the Secretary-General to submit a report for the consideration of Member States in preparation of the high-level meeting. The Assembly invited Member States as well as the Secretary-General to suggest possible subtopics for future Sixth Committee debates for inclusion in the forthcoming annual report, with a view to assisting the Sixth Committee in choosing future subtopics (resolution 66/102).

Consideration at the sixty-seventh session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 24th and 25th meetings, on 10 and 11 October and on 9 and 16 November 2012 (seeA/C.6/67/SR.4, 5, 6, 7, 24 and 25). For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General entitled “Delivering justice: programme of action to strengthen the rule of law at the national and international levels” (A/66/749) and the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (A/67/290).

During the 4th meeting, the Deputy Secretary-General made a statement.

Statements were made by the representatives of Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Iran (Islamic Republic of)(on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), the European Union (also on behalf of its Member States; the Acceding Country Croatia, the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland and Serbia, the Countries of Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, aligned themselves with this declaration), Finland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Switzerland, Senegal, Austria, Liechtenstein, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Egypt, Kenya, Belarus, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States of America, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the Republic of Korea, Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Guinea, Pakistan, Japan, India, Chile, Malaysia, Morocco, Tunisia, Thailand, the Sudan, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, the United Republic of Tanzania, Myanmar, Ukraine, South Africa, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Mozambique, Argentina, Slovenia, Nicaragua, Poland, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), the Congo, Gabon, the Russian Federation, China, Maldives, Nigeria, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Greece, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Qatar, Eritrea, Israel, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Algeria, Libya, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Niger, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, as well as the observer for Palestine. Statements were also made by the observers for the International Development Law Organization, the International Criminal Court and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The representatives of Chile, Morocco, Algeria, Israel, Kuwait, the observer for Palestine and the Syrian Arab Republic made statements in the exercise of the right of reply.

Several delegations welcomed the convening of the high level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels on 24 September 2012 and the adoption of the Declaration on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels. Some delegations regretted that the contribution of civil society organizations was not acknowledged in the Declaration.  A view was expressed that the Declaration should have adopted a more action-oriented approach and set a follow-up mechanism. Some delegations expressed reservations regarding some provisions of the Declaration.  Some other delegations emphasized the need for a concrete implementation of the principles recognized in the Declaration.

In their general observations, many delegations affirmed 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 international peace and security, the advancement of socioeconomic development and human rights.

Several delegations reaffirmed the duty of States to settle their disputes by peaceful means and acknowledged the important role played in this regard by international courts and tribunals, hybrid courts, treaty bodies and truth and reconciliation commissions, as well as the necessity to fight impunity for serious international crimes, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some delegations called on all States that have not done so to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and its amendments. Some delegations emphasized the importance of rule of law in building sustainable peace in countries in conflict and post-conflict situations. Some delegations expressed concerns about the application of unilateral measures in international relations. Some delegations described regional efforts aiming at reinforcing the rule of law.

Some delegations emphasized the necessity to ratify and implement effectively international instruments pertaining to the rule of law at the national level. Some delegations stressed the need of strengthening support to States in the domestic implementation of their respective international obligations through enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building. Some delegations underlined the critical importance of national ownership in rule of law activities. Reference was made to the importance of the Treaty Event in strengthening the rule of law. Many delegations described their national practices with regard to the implementation of the rule of law in their respective domestic legal systems.

Some delegations stressed the need to ensure respect for the rule of law within the United Nations. The importance of maintaining the balance between the principal organs of the Organization was stressed. Some delegations called for a revitalization of the General Assembly, as well as a reform of the Security Council and of the Bretton Woods institutions. The new Security Council sanctions regime was commended. Some delegations made reference to the application of Palestine for membership of the United Nations.

Several delegations thanked the Secretary-General for his reports on the rule of law (A/66/749 and A/67/290). Some delegations expressed their appreciation for the work carried out by the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, supported by the Rule of Law Unit, and for its efforts in contributing to the advancement of the rule of law and the coordination of United Nations rule of law activities. Some delegations also commended the administration of justice system and the new Security Council sanctions regime. The work of the International Law Commission, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, as well as the United Nations Audiovisual Library, were further commended. The value of the activities undertaken under the Programme of Assistance was stressed.

Regarding the future work on the topic, support was expressed by several delegations for further General Assembly discussion on the rule of law, particularly in the Sixth Committee. Some delegations suggested that the General Assembly should reflect on the linkages between the rule of law and the three pillars of the United Nations, especially the inter-relationship between rule of law and sustainable development in the post-2015 international development agenda. Support was expressed for the further consideration of sub-topics on the principles of the rule of law, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, the relationship between rule of law and democracy, rule of law and security as well as legitimacy and balance of powers in the context of the rule of law. It was suggested that the sub-topic on the reinforcement of national judicial mechanisms could also be considered. It was observed that the sub-topics proposed by the Secretary-General were not suitable for the Sixth Committee and it was therefore suggested that the following sub-topics be considered: “The rule of law and the peaceful settlement of international disputes”; “The rule of law and the use of force in the international relations”; “The rule of law and combating terrorism and transnational organized crime”; “The rule of law and economic development” and “The rule of law and the reform of the international financial system”. It was also suggested that topics such as reform of the Security Council, sanctions and extraterritorial application of domestic laws should also be considered.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 24th meeting, on 9 November, 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.6/67/L.9). At the 25th meeting, on 16 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/67/L.9, without a vote.

Under the terms of this draft resolution, the General Assembly would, inter alia: recall the 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 the Declaration adopted at that meeting; reiterate the request to the Secretary-General to ensure greater coordination and coherence among United Nations entities and with donors and recipients; and call upon the Secretary-General and the United Nations system to systematically address, as appropriate, aspects of the rule of law in relevant activities, including the participation of women in rule of law-related activities, recognizing the importance of the rule of law to virtually all areas of United Nations engagement. The Assembly would further decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of its sixty-eighth session and invite Member States to focus their comments in the upcoming Sixth Committee debates on the sub-topics “The rule of law and the peaceful settlement of international disputes” (sixty-eighth session) and “Sharing States’ national practices in strengthening the rule of law through access to justice” (sixty-ninth session).

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-eighth session (2013).

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