|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Launch of United Nations Rule of Law Indicators
Answering the international community’s call to strengthen and build the rule of law in countries in transition or emerging from conflict, senior United Nations officials today at Headquarters launched a special instrument created to monitor changes in the performance and fundamental characteristics of criminal justice institutions, especially in conflict and post-conflict environments.
“While this would appear to be a rather esoteric topic […] there is a growing demand to better understand the delivery of justice and the impact of all the United Nations efforts in this area,” Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General for the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters. The United Nations Rule of Law Indicators, created in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), was a tool that included 135 indicators covering police, judiciary and corrections intuitions.
The instrument, two years in the making, had already been preliminarily piloted in Haiti and Liberia, and the United Nations was very proud that those Governments had been faithful partners in the endeavour. Overall, the new United Nations tool aimed to highlight successes and shortcomings within national institutions and to monitor changes over time in a given country. “I would like to stress that the Indicators are not meant to serve [as a means] for rating or ranking countries,” he said, emphasizing that they were based on national human rights and criminal justice norms and standards, especially those promulgated by the United Nations.
He said that the Indicators must be implemented in close cooperation with national Governments and would be adopted potentially as an ongoing monitoring mechanism. The tools had been endorsed by the Department of Political Affairs, the Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women and a host of other funds and programmes. The Altus Global Alliance, comprised of six established non-governmental organizations and academic centres, also had participated in the Indicators’ development. “We hope that this instrument will last, and can serve as a unifying measurement tool for the whole UN system and beyond,” he said.
Mr. Titov was joined at the briefing by Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General in the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Jarmo Viinanen, Permanent Representative of Finland, Léo Mérorès, Permanent Representative of Haiti, and Remongar T. Dennis, Deputy Permanent Representative of Liberia.
The rule of law, said Mr. Šimonović, mattered because it was central to the three pillars of the United Nations: security; development; and human rights. “The rule of law is a precondition for security; it ensures investment in countries [and] without it, human rights are nothing more than nice words,” he said. With that in mind, the Indicators being launched today would assist in the assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the rule of law in certain countries. They would also serve as a tool to monitor trends, including whether efforts to implement the rule of law had improved, worsened or stagnated.
In post-conflict situations, he said, the Indicators covered priorities such as police, justice systems and correctional facilities, and measured performance, capacity, integrity and the status of vulnerable groups. Governments would be the primary beneficiaries of the information yielded by the Indicators because they would be able to identify where reforms were needed and judge the performance of reforms already being carried out. He added that civil society actors and Government watchdogs would similarly benefit from the Indicators.
Going forward, he said, it would be necessary to stabilize the Indicators and measure progress. The United Nations hoped to rapidly expand the number of countries in which the Indicators were being used, as well as expand the tool’s reach into other categories, such as property rights and judicial review, which where vital areas of concern for emerging democracies. He hoped the Indicators could be implemented in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, which were currently experiencing huge changes. In the distant future, he hoped the tool could generate momentum for a periodic rule of law review, similar to the Universal Periodic Review process launched four years ago by the Human Rights Council.
Mr. Viinanen, speaking also on behalf of other donor countries, including Australia, Canada, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and United Kingdom, said those countries were pleased with the increasing prominence of rule of law matters in the United Nations and beyond. He also noted that emphasis in the most recent World Development Report that strong rule of law institutions were the single most important factor in preventing fragile and post-conflict countries from slipping into war. With that in mind, national capacity-building should always be at the centre of United Nations activities in such countries, and focus should always be on impact and accountability on the ground.
Mr. Mérorès said the tool could not have been piloted and launched at a better time for his country, which was recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake. The new Government was in place and had prioritized education, environment, employment and the rule of law. “Obviously, the rule of law is the key to achieving the objectives that the Government has set for itself,” he said, adding that the President was poised to embark on a European tour in search of investors to help Haiti build up key institutions, including regarding the rule of law, which would, in turn, increase the confidence of other investors.
Mr. Remongar said that, after the end of the civil war in Liberia, the Government had recognized the importance of the rule of law and had made building relevant institutions central to its development strategy. The country had continued to work with the United Nations to that end and had made much progress. The experience had taught Liberia that education and training, especially in the legal and judicial spheres, were essential to promoting the rule of law. “We still have a long way to go, but we are happy that we had laid the foundation and that we understand that without the rule of law there can be no peace,” he said.
Asked about the connection between human rights and the rule of law, Mr. Šimonović said there were no human rights without the rule of law; the two are very much interrelated. When the United Nations approached the matter, it would ensure that human rights criteria were met.
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