Sixth Committee (Legal) — 76th session
The rule of law at the national and international levels (Agenda item 85)
- Authority: resolution 75/141
- A/76/235 — Report of the Secretary-General: Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities
- A/C.6/76/L.9 — Draft resolution
Summary of work
Background (source: A/76/100)
The item entitled “The rule of law at the national and international levels” was included in the agenda of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly at the request of Liechtenstein and Mexico (A/61/142). The Assembly has had the item on its agenda since its sixty-first session (resolutions 61/39, 62/70, 63/128, 64/116, 65/32, 66/102, 67/1 (declaration of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels), 67/97, 68/116, 69/123, 70/118, 71/148, 72/119, 73/207, 74/191 and 75/141).
At its seventy-fifth session, the Assembly allocated the item to the Sixth Committee, where statements in the debate were made by the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination and by 72 delegations (see A/C.6/75/SR.7–9, 16 and 19). The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit, in a timely manner, his next annual report on United Nations rule of law activities, in accordance with paragraph 5 of its resolution 63/128, addressing, in a balanced manner, the national and international dimensions of the rule of law, and invited Member States and the Secretary-General to suggest possible subtopics for future Sixth Committee debates (resolution 75/141).
Consideration at the seventy-sixth session
At the 4th meeting, on 8 October 2021, the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, made a statement.
Statements were made by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Morocco (on behalf of the African Group), the European Union (also on behalf of its member States (the candidate countries of the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, aligned themselves with the statement)), Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden)), Canada [in English] (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ)), Latvia (also on behalf of Estonia and Lithuania), Cuba, Singapore, Sierra Leone, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Honduras, the Philippines, Egypt, Belarus, South Africa, Colombia, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the United States of America, Israel, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Chile, Switzerland, Peru, Croatia, Guatemala, Japan, India, Jordan, Slovenia, the Syrian Arab Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Georgia, Eritrea, China, Rwanda, Ukraine, Cameroon, Viet Nam, Maldives, Argentina, Algeria, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Russian Federation, Ethiopia, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Austria, Thailand, the Sudan, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Zambia, Haiti, Timor-Leste, Brazil, and Tunisia.
The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.
Delegations generally thanked the Secretary-General for his report on “Strengthening and Coordinating the United Nations Rule of Law Activities” (A/76/235), outlining efforts to uphold the rule of law at the national and international levels. Several delegations shared the concern expressed in the report about challenges posed to the rule of law by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as by new technologies. Some delegations expressed that the report did not fully explore certain issues impacting the rule of law such as the effects of the unilateral coercive measures, the adequacy of measures to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and the lack of a comprehensive international definition of terrorism. It was also mentioned that the report should cover the national and international dimensions of the rule of law in equal proportions and refrain from imposing universal standards on States.
In their general observations, many delegations highlighted their belief in the fundamental role of the rule of law. Its importance was emphasized in advancing the three pillars of the United Nations (i.e., peace and security, human rights and development) and in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 16 and access to justice for all. In that regard, several delegations called for the implementation of legal assistance programs at the national level. Delegations also highlighted the particular need to ensure access to justice during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and shared their domestic experience on the use of new technologies to overcome challenges posed by the sanitary restrictions.
A number of delegations stressed the need for the promotion of the rule of law in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter, including respect for the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States as well as the right to self-determination, refraining from the threat or use of force, non-interference in domestic affairs and respect for the peaceful settlement of disputes. The need to promote and respect international law, including human rights and humanitarian law rules was also emphasized. Some delegations called for increased accountability at the national level for serious crimes committed under international law. Several delegations further highlighted the importance of international cooperation, democracy and multilateralism in advancing the rule of law at the international level. Views were also expressed that multilateralism was under threat.
Several delegations referenced and supported the subtopic proposed by the Secretary General in his report: “Promoting a people-centred rule of law at the national and international levels as the foundation of our common agenda”. It was nonetheless voiced that a more focused subtopic could benefit from the expertise of the Sixth Committee. Member States were called upon to reach a consensus on the selection of a sub-topic to be included in the provisional agenda of the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly.
Delegations welcomed measures supported by the United Nations relating to justice, corrections and security institutions, as well as the prevention and the countering of terrorism, and support for accountability. Some delegations also expressed their appreciation for the capacity-building and technical assistance activities of the United Nations, while others underlined that enhanced initiatives were needed and called for more capacity-building programmes. Delegations also stressed the need to strengthen the central role of the General Assembly, while others emphasized the need to reform the Security Council.
Several delegations acknowledged the significant contributions of the International Law Commission to the codification and progressive development of international law. Some delegations also expressed their appreciation of the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.
Delegations also expressed their support for the International Court of Justice (ICJ), especially its role in encouraging the peaceful settlement of disputes. Several delegations emphasized the value of rulings of international courts and tribunals, particularly those of the ICJ, and called for respect of their decisions. The importance of the pacific settlement of disputes and recourse to the ICJ through contentious and advisory proceedings was stressed. In this regard, the General Assembly and the Security Council were also called upon to exercise their power to request advisory opinions on any legal question from the International Court of Justice, whenever appropriate. A number of delegations further called upon States to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ.
Delegations further expressed their support for the International Criminal Court and encouraged Member States to become a party to the Rome Statute. Work performed by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone was commended. While some delegations welcomed the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 (IIIM), others criticized the creation of such mechanism. Some delegations also welcomed the work of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM). A number of delegations also expressed their support for the work conducted by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. In that regard, a call was also made on all parties to fully respect international law, in particular, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS).
Delegations also noted the role of alternative forms of dispute resolutions, highlighting the importance of the truth, justice and reconciliation mechanisms, and called for victim-oriented justice and respect of the rights of victims.
Several delegations emphasized the importance of maintaining a balance between the national and international dimensions of the rule of law. Others expressed their preference to focus more on the rule of law at the international level. It was noted that there was no single model for the development of the rule of law at the national level.
Delegations also highlighted the role of international treaties, considering their observance as central in maintaining good relations among States and in upholding the rule of law at the international level. Some delegations also emphasized the importance of rules of customary international law.
Commenting on challenges posed to the rule of law, including by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, climate change, cybercrime and other risks associated with technological development, delegations called for the study and sharing of best practices that emerged during the pandemic. Several delegations highlighted efforts made in promoting gender equality and providing security and justice for women and girls. Some delegations further underlined the importance of ending all forms of violence against women and girls, while others noted the negative effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on women and girls.
Several delegations expressed concerns over corruption and emphasized the need to develop strategies to combat it, with some sharing their respective anti-corruption initiatives at the national level.
Archived videos and summaries of plenary meetings
Action taken by the Sixth Committee
At the 28th meeting, on 10 November 2021, the representative of Mexico, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced the draft resolution entitled “The rule of law at the national and international levels” (A/C.6/76/L.9). The Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/76/L.9 without a vote at its 29th meeting on 18 November 2021. The representative of the Syrian Arab Republic spoke in explanation of position after the adoption of the draft resolution.
The draft resolution calls on the General Assembly to recall the 2012 high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels, to take note of the report of the Secretary-General submitted pursuant to paragraph 41 of the declaration adopted at that meeting, and requests the Sixth Committee to continue its consideration of ways and means of further developing the linkages between the rule of law and the three pillars of the United Nations. The resolution also calls 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 and requests the Secretary-General to submit, in a timely manner, his next annual report on United Nations rule of law activities, in accordance with paragraph 5 of its resolution 63/128 of 11 December 2008, addressing, in a balanced manner, the national and international dimensions of the rule of law. The draft resolution further calls upon the General Assembly to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-seventh session the item entitled “The rule of law at the national and international levels” and invites Member States to focus their comments during the upcoming Sixth Committee debate on the subtopic “The impacts of the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the rule of law at the national and international levels”.
Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly
This agenda item will be considered at the seventy-seventh session (2022).