Resources Allocated for Strengthening Rule of Law Have Fallen Short, Deputy Secretary-General Says in Remarks to Sixth Committee

12 October 2010

Resources Allocated for Strengthening Rule of Law Have Fallen Short, Deputy Secretary-General Says in Remarks to Sixth Committee

12 October 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Resources Allocated for Strengthening Rule of Law Have Fallen Short,


Deputy Secretary-General Says in Remarks to Sixth Committee


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks on the rule of law at a meeting of the Sixth Committee (Legal) in New York, 12 October:

Let me first congratulate you, Madam Chair, on your election.  I have full confidence that you will use your expertise to successfully lead the work of this Committee.  I also extend my congratulations to the other members of the Bureau.

The rule of law is a broad and complex concept, embedded in the history of all cultures and nations, as well as in the long-standing efforts of States to create an international community based on law.  Strengthening the rule of law is central to achieving the vision of the United Nations for a just, secure and peaceful world.

It is linked to critical goals such as poverty reduction and sustainable human development, as well as to peacebuilding and peacekeeping, accountability for gross violations of human rights, and combating organized crime and terrorism.  It is also integrally tied to global governance, the theme of the presidency of the General Assembly this session.

I am honoured to address the Sixth Committee for the fourth year of its consideration of this important agenda item.  To help the Committee focus its deliberations, the annual report of the Secretary-General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule-of-law activities provides an overview of the extensive efforts undertaken by the United Nations.

The engagement of this Committee has been crucial to maintaining international attention.  With the support of this Committee, the Organization is refining its understanding of the rule of law at the international level.  The recent attention by the Security Council is also timely and welcome.

Over the past year, we have again seen the importance of international judicial and non-judicial mechanisms that promote compliance with international law and contribute to conflict prevention as well as efforts to combat impunity.  These mechanisms, however, require further strengthening.

At the Review Conference of the Rome Statute earlier this year, States reaffirmed their commitment to its full implementation.  And they reaffirmed that international justice is complementary to national justice.  The international community must contribute more to positive complementarity by further reinforcing or developing national capacity to combat impunity.

I encourage those Member States that have not done so, to accede to major international instruments, including two that will mark important anniversaries in 2011: the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Further, the implementation of international norms at the national level remains a critical challenge.  It is hence most welcome that this year’s debate in this Committee will focus on the sub-topic of the laws and practices of Member States in implementing international law.  This year’s report seeks to contribute to this debate by sharing the experiences of United Nations mechanisms and approaches, such as model laws, peer reviews and treaty-based periodic reviews that have positively affected implementation by Member States.

These experiences show that Member States are assisted in their domestic implementation of standards by increasing linkages between monitoring and review mechanisms, and by targeted capacity-building and technical assistance.  The Secretary-General’s report also provides an update on efforts to enhance the coherence and coordination of United Nations rule-of-law activities.

We have come a long way since Member States, in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, requested both States and this Organization to strengthen their attention to the rule of law.  The United Nations assists national authorities in more than 125 Member States in every region of the world and in all contexts, from conflict prevention to peacekeeping to development.

In almost 60 countries, at least three United Nations entities are engaged in such support.  Five or more entities are carrying out activities in more than 35 countries, 17 of which host United Nations missions engaged in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

The overall trend is towards joint and comprehensive initiatives by key operational entities, particularly in conflict and post-conflict States.  Joint efforts are being undertaken by the Department of Political Affairs, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and others in Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere.

At the regional and subregional levels, the United Nations is partnering with others to increase capacities to effectively tackle transnational organized crime and corruption.  The West African Coast Initiative is one such example.

The Rule of Law Resource and Coordination Group, which I have the honour to chair, brings together nine United Nations entities and has made steady progress, implementing its first joint strategic plan covering the period 2009 to 2011.

Recent achievements include the development and issuance by the Secretary-General of a common approach to transitional justice.  Steps are also being taken to enhance common approaches to complex issues such as land tenure, sexual violence and informal justice systems.

Progress has also been made in two target countries.  In Liberia and Nepal, we are developing a joint United Nations programme to achieve more strategic and coordinated delivery of rule-of-law assistance in support of, and in cooperation with, national actors.  Increasing the visibility of our efforts in those countries will be critical, as will the availability of financial and other resources.

Also this year, we brought together 15 leaders from a range of developing and post-conflict countries to review the effectiveness of rule-of-law assistance from their national perspectives.  Despite the diversity of countries and expertise, consensus emerged on the imperative of prioritizing national capacity and ownership to manage reform across the many complex institutions that contribute to the rule of law.  There was also a recognition of the need to better address issues related to traditional as well as informal justice systems.

The final outcome of the joint strategic plan is to support Member States in holding a high-level event of the General Assembly to reiterate Member States’ commitment to the rule of law at the national and international levels.  It has been five years since Heads of State and Government discussed this matter.  A high-level event would allow for a review of what more needs to be done.  The Secretary-General would welcome such an initiative of Member States in 2011.

Despite this progress, we continue to face critical gaps and challenges.  We require your steadfast support to address them.  Since 2006, the United Nations system has enhanced its capacities, including through the recent establishment of the Standing Justice and Corrections Capacity, alongside the Standing Police Capacity in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

UNDP has launched global programmes on rule of law and access to justice in its Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, and its Bureau for Development Policy.  The deployable mediation team of the Department of Political Affairs provides advice on rule-of-law issues, such as constitution-making.

Still, the financial resources allocated for strengthening the rule of law have fallen short, especially when compared to statements by Member States about the importance they attach to this issue.  More needs to be done to enable the Organization to better recruit, train and retain high-quality personnel and deploy them in a rapid, consistent and predictable manner.

The external environment, which includes donors and providers of bilateral assistance, remains fragmented.  This crowded field spans the legal, development, security and political disciplines.  Recipients of assistance are not sufficiently part of policy discussions on the rule of law.  It is time to think creatively about developing a global forum for dialogue among all stakeholders.

To ensure early and strategic responses, we require, in close cooperation with national actors, more consistent and all-encompassing needs and threat assessments.  We must also take a strategic, system-wide and sector-wide approach, which includes security-sector reform and equal attention to all components of the civil and criminal justice system, including prisons.  Better and ongoing monitoring is also required to evaluate the impact of our efforts.

Finally, we must be ready to address the political and institutional aspects of rule-of-law development.  The rule of law is linked to sovereignty, control over the use of force and resources, and other sensitive matters.

We thank Member States for their generous contributions, which will help sustain what has been set in motion.  We look forward to doing even more to realize our vision of a world governed by the rule of law.

I wish you fruitful deliberations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.