Deputy Secretary-General Praises American Bar Association as ‘Partner and Friend’ of UN in Advancing Principles of Justice, Rule of Law, at Headquarters Event

12 April 2011

Deputy Secretary-General Praises American Bar Association as ‘Partner and Friend’ of UN in Advancing Principles of Justice, Rule of Law, at Headquarters Event

12 April 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General Praises American Bar Association as ‘Partner and Friend’


of UN in Advancing Principles of Justice, Rule of Law, at Headquarters Event


Following are the remarks of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro to the American Bar Association’s “ABA Day at the UN”, in New York, 11 April:

I am pleased to address the American Bar Association at this year’s “ABA day at the UN”.

The Secretary-General and I attach great importance to the close ties between our organizations.

We are well aware that the ABA speaks out regularly on a range of crucial issues.

You defend human rights and religious freedom.  You combat violence against women.  You stand up for justice, the rule of law and other bedrock principles found in the United Nations Charter.

In doing all of this and more, you benefit society as a whole and advance our efforts to build a better world.

Thank you for that commitment and support.

You gather here at a time of sweeping change in the global arena, historic events that bring great tests for the United Nations and the international community.

The transformation is most dramatic in North Africa and the Middle East.

New voices have emerged, demanding dignity and rights after long years of repression and stagnation. 

The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, if handled properly, represent the greatest opportunity for the evolution of democracy and human rights in a generation.  It is vital that they succeed, and the United Nations is determined to do its part.

In contrast to those largely peaceful protests and processes, the situation in Libya has turned violent.  The international community has acted together, and in timely fashion, saving thousands of lives. 

Our focus now is on protecting civilians, ensuring access to desperately needed humanitarian supplies, and reaching a sustainable political solution that safeguards the welfare of the Libyan people.

We are also at a critical juncture in Côte d’Ivoire, where a democratically-elected President has been unable to take power in the face of what the Secretary-General has described as illegitimate and violent efforts by his predecessor to stay on. 

The United Nations, including through our peacekeeping mission on the ground, has stood firm in seeking to uphold the will of the Ivorian people, as expressed clearly through two rounds of voting.  As we meet today, events have been unfolding dramatically on the ground.  There is hopefully now an end in sight. 

Moreover, with Africa expected to have 16 presidential elections this year alone, what happens in Côte d’Ivoire has huge implications for democracy on the continent.

Each of these situations has its own dynamic, its own unique circumstances, and the people themselves will determine their respective futures.  But common to all of them, is the aspiration to lead better lives.

And while events are still unfolding, one lesson we can draw is the importance of the nexus between poverty, unemployment and inequality and their explosive effect when combined with deficits in governance, freedoms and social justice.

For this reason, economic development continues to be a top priority for the United Nations, and a crucial complement to our work on peace and security.

The Millennium Development Goals — the MDGs — remain our framework and blueprint for fighting extreme poverty.

Launched in the year 2000, the eight goals are a promise to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.  They are a set of time-bound and quantified targets for reducing extreme poverty and hunger, improving maternal and child health, increasing access to education and protecting the global environment — all by the year 2015.

This is not only a moral imperative.  Achieving the Millennium Development Goals is also a strategic and economic necessity. 

Countries that attain sustained development can participate more fully in the global economy, and provide their people with the opportunities and freedoms with which to improve their lives.  Investing in development is smart investing.

Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has been remarkable.  Many countries, including the poorest, have succeeded in pulling people out of poverty, saving the lives of children and ensuring that they attend school and have access to clean water.  However, differences exist between and within countries.

In addition, external shocks have set us back considerably.  The global economic crisis, combined with the food and energy crises and a series of devastating natural disasters, have shown us that progress can be stalled and even reversed.  The earthquake and tsunami in Japan has reminded yet again that no country — rich or poor — is immune to disasters, and every country can do more in terms of disaster risk reduction.

We need to remain focused on what we can do now to meet these challenges and accelerate progress to 2015.

At the Millennium Development Goals Summit last September, the Secretary-General launched a Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which attracted $40 billion of hard commitments from Member States and a wide variety of donors.

To address both the short-term emergency and long-term interventions for sustainable food production and nutrition, the Secretary-General has established a High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis.  The Task Force’s recommendations offer concrete measures to address the double challenge of food and nutrition security.

Next month in Istanbul, a major United Nations conference will focus attention on the world’s least developed countries — not just their needs but the significant opportunities for the business and investment communities.

And next year in Brazil, the world will gather for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — namely, the Rio+20 Conference. 

This is an opportunity to renew the world’s commitment to a development path that works for all people, today and tomorrow.

Two major factors continue to be crucial to the development agenda.  First, effective and accountable leadership.  And second, donor support.  For our part, United Nations organizations are increasingly “delivering as one”, though of course we are constantly trying to strengthen our performance.

The topic that has brought us together today — the rule of law — has also figured prominently in the events that are filling the headlines.  After all, people are demanding not only jobs and opportunities, but also the legal underpinnings of democratic governance.  This is an expanding area for the United Nations.

We are providing rule of law assistance in many contexts, from peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and crisis situations to long-term development.  At least 40 United Nations entities are conducting activities in more than 125 Member States in every region of the world.

You may recall from our previous interaction that the Secretary-General established a Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group four years ago.  The Group brings together the heads of the nine UN departments and agencies most engaged on rule of law

The Group has developed system-wide policy directives in the form of what we call Guidance Notes of the Secretary-General.

One such note covers assistance to constitution-making processes, reflecting the frequency with which Member States have been seeking United Nations engagement and expertise in this area.

Another such note is meant to advance our fight against impunity, and focuses on the United Nations’ Approach to Transitional Justice to help societies come to terms with a legacy of large-scale abuses.

United Nations assistance also includes the provision of technical assistance to strengthen domestic judiciaries, in particular in the light of the principle of complementarity as enshrined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and as outlined to you earlier today by the United Nations Legal Counsel.

The United Nations most important partners in this work are national Governments that are recipients of rule of law assistance, as well as other stakeholders within those societies.  Yet too many such voices have tended to be absent from global discussions.

That is why the Secretary-General has called for the creation of a forum for national actors from recipient countries in which they have a platform to express their perspectives on the effectiveness of rule of law assistance.  And that is why we have also just issued an important report, entitled New Voices: National Perspectives on Rule of Law Assistance, which draws on consultations with sixteen rule of law policy-makers and practitioners from 13 countries in several regions.

Our hope is that the report’s conclusions and recommendations will not only broaden the debate, but also help make rule of law assistance more sustainable and effective.

Today’s thematic debate taking place in the General Assembly is another notable step in our efforts to strengthen this work.  It marks the first time since the 2005 World Summit that the General Assembly meet in plenary to discuss the rule of law. 

And it will help prepare for the high-level event on the rule of law that the General Assembly has decided to hold in September 2012. 

Our hope is that the September event will mark a turning point in strengthening political and financial commitment to efforts at the national and international levels.

This is only a snapshot of the many and varied demands currently being dealt with here at the United Nations.  I trust that during the course of this afternoon you will also have an opportunity to engage with some of my senior colleagues on their particular areas of work and expertise.

In closing, let me repeat something the Secretary-General has stressed to his senior advisers, to the leadership of the entire United Nations system, and to the staff.

People are looking to the United Nations to deliver across an expanding roster of crisis and need.  This is an era of higher expectations and diminishing resources.

In this age of austerity, the United Nations is committed to doing more with less.  Accountability, transparency, effectiveness — these are our watchwords. Real results that answer real needs, in real time — these are our objectives.

Thank you once again for your work in promoting the rule of law and thereby advancing the work of the United Nations.  The United Nations is fortunate to count the ABA as a good partner and friend, and we look forward to further cooperation towards the goals we share and hold dear. 

Thank you for your attention.  And I look forward to hearing some of your thoughts and questions on these issues.

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