Rule of Law Critical in Preventing Conflict, Providing Platform for Sustainable Economic Development, Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

12 April 2011

Rule of Law Critical in Preventing Conflict, Providing Platform for Sustainable Economic Development, Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

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

Rule of Law Critical in Preventing Conflict, Providing Platform for Sustainable


Economic Development, Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly


Following are the closing remarks of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro at the interactive thematic debate of the General Assembly on “The Rule of Law and Global Challenges”, in New York, 11 April:

I am honoured to close this debate, which I understand has been rich and engaging.

I am particularly grateful to President [Joseph] Deiss for convening the Assembly to address a topic that is close to my heart and which is core to the mission of the United Nations.

In my capacity as Chair of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, which acts as the focal point for the Organization’s engagement on the subject, I welcome the insights provided today by our distinguished panellists.

I also see this debate as reaffirming the vital importance of strengthening the rule of law in addressing today’s global challenges.

The rule of law plays a critical role in preventing conflict and violence, both of which threaten global and regional peace.

It is also essential in providing the platform for stable and sustainable economic development.

Security, access to justice, legal protection for all — these are the building blocks.  They aim to help us resolve disputes within and between States through legal, peaceful means, thereby avoiding recourse to violence.

Since its creation, the United Nations has provided a unique forum through which to seek common solutions to shared problems.

In seeking these solutions, the United Nations has been at the forefront of the development and the promotion of international law, and has assisted Member States in implementing their obligations.

The principle that all individuals and entities, including States, are accountable to the law, lies at the heart of this pursuit.

Judicial and non-judicial mechanisms are critical to ensure compliance and enforcement.

The International Court of Justice has a special role to play in the peaceful settlement of disputes before intractable conflict and post-conflict situations arise.  Where societies are faced with a legacy of widespread human rights violations, transitional justice mechanisms are essential to ensure accountability and achieve reconciliation.

The establishment and functioning of the International Criminal Court illustrates a growing willingness to act against impunity for international crimes, regardless of the political circumstances or the official capacity of alleged offenders.

Of course, accountability alone will not prevent the occurrence of atrocities.  It is critical that conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding are all grounded in a robust rule of law framework that builds effective institutions of governance such as the police, the judiciary, and correctional services.

The changing nature of conflict poses additional challenges.  Threats such as transnational organized crime, terrorism and piracy can destabilize States and regions and create cycles of fragility.  Here, too, the international community’s response must draw on the rule of law, based on local needs and realities and driven by national stakeholders.

Today’s discussion also highlights the critical role played by the rule of law in creating an enabling environment for social and economic progress.

Without properly functioning legal, judicial and law-enforcement institutions, citizens, communities and the private sector cannot participate in economic activities, and those activities will be more fragile and less sustainable.

In post-conflict settings, tools of transitional justice can illustrate the strong link between justice and development.

Reparations, for example, can serve both aims by combining the acknowledgement for past injustices with the provision of resources for those who were most marginalized and vulnerable during a conflict — and who thus need the most help in its aftermath.

More generally, in our efforts to reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we need to improve the quality of justice available to groups that have traditionally been marginalized.

Without such access, they cannot adequately voice their needs, seek redress for injustice, protect or leverage their resources, participate in public life, or influence policies that shape their lives.

The relationship between women’s access to justice and the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals has become increasingly clear, and must receive greater focus.

Our efforts must also encompass investment protection, social standards and trade laws.  Indeed, concepts of law, regulation, rules systems and justice can spur economic progress and improve living conditions.  These, therefore, need to be more fully integrated into those policies aimed at the realization of every individual’s economic and social rights.

We have come a long way since Member States, in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, committed themselves and this Organization to strengthen their engagement on the rule of law at the national and international levels.

The United Nations system continues to enhance its capacities and integrate its work, including through joint programmes.

However, progress remains uneven.  Too often, the efforts of the international community, including those of bilateral donors and assistance providers, have not yielded the expected results.

Moreover, the voices of national actors have largely been absent from the global discussion on rule of law assistance.

Assistance is often piece-meal and donor-driven, resulting in unsustainable results and conflicting approaches to developing justice and security institutions.

Assistance has also suffered from a lack of strategic planning and coherence, which is essential given the wide range of issues and the large number of actors involved.

Our record to date strongly suggests the need for an inclusive international policy forum that brings together all stakeholders.  And I believe that the United Nations could serve as the best natural home for such an initiative.

Throughout the world, the victims of violence and injustice are waiting for us to speak with one voice, and to act together with the determination and commitment this issue deserves.  Next year’s high-level event on the rule of law is a great opportunity, and I look forward to your engagement and contributions.

Let us all do our utmost to better shoulder this shared responsibility.

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