Addressing General Assembly’s Legal Committee, Deputy Secretary-General Outlines United Nations Framework to Bolster Rule of Law, Transitional Justice

5 October 2011

Addressing General Assembly’s Legal Committee, Deputy Secretary-General Outlines United Nations Framework to Bolster Rule of Law, Transitional Justice

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

Addressing General Assembly’s Legal Committee, Deputy Secretary-General Outlines

United Nations Framework to Bolster Rule of Law, Transitional Justice


Following are the remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro to the Sixth Committee (Legal) on the rule of law at national and international levels, today, 5 October, in New York:

Let me first congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on your election.

I also extend my best wishes to the other members of the Bureau as they assume their new duties.

Events this year, especially in Northern Africa and the Middle East, are a reminder of the universality of the quest for “a Government of laws and not of men”.

People are making increasing claims on their Governments for greater transparency, justice and human rights under the banner of the rule of law.  Newly constituted Governments are looking to the United Nations for assistance in drafting constitutions, reforming justice and security institutions and dealing with legacies of past atrocities.

The long-standing engagement of this Committee has been crucial to maintaining international attention on the rule of law at the national and international levels.  With the support of this Committee, the United Nations continues to refine both its understanding of the rule of law and the assistance we provide to Member States.

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.  Our engagement at the international level is rooted in the recognition that an effective multilateral system in accordance with international law is essential to addressing global challenges and threats.

The principle that all individuals and entities — including States — are accountable to the law drives our efforts.  Impartial adjudication is thus critical.  The Secretary-General’s report, which is before you, outlines many activities that can strengthen accountability and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The trend towards greater utilization of treaty-based mechanisms, particularly the International Court of Justice, is welcome and should be encouraged.

With this year’s debate subtopic focusing on the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict settings, the Secretary-General’s report highlights the work of the international and hybrid criminal tribunals that have been created to prosecute those responsible for the worst atrocities of the past decades.

The Organization is also striving to strengthen the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, and is putting together a coherent approach to assisting Member States in fulfilling their primary responsibility to investigate and try perpetrators of serious international crimes.  This assistance can range from supporting complex investigation techniques to developing witness protection agencies.  We also continue to support a variety of other transitional justice mechanisms.  This year alone, Commissions of Inquiry have been mandated in Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Syria.

The Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on the United Nations approach to rule-of-law assistance continues to show its worth in sharpening our work.  As this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the Secretary-General has also issued a Guidance Note on reducing Statelessness in order to raise awareness of this ongoing challenge.

Since the 2005 World Summit, the United Nations has made considerable progress towards greater coherence and coordination of its rule-of-law activities.  Institutional arrangements, including the establishment of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, which I chair, have helped us to achieve a clearer policy framework by developing joint United Nations approaches on critical cross-cutting issues such as transitional justice, constitution-making and statelessness.

Recently, the Group piloted the first United Nations system-wide unified rule-of-law training programme, which will ensure that all staff understand the Organization’s unified approach to rule of law and help ensure coordinated United Nations support.

The United Nations is currently providing rule-of-law assistance in over 150 Member States.  These activities take place in all contexts, including development, fragility, conflict and peacebuilding, including in 17 peace operations with rule of law mandates.  Three or more United Nations entities engage in rule-of-law activities in at least 70 countries, and five or more entities in over 35 countries.

Key operational United Nations entities are increasingly undertaking joint and comprehensive initiatives, particularly in conflict and post-conflict settings.  For example, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country offices, and peacekeeping missions, have increased their joint programming, with new initiatives in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Chad.

In Burundi, impact and coherence were strengthened by integrating staff from three distinct United Nations entities into a joint justice unit, and thereby merging their interventions into a single human rights and justice programme.

UNDP and UN Women have continued to pilot their joint programming in women’s access to justice in post-conflict settings in Nepal, Colombia and Uganda, working closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on issues of gender and reparations.

Moving forward, the Organization is committed to expanding the use of joint programming in peacekeeping operations and special political missions.  We must also enhance collaboration among United Nations entities present in non-mission settings.

However, deeper cooperation will only be possible if we overcome institutional hurdles and establish system-wide incentives for joint programming.  We also need to better assess the impact of our efforts through strengthened monitoring.

Political engagement is crucial for successful rule-of-law reform.  The relative absence of national stakeholders and grass-roots experiences in high-level policy discussions on rule of law has hampered progress in this field.  With that in mind, earlier this year, the Rule of Law Unit issued a report entitled “New voices:  national perspectives on rule of law assistance”.

The result of a consultative process with 16 national experts from 13 countries and a range of United Nations entities and development partners, it aims to help ensure that those voices are systematically heard and placed at the centre of rule of law efforts.

We are all aware that the external environment remains fragmented.  The United Nations delivers only a small proportion of global rule-of-law assistance, with the lion’s share provided on a bilateral basis.  The inefficiency of supporting States with numerous and often conflicting assistance programmes has been shown time and time again.

That is why we must strive for more consistent and joint approaches that increase coherence and reduce the burden on recipient States.  Speaking with one voice is crucial if we are to assist national leaders with difficult institutional reforms.

The Secretary-General and I thank Member States for their continuing support.

We very much look forward to the high-level event on the rule of law that will open the next session of the General Assembly.  This will be an important opportunity to take stock, with all stakeholders at the table.

As a universal organization with unique legitimacy, the United Nations is the natural home for this vital important work.

I wish you fruitful deliberations, and I thank you for your attention.

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