Strengthening Rule of Law Ensures Protection for All, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Legal Committee

9 October 2013

Strengthening Rule of Law Ensures Protection for All, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Legal Committee

9 October 2013
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Strengthening Rule of Law Ensures Protection for All,


Deputy Secretary-General Tells Legal Committee


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the Sixth Committee (Legal) on the agenda item "The Rule of Law at the National and International Levels", in New York on 9 October:

Let me start by congratulating you, Mr. Chairman, on your election.  I also extend my best wishes to the other members of the Bureau as you assume your new duties.  And I wish the important Sixth Committee a successful session of work.

As you know, the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels took place on 24 September last year in New York.  The Declaration, adopted unanimously by all Member States, marked a milestone for the rule of law.  The High-level Meeting provided an opportunity to reach a common understanding of the rule of law.  The Declaration strengthened the links between the rule of law and the three pillars of the United Nations:  peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.  As requested by the General Assembly, the Secretary-General is now undertaking a wide process of consultations to develop a comprehensive approach to the rule of law, firmly related to the three pillars.

The subject of today’s discussion is the peaceful settlement of international disputes.  This is at the core of the Charter of the United Nations.  It is the determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” which motivated States to create the Organization.  And in Chapter I on Purposes and Principles of the UN, “effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats” are highlighted.

A cornerstone of peaceful settlement of international disputes is observing the rule of law.  The principles and norms of international law provide the parameters that guide the relationships between States and also the tools to resolve disputes.  The International Court of Justice has a special place in this context.  The Secretary-General has launched a campaign to persuade additional States to accept its compulsory jurisdiction.  But judicial settlement is not the only means to settle disputes.  Chapter VI, and particularly Article 33 of the Charter, provides a comprehensive list of mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes.  These include negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means that the parties to a dispute may choose.  It is interesting to note the relationship to Chapter VIII on Regional Arrangements.

Some of you will have heard me make the case that we have underutilized Chapter VI, in particular Article 33.  I strongly believe we need to do better in making use of it.  I welcome that the General Assembly has been regularly engaged in discussing and developing this topic, and of course the focus the sixth Committee now gives to the peaceful settlement of disputes.

In 1970, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.  The Declaration contributes to the strengthening of peace through the development of international law, the promotion of the rule of law and the universal application of the principles embodied in the Charter.  The commitment of States to settle their disputes peacefully is one of the six principles highlighted in the Declaration.  To seek “early and just” settlement of international disputes is declared to be a duty for all States.

In 1982, the General Assembly adopted the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful settlement of disputes between States.  The Manila Declaration reaffirmed “the need to exert utmost efforts in order to settle any conflicts and disputes between States exclusively by peaceful means”.  It calls on States to make full use of the provisions of the Charter, particularly the means provided in Chapter VI.  The Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law reaffirms these commitments.  It recalls all the mechanisms set forth in Article 33 of the UN Charter.  It underscores their importance and the need to fully utilize them for the fulfilment of our common aspiration of a world of peace, justice and dignity for all.

The tools of Article 33 are not limited to peaceful resolution of disputes between States.  They could also be instrumental in preventing situations within States that often give rise to international frictions.  These tools can help address all three pillars of the responsibility to protect:

-   to support a State in fulfilling its primary responsibility to protect its population;

-   as a basis for international assistance to ensure that responsibility is fulfilled; or

-   as a last resort to respond to grave violations.

Strengthening the rule of law within States, and between States, is one of the most effective means of fulfilling our responsibility to protect all peoples.  That is why the Secretary-General and I pay such close attention to this topic.

The latest annual report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities updates you on the projects and initiatives undertaken to strengthen the rule of law.  This year’s report also covers the measures that have been adopted regarding our institutional arrangements for supporting the rule of law.  We have taken major steps to improve coordination at Headquarters and in the field, and for setting strategic guidance and priorities.  For example, we have now enhanced the power of the UN field leadership, making them responsible and accountable for guiding and overseeing UN rule of law strategies in-country.  Finally, the report aims to support this Committee’s important work on the rule of law.  Your engagement has greatly contributed to the progress we have achieved in consolidating the rule of law as one of the foundational principles of our work.

The Secretary-General and I are grateful to Member States for your continuing support for the rule of law work.  I wish you fruitful deliberations, and thank you for your attention.

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