Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to “bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.” The rule of law ensures that international law and the principles of justice apply equally to all States and are equally adhered to. Respect for the rule of law generates an enabling environment for achieving the purposes of the Charter.
The Charter provides the normative basis for friendly relations between States. Together with the wider body of international law, it provides a structure for the conduct of international relations. It creates reciprocity between States as sovereign equals, accords predictability and legitimacy to their actions within an agreed multilateral system and provides a means to resolve disputes arising. Of particular importance to peace and security are the principles of territorial integrity, non-use of threat or force in any manner inconsistent with the Charter and the commitment to implementation of international legal obligations.
Article 33 of the Charter is critical for the prevention of conflict and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Parties to an international dispute have access to diverse measures and mechanisms for dispute resolution, including negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement and resort to regional agencies or arrangements.
A strong rule of law, which protects human rights , helps prevent and mitigate violent crime and conflict by providing legitimate processes for the resolution of grievances and disincentives for crime and violence. Conversely, weak economic development and inequality can be a trigger for crime and violence. In this context, the principle of the responsibility to protect , adopted by the General Assembly in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, is relevant. It highlights the importance of supporting national rule of law and human rights institutions to ensure that Governments have all the tools necessary to comply with their obligations to protect their populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing, and calls upon the international community to support such efforts.
In situations of armed conflict, the protection of civilians is a United Nations priority. Any protection activity, be it physical, political or through the establishment of a protective environment, must be based on the rule of law and aims to give the applicable laws practical relevance in difficult circumstances. The applicable normative framework and the obligations of Member States are critical to all protection work. To protect civilians better, Member States must adhere to the relevant international treaties , include their provisions in national legislation and establish well-functioning institutions and internal controls. Similarly important are education and information concerning compulsory norms and prohibited practices and criminal enforcement in cases of serious breaches.
Establishing rule of law institutions is vital to ensuring immediate security and the necessary stability for peacebuilding to take root. Strong justice and corrections institutions, together with accountable police and law enforcement agencies , which fully respect human rights, are critical for restoring peace and security in the immediate post-conflict period. They allow for perpetrators of crimes to be brought to justice, encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and restore trust and social cohesion based on equal rights. Establishing such conditions is equally important to peace and security and to sustainable development. In this regard, the United Nations recognizes the need to employ a broad approach by supporting the entire criminal justice chain. As part of a comprehensive approach to enhancing the rule of law and human rights, it is essential to support nationally owned efforts to reform the security sector .
Some of the greatest challenges to peace and security are crimes which, while committed on national territory, permeate national borders and affect entire regions and ultimately the international community as a whole. This is an evolving challenge for the rule of law and the protection of human rights and illustrates well the strong linkages with peace and security.
Terrorism brings violence and instability, can limit freedom of movement and access to employment and educational opportunities, degrades the quality of life and threatens the basic rights of people, including the right to life and security. Terrorism represents a threat to security and stability and can undermine economic and social development. Eighteen universal instruments (14 conventions and 4 protocols) against international terrorism, including the relevant Security Council resolutions, have been elaborated within the framework of the United Nations relating to specific terrorist activities. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism emphasizes that counter-terrorism measures that are compliant with human rights help to prevent the recruitment of individuals to commit acts of terrorism and that human rights abuses have all too often contributed to the grievances which cause people to make the wrong choices and to resort to terrorism (see A/HRC/20/14, para. 32). Similarly, transnational organized crime in diverse areas threatens peace and security and undermines the economic and social development of societies around the world. The General Assembly and the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto have stressed the negative impact that transnational organized crime has on human rights and the rule of law.