New York

25 April 2014

Deputy Secretary-General's closing remarks at General Assembly thematic debate on "Ensuring Stable and Peaceful Societies"

We are all grateful to the President of the General Assembly for having organized this important thematic debate. I understand you have had very fruitful discussions on topics close to my heart and to my earlier experiences.

The Secretary-General has spoken to you about the links between peace, development and human rights and why each is so important for the other, as we all know. 

These three pillars of the UN are inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing in my view. And I think this point has been underlined from different perspectives in these discussions.

In these closing remarks, I would like to focus on two essential threads that bind these elements together – one, rule of law and two, inclusive political processes. 

As our work to reach the Millennium Development Goals approaches its deadline, there is growing realization that our efforts could have been enhanced by placing more emphasis on justice and well-functioning institutions. 

There is indeed much to build on.

The Rio+20 outcome acknowledges that the rule of law at national and international levels is essential for sustainable development.

And in September 2012, at the General Assembly’s first ever High-level Meeting on the subject, all 193 Member States agreed that development and the rule of law are mutually reinforcing. 

The rule of law is key to development, in part because it is so important for fostering peace and stability, protecting and promoting human rights and sustaining the gains of peace, once achieved.

Violent conflict and crime are often related to deprivation and grievances.

There is less likelihood of people and communities being incited to violence, when the rule of law prevails, when political institutions and processes are accepted as legitimate, and when the benefits of economic development are shared by all. 

Justice and the rule of law are therefore integral parts of development objectives.

Businesses also need a transparent and predictable environment to invest.

Communities need accountability and redress if certain business activities undermine their interests. 

The rule of law enables communities and countries to combat corruption, which distorts markets, entrenches poverty and hinders sustainable development.

It also enables the sustainable use of natural resources by defining rules and enshrining land, environmental and resource rights in constitutions and legislation.  It gives, generally speaking, stability and outreach to development efforts and to establishing fair and well-functioning societies.

The rule of law can also play a key role in making basic services, such as education, health and sanitation, available for all. 

Effective, accountable and accessible institutions promote the well-being of societies and better standards of living in larger freedom, as I quote the Charter. 

Experience with the Millennium Development Goals has shown that strong institutions based on fair legal frameworks, and strong systems for enforcing rules and reducing corruption, have led to better delivery of services.

Finally, the rule of law can empower citizens to address underlying causes of inequality, exclusion and poverty.  And this was highlighted some years ago by the groundbreaking work of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor.

Related and allied to the rule of law are inclusive and legitimate political processes.

They are critical for sustainable development and for building and maintaining stable and peaceful societies.

A world survey, organized by the United Nations in support of the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda, shows that “honest and responsive government” – and I quote, “honest and responsive government” – is a very high priority for all population groups in all regions. 

Inclusive political processes help to ensure the accountability of the State.

Being included in political processes empowers people to address inequality, exclusion and other causes of conflict.

That is why it is essential that we promote broad-based participation in all levels of the political process, particularly in post-conflict societies. 

A stable society is by the way not necessarily an unchanging society, but one where change is managed peacefully.

To conclude, it is clear that the rule of law, accountable and effective institutions and inclusive political processes are key elements for peaceful and stable societies.

In situations where these elements are lacking, we often find the seeds of conflict, as we have seen in so many cases over the world, not least in today’s world.

The consequences can, as we have also seen, be devastating for people, communities, nations and indeed for entire regions. 

Violent conflict not only robs us of our present gains, but holds the future hostage.

It is therefore our responsibility to promote the rule of law and inclusive political processes.

That is how we can help achieve peaceful and stable societies and the future we want.

I am grateful and highly appreciative of this thematic debate which has given so many contributions to this objective and understanding.