I thank the Permanent Missions of Italy, Qatar and Thailand for hosting this important meeting on the margins of today’s High Level Event on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the post-2015 Development Agenda. I also thank each of you for supporting the role of the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice in this agenda.
You have proven this in various ways. I commend Italy for sponsoring the resolution on strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme through technical cooperation.
I thank Qatar for our partnership in the Anti-Corruption and Integrity in the Arab Countries project and the Anti-Corruption and Rule of Law Centre, as well as for hosting next year’s United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. I welcome high-level representatives of Qatar involved in the preparation of this congress.
I am grateful to Thailand and to you, Your Highness, for leading the valuable discussions in Vienna on the Bangkok Rules on Women Offenders and Prisoners, and for sponsoring the resolution on the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice in the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.
I thank you all for very constructive and forward looking introductions to today’s discussion.
This distinguished gathering is evidence of the growing understanding that more emphasis on human rights and the rule of law could substantially enhance our efforts to reach our development goals.
The rule of law is both an essential condition of sustainable development and a development outcome in its own right. The rule of law can promote inclusive economic growth, reduce inequalities and build institutions that provide access to justice for all.
The General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed that security, development, human rights and the rule of law are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
The rule of law is critical to reducing violence and crime. When countries and communities provide effective and accountable security and justice services they affect cycles of violence and foster peace and sustainable development.
We should recognize that the rule of law comes to life through responsive and well-functioning institutions. Development depends on laws that are anchored in institutions that are transparent and accountable. They support the delivery of vital services and build public trust, not least by combatting the scourge of corruption.
Institutions can also promote and protect human rights. They can be critical to ending impunity for abuses of human rights, which are often the first warning signs of injustice and instability that undermine development and fuel conflict. The recent Rights up Front initiative of the UN is conceived in this spirit.
I would now like to focus on the major threat stemming from crime and corruption. Transnational organized crime undermines peace and development through drug trafficking, smuggling and trafficking of persons and the illicit manufacturing and sales in firearms. Illicit wildlife trafficking and illegal use of resources threaten not just natural diversity but also the economic and environmental foundation of development.
Corrupt officials obstruct law and order and undermine and deny people’s basic rights. Corruption and illicit financial flows distort markets and hinder sustainable development. Corruption can cost a country over 15 percent of its GDP. Last year’s Global Corruption Barometer showed that the judiciary and police are regretfully among the institutions most affected by corruption.
Corruption hits vulnerable populations unacceptably hard as they try to gain access to basic services. The sustainable development agenda must address this problem. Transparency and accountability are powerful tools for oversight of the use of public resources.
Many of the threats I have spoken about today, not least organized crime, cannot be addressed by individual countries alone. To combat transnational organised crime, we need to join forces and strengthen the rule of law both at the international and at the national level. For the UN, the work of UNODC in Vienna and in the world is of central importance and requires the continued strong support of Member States.
The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is now discussing ways to integrate human rights and the rule of law in the SDGs. This is reflected in the focus area on peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions.
The discussion has dealt with specific targets, for example, on improving access to justice and developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions, reducing violence and exploitation, enhancing a culture of non-violence, and fighting corruption. These are all important aspirations which, in my view, should be part of a comprehensive and forward-looking sustainable development agenda.
Our future development agenda should be ambitious and inspirational. We have an historic opportunity to make substantial progress towards a world where freedom from fear, freedom from want, and a life of dignity for all become a reality for all.
This is our task – a daunting but inspirational task for us all. Respect for the rule of law, well-functioning institutions, and strong criminal justice systems are critical if that agenda is to bring meaningful change to people’s lives in the years to come.
Let us remember we are an organization of Member States, but the 1st three words of the Charter are “we the peoples” – the peoples for whom we serve.
For this discussion and toward this goal, I wish you all a very fruitful meeting.