New York

14 June 2017

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at UNDP Annual Meeting on the Rule of Law [as delivered]

H.E. Flavien Mbata, Minister of Justice of the Central African Republic
H.E. Hassan Hussein Haji, Minister of Justice of Somalia
ASG Magdy Martinez-Soliman
Distinguished guests, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am really pleased to be with you today to discuss the United Nations’ rule of law agenda. This is particularly important as we set out the development agenda. 

Let me begin by thanking UNDP for organizing this important event and having such a high-level meeting. 

The UNDP Annual Meeting on Rule of Law has traditionally provided the opportunity to bring together the whole UN system, along with civil society and the countries we serve, to reflect on how we can better advance people’s aspirations on justice, security and in particular human rights.

We are honoured to have the ministers of justice of the Central African Republic and Somalia among several distinguished speakers to share their experiences of working to advance the rule of law in their own countries. 

The range of experiences at this meeting is a reminder not only of the importance played by Member States and the UN on this subject, but also of the diversity of systems – and the solutions – that may be employed in maintaining and advancing the rule of law as a tool for sustainable development, peace and security, and the realization of human rights. 

There is no single model for rule of law development.  However, for the UN, the rule of law provides a framework that is inextricably linked with these three pillars of our work. This is why we are working around the world to support Member States to strengthen the rule of law and accountability at the national level, where the primary responsibility for its advancement lies. 

In his remarks to the General Assembly on taking office, the Secretary-General reflected on the profound ways in which the world has changed over the last 20 years.  He acknowledged extraordinary technological progress, the growth of the global economy, and improvements in basic social indicators. 

He also observed worrying global trends, including climate change, mass migration and displacement, transnational organized crime, terrorism and ever more complex conflicts that need increasingly sophisticated solutions. 

Responding to these mega-trends demands prevention, first and foremost.

It means preventing the tensions and shocks that give rise to instability and nurturing an environment where individuals and families feel safe and secure, and where institutions of government meet the legitimate expectations of all they serve. 

The rule of law is a major piece of this puzzle. 

On the international stage, Member States’ commitments to multilateral treaties and conventions can help galvanize international norms and forge collective responses to global problems. 

At the national level, work by Member States to advance domestic legal frameworks, strengthen justice and law enforcement institutions in accordance with international standards, and improve access to justice and security services, with a special focus on the most vulnerable, can go far in preventing the outbreak, escalation, or recurrence of conflict. 

A strong rule of law framework also provides the basis for well-functioning government, stability and the instruments with which to realize sustainable development. 

The essence of SDG 16 and its specific target 16.3 to promote the rule of law and ensure equal access to justice for all is not only a self-evident objective, but it is catalytic to all the Goals.

It is clear that the rule of law provides a foundation for preventing conflict, fostering peace and advancing sustainable development. 

But establishing the rule of law does not happen overnight.  It is a complex and iterative process subject to political challenges and many setbacks.  It takes the engagement and cooperation of every individual in a society – from citizen’s to heads of government. 

We cannot therefore afford to focus exclusively on institutions and politics in our prevention efforts.  People must be front and centre. 

For the UN, this means mobilizing our full resources to address underlying grievances.  

For our rule of law assistance, this means working to prevent violence through inclusive solutions to risks related to competition for power, corruption, exclusion, access to resources, and access to services – especially in justice and security. 

Using the rule of law as a tool for gender equality can also contribute to prevention, ensuring that livelihood opportunities, access to education, and reductions in gender-based violence strengthen long-term resilience. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The UN still needs to focus its rule of law efforts. 

In practice, this is going to mean: the UN development system supports the delivery of peacekeeping mandates; the UN’s peace and security and human rights pillars reinforce the Sustainable Development Agenda; and the prevention of violence and human rights abuses is understood as a core responsibility of all pillars of the United Nations. 

We have come a long way in improving our approaches. 

Rule of law receives attention in the mandates of peacekeeping operations and special political missions today. 

Spearheaded by UNDP and DPKO, the Global Focal Point has helped facilitate joint approaches on the ground, better linking development and peacebuilding. More coordination, more coherence. 

We now recognise the need to go beyond purely technical solutions in pursuit of system-wide development in security and the rule of law, and the real need to pay attention to informal actors and especially civil society.

But, we still have further to go. 

Improving our work in support of Member States also requires their engagement. 

We look to Member States to support us in identifying solutions to the issues facing the rule of law agenda for the future.

I see at this stage five issues to address.

First, how to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of accountability mechanisms for the most serious crimes, including at the country level.

Second, how to refine further the structures and approaches to rule of law in Security Council-mandated missions.

Third, how to ensure effective transitions to UN Country Teams.

Fourth, how to maximize the use and sustainability of funding for rule of law support and assistance.

And fifth, how to further strengthen partnerships for durable results. 

The forthcoming annual report of the Secretary-General on strengthening and coordinating UN rule of law activities will explore some of these questions further. And we hope to do this in consultation with you.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To fulfil the implementation of the UN Charter, we must all challenge ourselves to do better. 

We must work together to support communities living through the terror of conflict. 

And we must pull together to prevent future violence. 

Advancing the rule of law, justice and security is at the heart of these responsibilities.

It must be backed up by diplomacy, analytics, improved development cooperation and resources and – above all – political will. 

Only then can we fulfil the promise of a world of peace, rights and dignity for all.

Thank you.