New York

29 April 2013

Secretary-General's remarks to the American Bar Association "ABA Day at the UN" [as prepared for delivery]

I am delighted to join you.  ABA Day at the UN is a wonderful tradition.  We are glad to welcome you into our house again as a valuable partner in our work.

I know that other senior lawyers in the UN system have joined you in recent years.  You are of course very familiar with the Legal Counsel, Patricia O’Brien.  The former Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, addressed your group.  My predecessor as Secretary-General has spoken to you.

But today marks the first time I have come before you.  I wish to express my great appreciation for your support.

Member States have been giving increased attention to the rule of law.  Last year’s High-level meeting of the General Assembly was attended by more than 60 Presidents and government ministers.  I am glad to note that the ABA contributed to the debate.

The session generated an important declaration as well as more than 400 pledges of practical steps that will bring the declaration to life.  Many are in areas of interest to the ABA, including legal aid.

I also welcome your solidarity in the fight against impunity for serious international crimes.  The advance of international criminal justice is arguably the most positive development in international relations of the past generation.  The International Criminal Court, the international tribunals and special courts, and various transitional justice mechanisms are making major contributions to post-conflict healing.  I also have the sense that the work of these bodies is coming to serve as a deterrent to future such crimes.

The rule of law is also receiving newfound appreciation in the context of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, our eight-point blueprint for overcoming poverty, hunger and disease. 

The world has made remarkable gains since the MDGs were established more than 12 years ago.  But there are still serious gaps – and fewer than 1000 days until the end of 2015, the agreed deadline. 

Rule of law assistance can help us finish the job.

Effective institutions; safeguards against corruption; the delivery of public services; improved environmental management; heightened investment -- all of this is made possible by strong and sound legal systems.

This is why the United Nations provides rule of law assistance to more than 150 Member States in conflict, post-conflict and peacebuilding settings.  The ABA’s own Rule of Law Initiative has been part of this picture.  We thank you, for example, for working with us in Liberia to establish a judicial training institute.

I look forward to more such contributions.  I also hope you will make your voices heard as we define a development agenda for the period beyond 2015.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a time of transition and test for the international community. We face urgent political challenges, from Syria to Mali and the Korean peninsula.  We face serious development challenges, from the economic crisis to climate change.

At such times, we need to pull together – showing that multilateralism can deliver for people.  That is what the United Nations strives to do each and every day, working closely with its partners, including civil society and the private sector.

The ABA is an important part of that constellation of actors.  You may be here at UN Headquarters for just this one day, but I know you are our partners throughout the year on a full spectrum of issues of vital concern to all humankind.

I attach great importance to your work and to deepening the already close ties between our organizations. Thank you again for your support.