New York

19 September 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at LexisNexis-Atlantic Council Rule of Law Now Event (as prepared for delivery)

I am deeply honoured to receive this inaugural LexisNexis Rule of Law Award.

I accept on behalf of the entire United Nations.

On behalf of our many dedicated staff members around the world.

United Nations judges, lawyers, police advisors and constitutional experts.

UN advocates and human rights experts.

And the UN officials who join me each day in emphasizing that the rule of law is essential to peace and progress.

 I am especially privileged to accept this Award from two organizations that are helping to advance the UN’s goals.

I commend LexisNexis for supporting the fight against human trafficking. I applaud the Atlantic Council for its work on international security.

            Now we are joining forces through the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability effort, to develop an international initiative that will further engage and harness the influence of the private sector in building stable and fair societies, where business can flourish.

Without the rule of law there is no security or accountability. Human rights abuses are committed with impunity.  Injustice breeds discontent and, worse, violence and conflict. Insecurity stifles economic growth and sustainable development.  People and families worry about their livelihoods and their safety. Societies without a predictable legal framework are societies where people do not invest in their future, or the future of their country.

Businesses do better when the world does better. Disease, strife, environmental degradation, illiteracy, human rights violations, authoritarian governments and poverty all hurt people and economic potential.

The United Nations is collaborating with all those who have an interest in building a strong rule of law.  In resource-rich countries, we bring together partners including businesses to ensure that the rule of law is respected in the extractive industries.  We are harnessing the innovation and creativity of the private sector to reach our common goals.

 A company’s decisions on investment can either exacerbate the tensions that fuel violence, or help a country overcome conflict.

Companies can respect human rights by following the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

            They can play an important role in advancing the anti-corruption agenda by engaging in collective efforts such as the Extractive Industry's Transparency Initiative.

            These collective efforts have enhanced respect for the rule of law in the extractive industries.  Now we need more robust transparency provisions in countries where extractive corporations are registered.

            Through our Global Compact, I have launched a number of initiatives to engage the private sector on climate action, women’s empowerment and children’s rights. There are 600 CEOs participating in our Women’s Empowerment Principles. The Children’s Principles have been launched in more than 30 countries. We have a new "Business for Peace" platform.

I urge you to join these initiatives. Be part of our global effort to make businesses a part of the solution to our global problems.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations has helped the world to develop norms, standards and laws that collectively advance our well-being and progress as a human family.

And we are transforming these principles from paper to practice in more than 150 countries. Where there is hunger, we support farmers. Where there is poverty, we help entrepreneurs. Where there are political tensions, we send mediators to prevent conflict. In war-torn societies, we help rebuild courts, prisons and police. This rebuilds something even more valuable, namely public trust.

It is a difficult struggle. Just this week, a senior female police officer in Afghanistan was killed. Her name was Nagar. She knew how dangerous the job was when she took it – because her predecessor had been shot to death. Both of these brave women were on the front lines of establishing the rule of law.

This bold spirit to confront dangers and respond with justice drives the United Nations.

            Around the world, we are seeing a transition from the age of impunity to the age of accountability. This transition began around the time the UN was born, with the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals. It gained strength through the UN’s establishment of international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia as well as “hybrid” tribunals in Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Lebanon. And in 1998, the UN created the powerful and permanent International Criminal Court.

            These are more than institutions. They are symbols of hope and tools for reconciliation.


Ladies and gentlemen,

            National leaders from across the globe are now travelling to New York to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly debate next week. We expect one of the highest turnouts in history. Nearly 200 presidents, prime ministers or foreign ministers will participate.

I will strongly appeal to them for action now on Syria. I will also push for attention to other conflicts. And I will spotlight the broader global issues such as sustainable development, health, hunger and climate change. 

            I will call on leaders to uphold their political and moral responsibilities to serve, to listen, to invest and to respond to the legitimate demands of people everywhere for freedom and opportunity.

Last year, during our Assembly session, leaders agreed to uphold the rule of law. They adopted a declaration affirming that our collective response to the complex political, social and economic challenges we face must be guided by the rule of law. This was a significant breakthrough. We are resolved to hold all countries to this pledge.

I thank you for this Award and I count on all of you to join me in helping to advance the rule of law for a better future.

Thank you.