UN Panel Discussion Highlights Rule of Law Obligations

6 Mar

The Rule of Law thematic has been on the UN’s agenda frequently this winter with open debates and panel discussions taking place across complementary processes. From the post-2015 development agenda to the work of peacekeeping missions in conflict and post-conflict settings, it seems that there is ample space and opportunity for this issue to be integrated in many important security, human rights and development discussions.

Following up to the Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, a panel discussion was held on 27 February 2014 focusing on rule of law, peace and security, human rights and development. The Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson provided the introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. In his remarks, he highlighted that “[t]he rule of law, based on human rights, underpins peace and security.” Reflecting on the rule of law at the international level, he highlighted the role of the UN Charter and peaceful settlement of disputes while at the national level, justice and law are important in preventing conflict and mitigating grievances accordingly. Rule of law also makes significant contributions in fostering and promoting economic growth and building strong institutions which are integral to sustainable development and to the well-functioning of societies.

Specifically focusing on rule of law and human rights, Ms. Louise Arbour, President of the International Crisis Group, made the case for how rule of law and human rights are not interlinked because they are the same. Mr. Muna Ndulo, Professor of Law at Cornell University raised important questions about the conditions necessary for the rule of law to become a reality (in a peace and security context) and how its implementation can be monitored, including efficiency of services and accountability systems.

Speaking in her capacity as Director-General of the IDLO, Ms. Irene Khan iterated that the links between rule of law and development are mutually reinforcing. It is not enough for laws to be adopted, but they have to be properly enforced because there is risk that both laws and legal institutions can be mismanaged. Thus, it is hard to separate rule of law from development because it provides the basis for empowerment, eradicating poverty, and equitable access to services and resources.

During the discussion, many member states raised thought-provoking questions, including complying with the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as well as the need for judicial review of the Security Council decisions. Moreover, further to the role of the Security Council, questions were raised as to what further steps can be taken to promote equal and effective implementation of all Security Council resolutions, including the peaceful settlement of disputes. Finally, questions arose about what to do to ensure that there is no duplication of efforts, between the UN and member states on addressing some of these issues. Emphasis was placed on national ownership, national sovereignty and ensuring that the concepts that are promoted by the UN, including in peacekeeping missions, are agreed on by member states and are based on practical situations.

The aforementioned discussions are welcomed both in increasing visibility around this issue but also in promoting rule of law as an integral part of good governance and functioning societies. At the same time, more attention could be given to identify how to increase awareness over this issue at the national and international level; and how to promote strong rule of law at the international level while fully respecting national sovereignty. These are some, among a plethora of similar questions that deserve more careful analysis, in hopes of fully integrating this concept among complementary agendas and promoting fair, safe and just societies.

Preparations are currently underway to shape the high level meeting this summer discussing Contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law  in the post‐2015 Development Agenda. Given the significance that was highlighted in this meeting regarding the role of rule of law in the development processes, perhaps there will be scope in the upcoming high level to build on current discussions to contemplate how the UN and member states can join efforts in strengthening rule of law at the national and international levels so as to promote the post-2015 development goals, from a human-rights centric approach.

Global Action is committed to following the development of this thematic in complementary and cross-cutting agendas very closely, especially as it pertains to peace and security which is integral to our mandate. Further inquiries and discussions about this matter are welcomed.

–          Melina Lito, Legal Adviser on UN Affairs, Global Action, melina.gapw@gmail.com

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