Action date

05/03/2013

Background

The Committee recalled that the UN Deputy Secretary-General had briefed CEB, at its second regular session of 2012, on a major advance on the rule of law stemming from the outcome of the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law held on 24 September 2012.  The Declaration unanimously adopted by Member States proclaimed that "all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to just, fair and equitable laws and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law."  Mr. Edric Selous, Director of the Rule of Law Unit, UN Executive Office of the Secretary-General, introduced a Note on “developing a UN system-wide approach on rule of law mainstreaming”. He briefed the Committee on the history of the issue’s consideration by the United Nations, noting that Member States had recognized the need for “universal adherence to and implementation of the rule of law at both the national and international levels” and had reaffirmed their commitment to “an international order based on the rule of law and international law”.

Discussion

Participants thanked Mr. Selous for his briefing and expressed appreciation for the leadership of the UN Deputy Secretary-General. The rule of law was an imperative that was at the core of the work of the UN system and its norms, values, and standards. Mainstreaming the rule of law would offer synergistic effects on the full range of work of the UN system in development, human rights and peace and security. Members noted that the origin of the concept within the UN was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and observed that the UN conception of the rule of law, as contained in the SG's definition in the report to the Security Council, was differentiated from mere rule "by" law in its substantive human rights content.

Some participants noted that their organizations were advanced on specific issues relevant to the rule of law such as the collection of data and measurability of violent crime, and on environmental law. In this regard, organizations would be willing to share experiences, lessons learned and best practices where applicable, particularly on standards-setting and existing contributions to the rule of law. Participants noted the importance of the rule of law in dealing with complex issues such as statelessness, trade, land tenure, food security and nutrition, and other areas.

Participants also stressed that aspects of the Note that would require strengthening included the need to consider issues related to the role of budgets and the use of public resources, compliance-related matters and the need to ensure clarity with regard to the concept of mainstreaming of the rule of law. An updated mapping of the engagement of the UN system in the rule of law was a crucial task that would facilitate implementation of the normative frameworks on the rule of law. In addition, applicability of the rule of law to cyberspace and the right of individuals to hold their government to account on issues and documents signed in their name needed to be reflected in the Note. Some participants stressed that it was important to ensure quick operationalization of the issue at the country level. In this regard, a system of focal points would be welcomed.

Action

The Committee lent its support to mainstreaming the rule of law throughout the UN system on the basis of the principles laid out in the Note before it. It underscored the timeliness of the issue and looked forward to reviewing, at its next session, a System-wide Plan of Action as a means to enhance coordination and coherence on the rule of law. HLCP members would contribute to this process under the leadership of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.