Report of the Secretary-General discussed in an open debate of the Security Council
A wide view of the Security Council as it discusses the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in maintenance of international peace and security. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
The Secretary-General submitted a report on “the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies” (S/2011/634) to the Security Council on 12 October 2011, which takes stock of the progress made in respect to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the 2004 Report of the Secretary-General with the same title (S/2004/616). The report highlights that the Organization’s approach to strengthening the rule of law has become more clearly articulated and more effectively implemented. While the United Nations’ work to promote the rule of law extends to more than 150 countries, establishing the rule of law is particularly critical in conflict and post-conflict societies.
In peacebuilding, the goal of the United Nations is to quickly demonstrate the value of the rule of law, building public confidence in political settlements. In order to meet this goal, the United Nations rule of law approach is based on three basic components. First, the Organization promotes accountability and reinforces norms through transitional justice. Second, in order to re-establish people’s trust in national public system, the Organization helps in building justice and security institutions. Finally, specific attention is paid to the promotion of gender equality.
The Organization also has started to increasingly address emerging threats to the rule of law, such as organized crime and illicit trafficking, and the root causes of conflict, including economic and social justice issues. The report offers recommendations to both the Security Council and the United Nations system on strengthening the Organization’s rule of law engagement.
Following the submission of the report, an open debate on the item “the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security” was held by the Security Council on 19 January 2012. In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General noted that the past year has been marked by peoples’ claims on their governments for accountability, transparency and the rule of law. People are risking their lives in peaceful protests to demand the opportunities, dignity and a secure future. The United Nations has never before faced such great challenges – or such historic opportunities.
The Secretary-General noted that the Security Council has been very active and has helped bring the rule of law to the top of the international agenda. However, the Security Council could do more to strengthen the rule of law, for example by making more references to transitional justice measures in the mandates of peacekeeping and political missions.
In the open debate, close to forty Member States, including all Security Council members, and the European Union made statements, reflecting on the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council.
Respect for the rule of law within the Security Council was raised as an essential component in ensuring the legitimacy of the Council’s actions. In particular, Member States welcomed recent improvements made concerning the Office of the Ombudsperson and encouraged the Security Council to continue on this path. Many Member States also expressed support for the high-level event on the rule of law, to be held on 24 September 2012 during the High-Level Segment of the 67th Session of the General Assembly.
During the debate, the President of the Security Council made a statement on behalf of the Council (S/PRST/2012/1), welcoming efforts made by the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and the Rule of Law Unit within their existing mandates and encouraging further efforts to ensure greater coordination and coherence in rule of law activities in conflict affected societies. In the statement, the Security Council requested that the Secretary-General provides a follow-up report to the Council within 12 months to consider the effectiveness of the UN system’s support to the promotion of the rule of law in conflict and post conflict situations.