The Peace Palace, seat of the International Court of Justice.
Police training in Afghanistan.
The rule of law is at the very heart of the United Nations' mission. In the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, Heads of State and Governments stressed the need for universal adherence to and implementation of the rule of law at both the national and international levels. The UN is engaged in an on-going process to strengthen its attention to the rule of law at the national and international levels. Principal landmarks in this process thus far have included the Millennium Declaration (2000); Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (“the Brahimi report”, 2000); Report of the Secretary-General: The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies” (2004); the 2005 World Summit Outcome; Report of the Secretary-General: Uniting our strengths: Enhancing the United Nations support for the rule of law (2006); Report of the Secretary-General: Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (2008); Report of the Secretary-General: Annual report on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (2009); and Report of the Secretary-General: Annual report on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (2010).
The main UN organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, have essential roles in strengthening the Organization’s attention to the rule of law. The General Assembly plays a significant role in encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification. The General Assembly has considered rule of law as an agenda item since 1992, with renewed interest since 2006 and has adopted resolutions at its last five sessions (A/RES/61/39, A/RES/62/70, A/RES/63/128, A/RES/64/116, A/RES/65/32). The Security Council has held a number of thematic debates on the rule of law (S/PRST/2003/15, S/PRST/2004/2, S/PRST/2004/32, S/PRST/2005/30, S/PRST/2006/28, S/PRST/2010/11) and adopted resolutions emphasizing the importance of these issues in the context of women, peace and security (S/RES/1325, S/RES/1820, S/RES/1888), children in armed conflict (e.g., S/RES/1612, S/RES/1882), the protection of civilians in armed conflict (e.g., S/RES/1674, S/RES/1894) and counter-terrorism (e.g., S/RES/1373, S/RES/1456, S/RES/1566, S/RES/1904).
The Peacebuilding Commission has also regularly addressed rule of law issues with respect to countries on its agenda. The Human Rights Council is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. Special procedures mandate-holders of the Council, such as the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences directly address rule of law issues in their country visits and reports.
The UN undertakes a vast array of activities to promote the rule of law. The 2008 inventory on rule of law (Report of the Secretary-General: “The rule of law at the national and international levels”) illustrates that at over 40 UN entities engage in rule of law activities, including support to the development, promotion and implementation of international norms and standards in most fields of international law. The UN includes judicial mechanisms, such as the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the UN, and the ad hoc criminal tribunals and hybrid tribunals, established by the Security Council or through an agreement with the host country. UN treaty bodies, which are committees of independent experts, monitor implementation of the international human rights treaties and provide interpretations of the content of human rights provisions relevant to strengthening the rule of law. The UN also supports non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms, such as cross-border commissions.
The UN monitors violations of human rights, and conducts fact-finding and commissions of inquiry on alleged violations. It increasingly advises on rule of law issues in mediation processes. Where mandated, it provides direct protection, such as refugee status determination and resettlement, and interim security and law enforcement.
A major area of work at the UN is on-going operational and programmatic support to the rule of law at the national level in all contexts, from crisis, peacemaking, peacekeeping, post-crisis and peacebuilding to long-term development. The scope of engagement is wide and includes assessments, programme management, technical cooperation and capacity development in all areas of the rule of law framework, carried out for the benefit of Member States in accordance with their national policies, priorities and plans.
Most UN entities in their respective fields of law and practice are involved in research, the compilation, publication and dissemination of information including formal addresses, statements and lectures, the documenting of lessons learned and best practices, the development of guidance materials, and training. This work is also undertaken by specialized research and training institutes.
The UN currently undertakes activities aimed at assisting national authorities to strengthen the rule of law in more than 150 countries and in all regions of the world, including in 17 countries hosting Security Council-mandated peace operations. The interactive map on the homepage shows highlights of current UN rule of law efforts by region.