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13 October 2008 - The rule of law at the national and international levels (item 79) - Speech delivered by Mr. Hubert Renié

63th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sixth Committee

Speech delivered by Mr. Hubert Renié, First Counsellor, Legal Advisor

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.

First of all, the European Union would like to renew its support for the inclusion on the Sixth Committee’s agenda of the topic of the Rule of Law at the national and international level. Strengthening the Rule of Law, in particular through United Nations initiatives, is indeed one of our top priorities. Rule of Law is one of the basic principles on which the European Union bases its domestic affairs and international relations as well as its efforts to promote international peace and security.

Respect for the Rule of Law is the very foundation of peaceful coexistence between nations. It is also a precondition for guaranteeing individual freedom and respect for human rights. Clear and foreseeable rules, to which States adhere, along with an effective multilateral system to prevent and sanction violations of these rules, are preconditions for sustainable international peace and security. We are determined to defend and develop an international order based on the United Nations Charter, and, more generally, on international law including human rights.

In this respect, the activities of the Sixth Committee and those of the International Law Commission have played a key role over the years as regards the codification and progressive development of international law. The debates arising from this work represented an opportunity for mutually beneficial exchanges between Member States and the competent bodies. We invite the Bureau and the Secretariat to review how to maintain and enhance these exchanges.

We believe that the establishment of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group supported by the Rule of Law Unit in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General will facilitate consistency, coordination and quality control of United Nations initiatives regarding the Rule of Law. We welcome the work which the Group and Unit have already undertaken in this regard, including in particular progress towards the development of a joint strategic plan for UN Rule of Law activities. We call upon the Secretary-General and Member States to provide all the necessary assistance and support to the Group and the Unit in order to ensure that they can properly fulfil their important functions and work without financial, technical and administrative obstacles. It is of paramount importance to provide sustainable and permanent financing for the Rule of Law Unit as soon as possible, as proposed in the recent report of the Secretary-General (A/63/154). The absence of a budget line in the regular budget will hamper the Unit’s ability to be fully operational.

Furthermore, we would like to thank the Secretary-General for his recent reports and work on this topic. The considerable inventory of activities the United Nations has accomplished in terms of promoting Rule of Law (A/63/64), in addition to the suggestions made in the report on "Strengthening and Coordinating United Nations Rule of Law Activities" (A/63/226), underscores both the progress achieved and the role of the Organization together with the challenges facing the United Nations system so that Rule of Law may be integrated more systematically into all initiatives carried out at the country level. The European Union supports the Secretary General in this ambition.

In order to improve the work of the Sixth Committee in this area and to respond quickly and concretely to this issue, we support the recommendation made by the General Assembly in Resolution A/61/39 to identify one or two specific themes regarding Rule of Law each year.

In this regard, "the strengthening of criminal justice at both the national and international level" could be one such theme, as it combines a national and international dimension and provides an opportunity to examine issues like technical assistance and the capacity-building of national and international criminal justice systems. Similarly, a theme on "work and legacy of international criminal courts" could make for a constructive debate.

It would also be useful for the Secretary-General to prepare an annual report on the activities of the UN system in the field of the Rule of Law, with a particular focus on the specific themes to be selected each year for the Sixth Committee debate.

The European Union, while actively supporting UN activities and initiatives to promote the Rule of Law, is itself engaged in numerous activities in the field. The European Union would like to renew its commitment to an increasing cooperation with the United Nations in order to promote the Rule of Law./.

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