[Dateline: New York | Author: EOSG]
The second annual United Nations system-wide meeting on enhancing the rule of law took place on 1 July 2010 at the UN Secretariat. It followed up on the Secretary-General’s 2008 Report on Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (document A/63/226), in which the Secretary-General recommended that the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group (RoLCRG) and the Unit convene yearly meetings of the UN system on rule of law. A first meeting took place in 2009.
Organized by the Rule of Law Unit in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, the second edition of this meeting aimed to share information work being undertaken by the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and other UN entities; to have thematic discussions on issues of shared concern to all or many entities working on rule of law in the UN system; and to help strategize how the UN system can continuously improve the Organization’s coherent and coordinated engagement on the issue.
25 UN entities present
The breadth of knowledge, experience and expertise among the participants was evident in the discussions that took place among representatives from fields as diverse as gender, counter-terrorism, human rights, housing and land rights and international trade law. Representatives from twenty-five UN entities were present, including from the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Office (CTITF) , the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) , the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Members of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group presented updates on the work they accomplished over the past year in developing coherent policy and guidance on rule of law for the UN system.
This included the following Organizations and Departments: Department of Political Affairs (DPA), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) , Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) , Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) , United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) , United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) , United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) , United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) , United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) .
UN approach to transitional justice and informal justice systems
The Group also discussed the Guidance Note of the Secretary-General on a UN approach to transitional justice and the operationalisation of Paragraph 8 of Security Council resolution 1888, in which the Secretary-General was called upon to identify and take the appropriate measures to deploy rapidly a team of experts to situations of particular concern with respect to sexual violence in armed conflict to assist national authorities to strengthen the rule of law.
UNDP, UNICEF and UNIFEM briefed on an ongoing joint study on informal justice systems. In many countries where the United Nations provides assistance, informal or non-state justice systems handle the majority of disputes, particularly in rural and poor localities, but these systems often raise significant concerns with regards to human rights. The study, which includes case studies in a wide range of countries, analyses the characteristics of these mechanisms in all regions of the world, their linkages with the formal system, and their human rights implications. It aims to help the United Nations to better address informal justice systems in the context of the rule of law assistance it provides.
Land, housing and property rights
Another session was dedicated to discussing on how the United Nations addresses land, housing and property rights and the need for more coordinated policy on the issue. After presentations by UN-HABITAT, UNHCR and UNDP, participants agreed that the issue received too little attention both at headquarters and country-level, despite its critical importance for peace and long-term development. It was recognized that this area is often considered under-funded and under-capacitated, particularly with regard to coordination, considering the number of actors, and the breadth and technical complexity of the issues. All emphasized the need for a higher level of political attention inside the United Nations to galvanize efforts.
Implementation of International Law
In view of the upcoming 2010 Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities, a discussion was held on practices and approaches to support Member States in the implementation of international law. After introductory presentations by the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA ), UNODC and the International Trade Law Division of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), participants compared their entities’ experiences with assisting Member States in the implementation of international law related to their respective normative mandates. Issues discussed included the advantages and disadvantages of soft and hard law instruments and of different mechanisms to monitor implementation.
Lastly, UNIFEM briefed and sought system-wide feedback on the outline for the 2010-2011 edition of its biennial flagship report the “Progress of the World’s Women”, which will focus on women’s access to justice.