Statement by Ambassador H.E. Major General Shavendra Silva
Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
at the Security Council Open Debate on the

"The promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security”

19 February 2014

Mr. President,

My delegation is pleased to align itself with the statement made by Iran as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement. 

The United Nations has the fundamental responsibility to maintain and strengthen international peace and security in conformity with the principles of the UN Charter. It is fitting that the Council highlight the centrality of the rule of law at a time when the world is facing ever increasing threats to international peace in the form of transnational organized crime, terrorism piracy, and climate degradation. The many organs and agencies of the UN must play a role in contributing to the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law at the international level.

Strengthening of rule of law is essential, not just to maintain peace, but also to enable sustained economic progress. The flash points of future conflicts may well lie in access to critical resources such as water and energy. Grievances based on violations of economic and social rights have the capacity to spark violent conflict that could spill over borders. The United Nations has a vital role to promote dialogue on the realization of economic and social rights for all peoples.

The UN Charter sets the framework for the development of a rule based international order. It enshrines the principle of sovereign equality, which continues to be intrinsic to the international legal order, and must be respected as international rules are made and implemented. It is a principle that protects all States, especially the small and the weak.

The maintenance of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Member States, especially in situations that do not pose a threat to international peace and security is also fundamental.  Specific circumstances may call for involvement which should be based on the agreement of all States. Unilateral and selective applications of international law principles must be avoided. In particular, Sri Lanka urges an end to the unilateral and selective coercive measures including economic embargoes against sovereign states that hinder freedom of trade.

Disputes in the international arena that continue to occur must be settled in accordance with the principles developed to settle disputes peacefully. Justice should not always be reduced to retribution, or to the resort to force.  Negotiations, arbitration, mediation and other peaceful means must be the first essential resort.

Close cooperation in the application of laws at the national, regional and international levels is vital, in addressing the growing problem of transnational organised crime and terrorism, which threaten international peace and good order. States have concluded a wide range of treaties on mutual assistance which facilitate such cooperation.

The rule of law must also be understood in the context of ensuring economic progress of individuals and societies, particularly with regard to the right to development. An equitable and democratic international finance structure is necessary to fully protect the rule of law at the international level. In maintaining a balance between economic progress, development, environmental sustainability, and the utilization of natural resources, the scope of the rule of law can be broadened both at the national and international levels. As the rule of law at international level evolves, the responsibility to make a contribution should not rest with a handful of states nor should its implementation be selective. Selective implementation would cause doubts to arise on credibility.
A key aspect of the rule of law at the international level is the codification of international law. The UN has been doing this work since its inception.  In addition, the multilateral treaty framework, mainly developed under the auspices of the United Nations, has played a seminal role in advancing the international rule of law. The Secretary General is the depository of over 530 multilateral treaties which cover almost all aspects of human interaction. Domestic compliance with treaty obligations, which is an obligation under the Vienna Convention on the Law of the Treaties, is an area where the UN can play a crucial and helpful role, particularly in assisting Sates with capacity building. 

Conflict and post-conflict settings are complex environments with many competing priorities. Therefore, we must recognize the tensions and difficulties that emerge while trying to balance national security interests and the maintenance of civil rights under such trying local circumstances. Countries with strong legal foundations have the resilience and the capacity to restore democratic institutions. There is a need to give countries such as these the much needed space to begin that restorative process to arrive at an even keel. The United Nations must provide leadership in capacity building efforts to address the gaps by also factoring in local sensitivities.

Sri Lanka reiterates its willingness to engage with the United Nations to promote the rule of law based on constructive, fair, non-selective and objective assessments.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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