Statement by Ambassador H.E. Palitha T.B. Kohona

Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

at the Security Council Open Debate  

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

17 October 2012

Mr. President, 

Let me join the other speakers in thanking you for convening this open debate.  

In one sense, the rule of law, at national and international levels, provides an essential framework to protect and consolidate the rights and freedoms of individuals in societies, and develop and maintain peace, stability, good order and dispense justice.

The concept of what is right and just go back to very early organized societies. The concept of the rule of law, evolved over the centuries, and is ingrained in the culture of all nations. What evolved within domestic society, at some point, began influencing international society as well.  

Since 2003, the Security Council’s thematic debates on the rule of law have focused on egregious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and helped to reinforce the global community’s disapprobation of such violations. 

Mr. President,

I would like to recall a landmark meeting that was convened by the President of the 66th General Assembly on September 13, 2012. The event marked the adoption of the resolution, “"Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention, and resolution” and was followed by the screening of the documentary ‘Beyond Right and Wrong.” The presentations on that day offered creative ways to make mediation more effective. One of the speakers emphasized that justice should not always be reduced to retribution, an all too-easy a solution. Besides, this approach is derived from a certain specific cultural background. Other approaches to dispute solution, and addressing wrongs should be explored as we give greater meaning to the concept of the rule of law.  There are other mechanisms used by different societies.  

The rule of law at the international level helps to maintain peace, good order and respect for the law. It also sustains economic progress, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. While it has long been used, in the context of individual rights, 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. We should also not forget the need for a rule based approach to environmental protection. Grievances based on violations of economic and social rights, defined by law, have the capacity to spark violent conflict that could even spill over borders. The rule of law is therefore best understood in such a holistic manner. The flash points of future conflicts may well lie in access to critical resources such as water and energy. 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.   

The codification of international law and legal obligations is an important aspect of the rule of law at the international level.  The Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations plays a central role in this regard.  Today, there is hardly an area of human activity that is not regulated by treaty law.  Over 550 multilateral treaties are deposited with the Secretary-General. Domestic compliance with treaty obligations is an area where the UN can play a crucial and helpful role, particularly in assisting Sates with capacity building.  

Mr. President,  

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. Drug trafficking has become associated with high levels of violent crime contributing to cross-border instability. International organized crime is now a funding source for terrorism, and is becoming an economically and socially destabilizing factor. Piracy is a major challenge to the established order. Confronting this challenge, involves close cooperation and capacity building at both the national and regional levels, including in the enforcement of the law.  However, long-term solutions to transnational organised crime, terrorism and piracy will need to focus on the delivery of basic services by justice and security institutions, not forgetting the complex root causes which give rise to these challenges.   

Mr. President,

The principle of sovereign equality enshrined in the UN Charter, which is intrinsic to the international rule of law, must be maintained as international rules are made and implemented. It is a principle which protects all States, especially the small and the weak. Equally important, is 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.  Specific circumstances may call for international involvement which should be based on the broad agreement of the international community as well as the concerned States.   Unilateral and selective applications of international law rules must be avoided as it undermines the very principles that we seek to promote. 

Mr. President,  

Sri Lanka has always advocated the settlement of internal and international disputes by peaceful means. Negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means must be the first essential resort.  

Mindful that conflict and post-conflict settings are complex environments, we must recognize the challenges of trying to balance national security interests and the maintenance of rights.  Countries with strong legal foundations have the resilience to restore democratic institutions to their inherent strengths.  Countries must be allowed to create their own local mechanisms to consolidate peace, encourage reconciliation, and most importantly, strengthen democratic institutions.  There is, therefore, a need to give them the much needed space to begin that restorative process.  In such situations,  the United Nations can provide assistance to address the gaps, while factoring in local sensitivities.  

Thank you, Mr. President.

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