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”

19 January 2012

“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 clear principle that Member States must respect, and 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 involvement which should be based on the agreement of all States. Unilateral and selective applications of international law principles must be avoided. Considering that the principles that are accepted as being part of the international rule of law, took centuries to evolve, any temptation to expect them to dawn everywhere, with equal effect,  at short notice must also be resisted.”


Mr. President,

My delegation welcomes the convening of this open debate at a time when there is a growing realization of the challenges and risks that the rule of law deficits pose to international peace and security. The United Nations has a fundamental responsibility to maintain and strengthen international peace and security in conformity with the principles of justice and international law under the Charter. 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, it is fitting that the Council highlight the centrality of the rule of law. Strengthening of the rule of law is essential, not just to maintain peace, but also to enable sustained economic progress and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Therefore, 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.

In recent times, we have seen that it is ordinary citizens’ demands for the rule of law, accountability and transparency, when unmet, that have propelled momentous changes in societies. The basic principles of the rule of law contribute to the strengthening and protection of the individual. Governments that have upheld justice and the rule of law as key components of their governance structure are therefore stronger in terms of stability and effectiveness.

The rule of law is not a modern abstract concept; it is ingrained in the history of all nations, having evolved over the centuries. Most cultures reflect it. The right to improve the rule of law should not be the right of a handful nor should it be selectively implemented. Selective implementation would cause doubts to arise on credibility.

Internationally, there have been longstanding efforts of States to create an international community based on law. The linkages between the rule of law at the national and international levels are multifaceted. A key aspect of the rule of law at the international level is the codification of international law. In this regard, the multilateral treaty framework, mainly developed under the auspices of the United Nations, has played a seminal role. Today, there is hardly an area of human activity that is not regulated by treaty law. The judgments of the International Court of Justice and its advisory opinions have also contributed immensely to an international order based on law.

Increasingly, regional approaches have also played an important role in addressing the growing problem of transnational organized crime and terrorism which threaten international peace. This involves close cooperation and capacity building at both the national and regional levels. However, Long-term solutions to transnational organized crime, terrorism, piracy, etc. will need to focus on the delivery of basic services by justice and security institutions.

In addition, 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.

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

Mindful that conflict and post-conflict settings are complex environments with many competing priorities, we must recognize the tensions and difficulties that emerge while trying to balance national security interests and the maintenance of civil rights under trying local circumstances. Despite the onslaughts on the democratic fabric, countries with strong legal foundations have the resilience and the capacity to restore democratic institutions. Such countries can also create their own local mechanisms to consolidate peace, encourage reconciliation and, most importantly, strengthen democratic institutions.  There is, therefore, a need to give countries such as these, the much needed space to begin that restorative process to arrive at an even keel.  In such contexts, the United Nations must provide leadership in capacity building efforts to address the gaps by also factoring in local sensitivities.

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

Thank you, Mr. President.

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