30 May 2011
Round-Table Discussion on "The Rule of Law" on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
Opening remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Commemoration of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers
Round table discussion on “The Rule of Law”
Conference Room XXVI (building E)
Monday, 30 May at 16:00
Friends and Colleagues:
Welcome to the round table discussion on this year’s topic of International Peacekeeper’s Day, “The Rule of Law”. It’s a very important topic which deserves our attention. Here in Geneva, we very much support and respect the marking of this Day. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the International Association of Soldiers for Peace, and its President, Mr. Attar-Bayrou for their hard work and continued involvement in the events today. I would also like to extend my sympathies to the Government and people of Italy, for the attack on Italian peacekeepers last Friday in Lebanon. The Secretary-General strongly condemned this attack and highly commended the mission of peacekeepers all over the world.
The rule of law is fundamental to the mission of the United Nations, originating from the Charter: to maintain international peace and security; to achieve economic and social progress, and development; and to encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
United Nations peacekeeping works on the front lines to advance this mission. To this end, rule of law assistance in peace operations aims to strengthen the institutions responsible for security and justice – the police, the courts and the correctional institutions.
This work is so important because many times, when peacekeepers are deployed, they arrive in countries that have been utterly torn apart by conflict and strife. As a result, there is a complete absence of rule of law – police who do not or cannot provide security and civilians who feel unsafe; disfunctional justice systems; unlawful arrests and detentions; and correctional institutions where conditions do not meet international human rights standards. True security can only be provided once these institutions are strengthened and restored.
United Nations peacekeeping provides invaluable assistance in training police forces, monitoring local police performance and helping restructure and reform national and local police forces. It is essential that police and other law enforcement agencies protect individuals and communities, enforce the law without discrimination and take appropriate action against alleged violations of the law.
More than 14,000 United Nations Police Officers now carry out this work in 16 peacekeeping or special political missions around the globe. They develop community policing in refugee or internally-displaced persons camps, they mentor and in some cases train national police officers, they provide specialization in different types of investigations and in a number of countries they help law enforcement agents to address transnational crime. In addition, more than 60 Formed Police Units, comprising of over 6,000 police officers, currently undertake crowd control, protect United Nations staff and material and escort personnel when they must visit insecure regions of a mission area.
A judiciary which is independent, impartial and empowered is critical, especially for countries emerging from conflict.
Justice components in United Nations missions often assist in the mapping and assessment of the host countries’ justice sectors and in the development of national justice reform strategies. They also help implement national rule of law strategies through activities such as developing national judicial training capacity; assisting in legislative drafting and constitutional reform; and promoting professionalism, integrity, accountability and transparency within justice institutions.
Also essential to supporting the rule of law in a post-conflict environment are correction services that provide for a safe, secure and humane prison and rehabilitation system. Prison systems in these settings often suffer from poor management and security; lack of food and water; gross overcrowding; lack of medical support and prolonged pre-trial detention, contributing to the lack of confidence in the justice system.
United Nations peacekeeping leads the work of the United Nations to ensure proper conditions for detainees and prisoners in post-conflict environments. Corrections components in peace missions advise national prison authorities on institutional restructuring; train and build national capacity; and help build partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations, with the overall aim of building national ownership of the prison reform process.
It is through these three pillars of work that United Nations peacekeeping promotes the rule of law and the core principles of the United Nations Charter and mission. Today, peacekeeping works to build the foundations for security and justice, in order to achieve a durable peace in the aftermath of conflict.
I shall now focus on areas of priority within rule of law work in peacekeeping. First, one important priority involves finding ways in which to do this type of work in a more gender-sensitive manner. This means promoting women's equal participation in building and maintaining peace, as well as ensuring that peacekeepers are aware of the linkages between gender equality and peace. Increasing the number of female police officers, both in national police forces and in United Nations peacekeeping operations, is certainly one way in which to do this. It is important that national police services are representative of the communities in which they serve and recognize the significant role that women play in these communities. At the same time, increasing the number of women serving as United Nations police officers greatly enhances the effectiveness of peacekeeping police components by helping to build trust with populations and inspiring more women to become police officers. It is also important that gender is integrated into all elements of peacekeeping policy development from planning through evaluation stages.
Second, we must also focus on the security sector reform agenda, an area very much linked to the work which I described earlier in strengthening security and justice institutions. In this regard, peacekeeping needs to establish an enabling environment; support needs assessments and strategic planning; facilitate national dialogue; provide technical advice and support to security institutions and capacity-building support for oversight mechanisms; support coordination and resource mobilization; and assist national and international partners in monitoring, evaluating and reviewing progress in security sector reform.
Lastly, we need to make transitional justice a priority. One challenge that rule of law work has faced in the past is difficulty in delivering transition and exit strategies in the absence of political or peacebuilding solutions to sustain the process when the peacekeepers leave. Transitional justice programmes can assist in this process, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation. They may consist of both judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms, including prosecution and right to truth initiatives, reparations, institutional reform and national consultations. In line with the Charter, the United Nations supports accountability, justice and reconciliation at all times.
I thank you for joining me in what I hope will be a fruitful and interesting discussion. On this International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, let us pay tribute to the work of our colleagues in supporting the rule of law around the world. As we did in Ariana Park just recently, let us also honour those who lost their lives in the cause of peace.
Thank you very much.