I have the honour to speak on behalf of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
2011 has been a momentous year by any account for rule of law practitioners and the wider international community. The eyes of the world have been focused on events in North Africa and the Middle East as peoples across the region have demanded political and constitutional reform and greater democracy. One by one the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere have spoken emphatically, calling for government accountability, greater respect for human rights, greater political freedoms and effective judicial redress.
However, such significant changes cannot occur overnight. Periods of reform are often accompanied by periods of instability. These situations – always complex – require sophisticated, multi-dimensional responses covering the entire spectrum of assistance, including political and security sector reform, capacity building of government institutions and transitional justice mechanisms. Such support, delivered in partnership with and at the request of the affected societies, is vital to establishing or re-establishing the rule of law, which in turn is the foundation for building a stable, prosperous society.
These are necessarily long-term efforts. While police or military assistance may be able to restore law and order over the relative short-term, more far-reaching change - such as the enactment of legislation and training of government officials, resulting in greater accountability and increased public confidence in government institutions – is usually measured in years, not months.
Within the UN system, the efforts to coordinate between DPKO and UNDP in support to the rule of law are very welcome: the fact that these two institutions have very differing time horizons for their efforts makes that coordination all the more important. Outside the UN system, on the ground, we believe that improved sharing of information about rule of law projects by donors and the UN system is necessary if we are to effectively support this sector.
Each of our countries has been engaged for a number of years with other Member States in providing rule of law assistance and capacity building in our respective regions and elsewhere. Australia and New Zealand, together with 13 other Pacific nations, have played leading roles in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which has helped restore law and order, foster economic recovery and develop government institutions since its deployment in 2003. Key strengths of this mission have been its close cooperation with the Solomon Islands Government, its regional make-up, its strong support from the people of Solomon Islands and the careful planning and consultation that has gone into its current drawdown phase.
Canada continues to support the Special Court for Sierra Leone to complete its mandate and has been a strong supporter of international courts and tribunals throughout the last decade. Canada is also supporting training for security sector forces and judicial institutions to increase their understanding of child protection principles and their competency to respond to cases of sexual and gender-based violence, child soldier recruitment, and child rights violations. The project seeks to enhance national and provincial capacities to manage the causes, manifestations and impacts of sex and gender based violence and to ensure the protection of children.
Over the past two decades we have observed a steady growth in the number and workload of international criminal courts and tribunals, established to hold accountable those individuals most responsible for serious international crimes. Indeed, it has been heartening to see the international community’s confidence in the work of the International Criminal Court, particularly following events in the Middle East this year.
However, while these international criminal courts and tribunals play a valuable role in combating impunity, they should be viewed as but one part of the solution to addressing the problems of post-conflict societies and re-establishing the rule of law. Action at the national level is also required, so that international efforts will support and enhance those being taken nationally. Establishing the rule of law in conflict or post-conflict societies can only occur when previous wrongs are acknowledged, the perpetrators brought to account and the victims afforded redress. There is no “one size-fits-all” approach to transitional justice. Rather, a combination of measures, including criminal prosecutions, reparations programs and truth-seeking processes, can play important, complementary roles in promoting accountability.
Hybrid or ‘mixed’ courts have also been introduced in some countries as a mechanism for combining international support for the prosecution of serious international crimes with support for the national judicial system. Institutions such as the the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the Special Court for Sierra Leone can play a valuable role not only in holding those most responsible for serious international crimes to account, but also in developing the national legal system and promoting the rule of law. Their situation in the local setting also allows for greater local ownership and participation and potentially enables a greater level of reconciliation within the affected population. It is important that we draw on the lessons learned from these hybrid courts in order to maximise the effectiveness of future endeavours.
Truth commissions can also play a key role in facilitating reconciliation and make a positive contribution to post-conflict societies. The reports of truth commissions can provide key policy guidance for governments with recommendations aimed at addressing the root causes of the conflict and reforming national institutions, as well as an important educative tool for the population. In this regard, it is to be hoped that the launch recently of the reconciliation commission in Côte d’Ivoire will play a key role in forging unity and promoting reconciliation following the internal conflict there.
Establishment and maintenance of the rule of law is not only essential for protecting individuals’ rights but a pre-requisite for any strategy aimed at building a stable, prosperous society and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
CANZ remains committed to working with the UN and Member States to encourage and foster greater adherence to the rule of law at both the national and international level.