I have the honour of speaking today on behalf of New Zealand and Australia, as well as for Canada.
Two weeks ago, a high-level meeting of the General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels. The scale of participation, the quality of the interventions and the level of commitment of the world’s leaders to the rule of law were all impressive. The CANZ countries recognize the Declaration as a re-statement of the international consensus on the rule of law. Yet such statements of principle are only one aspect of the overall issue. Such principles do not by themselves police the streets, prosecute crime or enhance the integrity of a judicial system. By themselves, they do not guarantee human rights or help the world eliminate the scourge of international terrorism.
The real challenge lies in the concrete implementation of these recognized principles and of the existing legal framework. CANZ countries welcome the work by Member States to ratify international agreements and implement international legal norms and standards in the domestic sphere.
The CANZ countries are strong supporters of the rule of law at the national and international levels. In the domestic arena, we have each instituted strong and independent police and judicial authorities to ensure that no individual can act outside the purview of the law. The rights of all but especially of women, children and minorities are best protected in a vibrant democratic system where many points of views are heard and represented. Such open systems can only exist in the presence of the rule of law, which allows individuals to live and express themselves without fear. Furthermore, the interrelated core values of rule of law, freedom, democracy, and human rights are reflected in our respective countries’ foreign policies and international development assistance.
We also recognise the need to provide effective and coordinated assistance to support capacity building. Each of our countries has been active in providing assistance in building capacity to strengthen the rule of law in our respective regions and elsewhere.
Rule of law issues form a central part of Australia’s development assistance. Australian aid supports programs to prevent violence and improve access to local justice and dispute resolution systems. Australia has worked with its partners to put police back on the streets, to strengthen courts, to improve access to justice for marginalised groups, and to enable Governments to ensure the rights of their citizens. This year Australia will provide over A$300 million to strengthen the rule of law in developing countries, and by 2016 we will have trained 14,000 law and justice officials.
New Zealand recognises that the rule of law, maintained through an accessible, impartial and effective legal system, is a critical enabler of sustainable development. Drawing on New Zealand’s judicial expertise, community policing, peace building, and democratic governance, New Zealand supports several initiatives to promote the rule of law within the Pacific region and beyond. With commitments in the Pacific, Timor Leste, Indonesia, and Afghanistan, New Zealand’s assistance supports our partners’ efforts to build effective law enforcement agencies, ensure access to effective legal representation, and create independent and professionally competent judiciaries. New Zealand also provides support to civil society to strengthen open and transparent government processes.
As for Canada, we support several rule of law-related projects in the Middle East, the Americas and Africa. These include support for international courts and tribunals, national truth and justice processes, legal aid, land restitution, capacity building, and training and technical assistance to officials. Canada is also maintaining its support for access to justice and the strengthening of legal institutions in Afghanistan. With a deployment of 45 civilian police officers, Canada is helping Afghanistan institute the rule of law through leadership and management capacity-building, skills training, ministerial reform, and the development of a community policing philosophy.
CANZ countries acknowledge the important role played by international courts, tribunals, treaty bodies and truth and reconciliation commissions in promoting the implementation of international law, holding perpetrators to account and identifying and addressing the root causes of breakdowns in the rule of law. This has been a significant year for the international judicial system: the International Criminal Court handed down its first conviction against Thomas Lubanga and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia began the trial of Ratko Mladić. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda transferred its essential residual functions to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
We also wish to underscore the value of “hybrid” or “mixed” courts, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. A particular achievement this year was the conviction of Liberia’s Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. By combining international support for the prosecution of serious international crimes with support from the national judicial system, these bodies hold perpetrators to account while developing national legal systems and promoting the rule of law.
CANZ countries call on all States that have not yet done so to consider accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, to ratify the Rome Statute and to cooperate fully with the ICC’s efforts to prosecute serious international crimes. We salute the productive work done by the aforementioned bodies and encourage them to continue on the same path.
The institutions and initiatives that we have discussed today all have their role to play. However, it should be borne in mind that the full achievement of the rule of law will not come about by tinkering with structures or by developing new plans of action. The primary responsibility for enhancing the rule of law rests with States, leaders and all individuals, and it behoves us to make respect for the rule of law at all times a primary consideration in all our activities.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada remain committed to the full realization of this ideal at both the national and international levels and will continue to work to that end.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.