Statement by Laura G. Ross, Senior Advisor to the Permanent Representative of the United States to the Sixty-fourth Session of the General Assembly, in the Sixth Committee, on Agenda Item 83: The Rule of Law at the National and International Levels

U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
Laura G. Ross, Senior Advisor
New York, NY
October 14, 2009


Thank you Mr. Chairman.

We greatly appreciate the Sixth Committee’s continued interest in this important item and welcome the opportunity to discuss ways through which the United Nations and individual Member States can promote respect for and adherence to the rule of law at the national and international levels. We thank the Secretary-General for his report, A/64/298, which we read with great interest.

The rule of law is not only vital to promoting peace and security. It is also instrumental in facilitating trade and development; democracy and good governance; global health; protection of the environment and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The sub-topic of this year’s debate is entitled “Promoting the rule of law at the international level.” We would like to share some observations on this issue.

Underlying the vast multitude of transactions and interactions that take place on a daily level, public and private, large and small, is a complex web of international law.  We sometimes take for granted that international trade flourishes, international flights take off and land throughout the world, and millions of other trans-national activities occur with often seamless efficiency because people and businesses and countries are complying with the rules that comprise our shared international legal framework.
We rightly rely on the tools of international dispute resolution, whether it be through diplomacy, mediation, conciliation, arbitration or litigation.  But we should not lose sight of the invisible web of international law that allows this modern globalized world to thrive, for more often than not, there is no need to resort to dispute resolution, as the wheels of commerce and diplomacy and daily international interaction keep turning.

We should not forget the need to promote the progressive development of international law in areas that need improvement, in areas that could benefit from further refinement or gap-filling. We should remain creative and flexible as we seek to advance and promote the further development of international law, including accepting that in some cases a global multilateral treaty is not necessarily the answer, and that sometimes in regional or bilateral or even non-binding set of understandings can best address a particular need.
Through it all, we should bear in mind the complex and dynamic interaction between the rule of law at the international level and the rule of law at the national level.  Compliance with international law at the international level – that constant daily compliance with the vast web of international law that we often take for granted – can lead to a culture of compliance at the domestic level.  And the key to implementation of so many treaties is robust State implementation at the domestic level.
States have a key a role to play in promoting respect for and implementation of law at the international level.

The United States has reinvigorated its commitment to the rule of law at the international level, including in the arena of international humanitarian and human rights law and through its participation in the work of multilateral institutions. The Obama Administration signaled the seriousness of its commitment in these areas in its very first week of being in office. Among the President’s first Executive Orders were orders that mandated the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, instituted searching reviews of U.S. detention and interrogation policies, closed CIA secret detention facilities, and caused all interrogations to be governed by the widely accepted guidelines set forth in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

The reinvigorated U.S. commitment to human rights law was particularly evident on July 30, when U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice signed the Convention on the Rights and Persons with Disabilities, the first human rights treaty signed by the United States in over 20 years. We expect President Obama to submit the Convention to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. In May, the United States sought and won a seat on the Human Rights Council and in doing so signaled its intent to participate constructively with the other 46 members of the Council in the promotion and strengthening of human rights.

There are similar examples in the environmental world as well. In February, the United States was instrumental in leading efforts at the meeting of the United Nations Environment Program’s Governing Council to begin negotiations designed to lead to a global, legally-binding instrument addressing the challenges posed by mercury.

Multilateral institutions matter and, as President Obama and U.S. Permanent Representative Ambassador Susan Rice have stated, the United States is proud to resume its leadership role in multilateral institutions. Robust U.S. participation in multilateral institutions signals U.S. recognition of their potential to contribute to the welfare of individuals worldwide, including through practices such as the adoption and implementation of resolutions that affect the complex web of international law.

In conclusion, the United States appreciates the Sixth Committee’s interest in promoting respect for and adherence to the rule of law at the national and international level. We are strong proponents of respect for and adherence to the rule of law and look forward to working with others on practical measures to advance those objectives.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2009/216