Statement by Gregory Nickels, U.S. Senior Adviser to the 65th General Assembly, on Agenda Item 85: The Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, in the Sixth Committee

Gregory Nickels, U.S. Senior Adviser to the 65th General Assembly
New York, NY
October 12, 2010


Thank you, Madame Chair.

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.

In June of this year, the Security Council also considered rule of law issues. At that debate, the United States expressed its belief that the rule of law is “central to the maintenance of international peace and security and the pursuit of global progress.” I want to reiterate that here today, and add that the rule of law also promotes trade and development, democracy, good governance, global health, as well as protection of the environment, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.

The sub-topic of this year’s debate is “laws and practices of Member States in implementing international law.” 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. Through bilateral and multilateral treaties covering a vast range of subjects, from aviation to human rights, from global health to outer space, from trade to development, nations have recognized it to be in their interest to assume binding legal obligations to achieve their collective goals.

A key to achieving these goals is the effective implementation of these international legal obligations at the national level. Without effective implementation, State by State, party by party, treaty obligations are no more than words on paper and empty promises.

The United States takes its international legal obligations very seriously. Before the United States becomes party to a treaty, the practice of the United States Government is to review its terms to ensure that we will be in a position to implement the obligations contained in it. When necessary or appropriate, this review includes consulting with other federal agencies, members of the United States Congress, local and state authorities, private industry, and civil society. In many instances, this process can take considerable time, but it is necessary so that we can be confident that we will be in a position to fulfill the treaty obligations to which we commit.

For example, the implementation of private international law treaties, which focus on the harmonization and unification of national laws relating to various cross-border transactions, frequently requires substantial cooperation between authorities, including the judiciary, at the federal and state levels. It may take years for the United States, as it did in the case of the Hague Adoption Convention, to establish an effective framework for implementation, but establishing such a framework is crucial to obtaining compliance. It is also important to recognize that, often, the United States – like other countries – works to fine-tune its implementation of treaties even after entry into force. We recognize that it sometimes is not enough to simply create a framework prior to joining, for inevitably unexpected problems arise.

The United Nations can play an important and constructive role in promoting the rule of law as it works to build domestic institutions and capacity. More than forty United Nations entities are involved in rule of law activities at the national level, in post conflict and other circumstances. We support efforts at the United Nations to coordinate UN rule of law activities in order to maximize efficiency and avoid duplication.

In conclusion, we are strong proponents of respect for and adherence to the rule of law, and the United States looks forward to working with others on practical measures to advance those objectives.

Thank you, Madame Chairperson.


PRN: 2010/226