Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Open Security Council Debate

“The promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security”

H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom

Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

to the United Nations



Madam President,

Thank you for organizing this important debate on the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security. The concept note by Lithuania explores in an excellent way the challenges and opportunities in the field of rule of law.

The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by the EU. Allow me to also make a few remarks in a national capacity.

Promoting international law is dear to our hearts. Respect for the rule of law is an essential condition for peace and stability and lasting economic development. It is inextricably linked to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. As an open society and an open economy, the Netherlands depends on a strong international order. Our constitution even obligates our governments to promote the international legal order. In Europe, we have traded the rule of the strongest for the rule of law, as Minister Timmermans said today.

Madam President,

Allow me to make three points, on the links between rule of law, development, and peace and security. In general, rule of law has an international and a national dimension.

International law is complementary to national law.

International institutions can assist national governments in many ways. One example is the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which recently advised the government of Tunisia on its new Constitution, one that is now seen as an example for the region.

International legal institutions, such as the various courts and tribunals in The Hague, can make positive contributions to prevent conflicts, strengthen the rule of law and combat impunity by holding to account those who perpetrated or condoned heinous crimes. The Netherlands strongly believes that the Security Council should refer the current mass atrocities in Syria to the ICC. In general, Security Council interaction with the ICC must be improved. The international legal order will also be strengthened if all member states accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court of Justice. This ought to be complementary to efforts under national law. States have a fundamental responsibility to pursue the rule of law towards everyone within their jurisdiction.

Rule of law is essential for sustainable development.

There is increasing international consensus that security and rule of law are important development outcomes in their own right and critical building blocks for sustainable development and inclusive economic growth. The Netherlands, jointly with the UK and Australia, stated its position clearly two weeks ago in the Open Working Group: “In the post-2015 framework, we want to see goals and targets on governance and the rule of law, peace, safety and justice for all”.

Peace and inclusive and effective institutions require the leadership and ownership of the countries involved, supported by the UN upon request. This can only be achieved through the acceptance, involvement, and participation of citizens and communities. Women especially, are drivers of development, if they have the opportunity to make their voice heard and have access to state and judicial services.

Countries without a functioning system which guarantees rule of law will be unable to reach development goals. Because investors will be hesitant if uncertainty exists that their investments are protected, and because talented individuals driven by the desire to enjoy basic human rights are tempted to resort to migration. Just two examples of rational behavior resulting in diminished economic growth.

Bilateral efforts must complement multilateral efforts. One of the four pillars of Dutch development cooperation is security and the rule of law. Within this policy, we focus not so much on bricks and mortar but more on the mentality behind this hardware. For example, in Rwanda, the Netherlands supports the one-stop-centers for victims of sexual violence and the establishment of legal aid mechanisms. In Uganda we assist with the collaboration of all the partners within the justice, law and order sector, including civil society, focused on improving service delivery to citizen.

A one size fits all approach does not apply: the differences between states in the field of security and rule of law require tailor-made support.

A comprehensive approach is needed, especially in post-conflict situations.

The High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law, which took place in September 2012, was the first UN summit of its kind. It meant an important step forward, but much remains to be done. The declaration that was adopted at the High Level Meeting asked for greater coordination and coherence among the UN entities and with donors and recipients, to improve the effectiveness of rule of law capacity-building activities in countries.

The Netherlands has for many years supported the UN engagement on rule of law, through UNDP, DPKO and the Peacebuilding Fund. We support the decision of the SG to appoint DPKO and UNDP as focal points for police, justice and corrections activities and urge all involved to continue strengthening the implementation of this initiative, as requested by UN missions and offices in the field.

To ensure growth and development, rule of law is especially essential for states coming out of conflict. We need to address the causes of conflict and fragility to break the cycle and make development possible. Let me give you the example of Ethiopia, where access to improved water quadrupled after the war ended. Mozambique more than tripled its primary education completion rate in just eight years. Primary education enrolment in Rwanda increased from 75% to 96% between 2006 and 2011.

But it only works if a coordinated and comprehensive strategy is in place early on, to which bilateral and multilateral actors are truly committed. National ownership and vision must guide this to meet the expectations and to keep the momentum and credibility of the process. One such example is the Afghanistan province of Kunduz, where The Netherlands enacted a program to strengthen the police, prosecutor’s office and lawyers, and rights awareness building for citizens.

Mr. President,

To conclude, let me underline the relevance of rule of law for the people we represent here at the UN. As the Dutch philosopher Spinoza said: “The goal of the state is actually freedom”.

For citizens worldwide, the rule of law, safety and justice are crucial to guarantee freedom, to achieve lasting prosperity and to prevent violence and conflict from taking hold. Country leadership and ownership is essential, and where needed, the international community should stand ready with coordinated and long-term assistance. The Netherlands is and will continue to be your partner in this respect, for peace, justice and development.