October 14, 2019
Statement at The Rule of Law at the National and International Levels

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza

Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See

Seventy-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Sixth Committee consideration of item 83: The Rule of Law at the National and International Levels

New York, 10-11 October 2019


Mr. Chair,

In his January 2019 Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the Traditional Exchange of New Year’s Greetings, Pope Francis referred to the primacy of justice and law in regulating the relationships between nations. However, it is “troubling,” the Pope said, “to see the reemergence of tendencies to impose and pursue individual national interests without having recourse to the instruments provided by [...]  law for resolving controversies and ensuring that justice is respected.”[1]

My Delegation welcomes the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the rule of law activities of the United Nations.[2] The various capacity-building and technical-support projects of this Organization aimed at strengthening the rule of law at the national level are laudable, including the work of building independent justice systems, people-centered security measures; ensuring  accountability for the most serious crimes of international concern; and assuring greater access to justice for marginalized and vulnerable groups, including detainees, indigent persons, refugees, and other displaced persons. Likewise, my Delegation supports the United Nations’ ongoing initiatives to promote the rule of law at the international level. These and other efforts address the call of Pope Francis for respect for law and justice both within nations and in the international community.[3]

My Delegation concurs with the Secretary-General’s call for a stronger commitment to a world order in accordance with international law, that has the United Nations at its center, to ensure that investment in building a fair and multilateral system bear positive results for all.[4] Indeed, the carefully crafted framework of multilateral treaties and legal agreements concluded under the aegis of the United Nations over a range of areas, including human rights, trafficking in persons, corruption, arms control and biological diversity, underpins the rule of law at the international level. However, such achievements must be rendered effective and operative in order to ensure that the voiceless and the defenseless have access to justice. Therefore, the rule of law can only be effective if the observance of human rights rests upon adequate effective, accountable and inclusive procedures and institutions at the national level.

It is indeed true, as noted in last year’s resolution, that rule of law activities must be “anchored in a national context and that States have different national experiences in the development of their systems of the rule of law,”[5] however, we must not lose sight of the “universal objective and rational nature of international human rights law in particular, lest there prevail partial and subjective visions of humanity that risk leading to new forms of inequality, injustice, discrimination and, in extreme cases, also new forms of violence and oppression.”[6] 

Mr. Chair,

My Delegation joins the Secretary-General in urging renewed efforts to address specific challenges old and new in the wide field of the rule of law at both the national and international levels. We must, as he states, “strengthen the rule of law to ensure a people-centred approach that protects the rights of the most vulnerable and fairly distributes the burdens of climate change and the benefits of adaptation.”[7] We must therefore find ways to measure the actual impact of legal reform on the lives of those whose need is greatest.

Finally, there can be no rule of law unless lawyers and judges are free to uphold it, free from any pressure, harassment, corruption or persecution. My Delegation notes with dismay the continued rise of assaults upon the independence of both “bench and bar” around the world.  In this regard, we commend the most recent report of the Special Rapporteur on Lawyers and Judges.[8]  We urge that this issue become more prominent in the discussions on the rule of law in this Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.



1. Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings, 7 January 2019.

2. Report of the Secretary-General, Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities (A/74/139).

3.  Address of His Holiness Pope Francis cited above.

4. Report of the Secretary-General cited above.

5. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December 2018 on the report of the Sixth Committee (A/73/533), A/Res/73/207.

6. Address of His Holiness Pope Francis cited above.

7. Report of the Secretary-General cited above.

8. Report of the Special Rapporteur on lawyers and judges (A/HRC/41/48).