Wednesday, 21 March 2018

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UNRIC Library Backgrounder: Rule of Law

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"For the United Nations, the rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency."

The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies:
Report of the Secretary-General (S/2004/616, 23 August 2004)

United Nations and the Rule of Law:

UN Entities

The Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group is chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General and has the overall leadership role for the rule of law in the work of the United Nations. It ensures that the UN is able to foresee new opportunities and address new challenges. The Group take into account the emergence of new realities and actors in the field of the rule of law, and provides guidance to ensure overall coordination and coherence in the Organization’s support to Member States.  With strengthened leadership and new institutional arrangements in place, the Organization is better placed to address the challenges faced in strengthening the rule of law.

To respond to the interest of encompassing within the framework of the rule of law a broader range of UN activities, the membership of the now includes 20 entities with important normative components in their mandates:

UN Conferences & Events

Selected UN Documents
  • A/RES/72/119: The rule of law at the national and international levels: resolution / adopted by the General Assembly on 7 December 2017:
  • A/72/268 (1 August 2017): Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities: report of the Secretary-General:
    Submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 71/148.
    "Annex: Ways and means to further disseminate international law to strengthen the rule of law": p. 19.
  • A/HRC/RES/34/41: Human rights, democracy and the rule of law: resolution / adopted by the Human Rights Council on 24 March 2017:
  • A/HRC/34/46 (31 January 2017): First session of the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law: report of the Co-Chairs:
    1st session held in Geneva from 21 to 22 Nov. 2016 pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 28/14.
  • A/RES/71/148: The rule of law at the national and international levels: resolution / adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 2016:
  • A/71/515 (11 November 2016): The rule of law at the national and international levels: report of the 6th Committee: General Assembly, 71st session:
  • Further documents – click here

Further Information

Research & Documentation
  • United Nations Rule of Law - Document Repository
    The Document Repository is a promotional and educational tool for practitioners and the general public. It seeks to inform users about the UN’s work in the field of rule of law, and its efforts to coordinate and strengthen system-wide approaches in this field. It is the central UN rule of law web-based resource, serving as a gateway to the rest of the UN’s related sites, and making information more widely accessible about UN rule of law issues and activities, and the various tools, documents and materials on the subject. The website is also an avenue for users to access other web resources on or related to rule of law, developed by the UN or external organizations.

  •  Audiovisual Library of International Law
    Lecture Series on “Rule of Law, Democracy and Good Governance”:
    The research library contains links to other web-based resources providing international law-related materials. The library is divided into four components: resources relating to treaties; materials concerning the jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals; access to selected UN publications and repositories; and selected scholarly writings in international law.

  • Repertoire of Practice of the Security Council – Rule of law:

  • Dag Hammarskjöld Library - Research Guides - UN Documentation - International Law:

  • Dag Hammarskjöld Library - Research Guide - Human Rights, the Rule of Law & the post-2015 development agenda:
  • UNRIC Library Backgrounder - Special Tribunals & other mechanisms:

  • UNRIC Library Backgrounder - Responsibility to Protect:


Selected Publications available online



February 2018
not an official document - for information only