For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/PI/219
Release Date:    13 September 2000
 Rule of International Law Emphatically Reaffirmed 
At United Nations Millennium Summit

 NEW YORK, 12 September (UN Headquarters) -- In an unprecedented treaty signing and ratification ceremony held during the three days of the United Nations Millennium Summit, some 40 instruments of international law were signed, ratified, or acceded to by the leaders of 84 countries, in an action which significantly advanced the impact of the international rule of law.  Many of these leaders also emphasized the commitment of their countries to these agreed rules of conduct in their speeches.

 Altogether more than 270 different actions were undertaken, on treaties that ranged from the confirmation and advancement of human rights through measures to circumscribe the use and proliferation of deadly weapons to the protection of the environment. 

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the attending Heads of State in his closing address that by their actions they had “reaffirmed the vital importance of international law, which is the common language of our international community”.  In their Millennium statement, adopted at the conclusion of the Summit, the Member States resolved to “strengthen the rule of law in international as in national affairs”.

Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), said in a statement issued today by her Office that “ratification of treaties will be the first indicator of State willingness to embrace a rights-based order in the new millennium”.

 By far the largest number of signatures were affixed to the two new optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CHILD), each of which was signed by nearly 60 States.  The protocols seek to prevent children under the age of 18 from being used in armed conflict, and to eliminate the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

 Mr. Annan said that the protocols “seek to protect children from abuses that bring shame to all humankind.  Your action is a welcome sign that humankind is coming together, at last, to put an end to them”, he said.

 Another new human rights protocol, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CDWM), was signed by 17 States and was ratified by four. The  total number of ratifications is now just one less than 10 required for the protocol to enter into force.  This protocol allows individuals who feel their rights under the Convention have been violated to petition the Convention Committee directly once local remedies have been exhausted.

 In its statement, the Office of UNHCR said that “the Millennium Summit initiative has been stunningly successful in speeding up signature and ratification of the three newest human rights treaties”.

 One of the major pillars of international human rights law, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, was further strengthened during the three days, as several countries added their signatures and ratifications. The Covenant, which forms a crucial part of the “International Bill of Human Rights”, advances basic human rights such as freedom from torture, enslavement, arbitrary incarceration and detention, and freedom of movement, expression and association.

 The day of the establishment of the International Criminal Court drew nearer as the Rome Statute, under which the Court will be established, was signed by 12 States and ratified by four.  The Statute now has a total of 110 signatures and 19 ratifications.  It will enter into force following the sixtieth ratification.

 Among the many other treaties that were strengthened by actions undertaken during the Summit were several treaties on the protection of the environment, including the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCC), which seeks to limit emissions of greenhouse gases.  In addition, actions were taken on a number of conventions and treaties concerned with the suppression of terrorism, nuclear testing, landmines, chemical weapons and other weapons that have excessive or indiscriminate effects.

Legal Counsel Hans Corell, who officiated at the treaty signing and ratification event during the three days of the Summit, observed: "In the United Nations we are constantly concerned with a multitude of questions that require our immediate attention.  However, when we look back and the dust of these daily efforts has settled, what emerges is the law that we have created.  This is the result of our common efforts -- a heritage that we leave for future generations in the hope that they will be able to live in peace and dignity.  The signatures and ratifications that many Member States will undertake during the Summit are a reinforcement of the idea of rule of law in international relations."

Palitha Kohona, Chief of the Treaty Section of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, which was responsible for organizing the treaty ceremony during the Summit, commented at the end of the ceremony that, “The commitment that has been made by so many States during the Summit to strengthen and advance the international rule of law by signing and ratifying a range of key treaties will be a lasting legacy for future generations.  The fond hope of humanity of leaving behind an international relations framework, which, for the most part of history, has been influenced by fear and brute force, and entering an era of commonly agreed and predictable norms of conduct, may now be closer to realization.”

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