Press Releases

         16 November 2004

    Secretary-General Calls for ‘Culture of Respect’ for Rule of Law, at Home and Abroad, in Message to New Delhi Conference

    NEW YORK, 15 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Second International Conference of the Indian Society of International Law in New Delhi, 14-17 November:

    I send my greeting to all who have gathered in New Delhi for the Second International Law Conference of the Indian Society of International Law.

    One of the founding purposes of the United Nations is to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained. That objective is as important today as it was when the Charter of the United Nations was adopted. Indeed, today’s interdependence of nations and peoples only serves to underscore the need for a global response to shared problems within an agreed legal framework -- one made up of fair rules fairly arrived at, and which each State can be confident that others will obey.

    Our world is still a long way from meeting this lofty goal. Through the United Nations, an impressive body of norms and laws has been developed, covering everything from trade to terrorism, the law of the sea to weapons of mass destruction, the environment to international criminal law. But this framework still has gaps and weaknesses. It is too often applied selectively and enforced arbitrarily. It lacks the teeth that turn a body of laws into a truly effective legal system. And in recent years, despite progress in specific areas, in others there have been signs of a serious cleavage in the very principles to be applied, and of a weakening of the commitment to the international rule of law.

    That is why, when world leaders met in New York in September at the opening of this year’s General Assembly, I called on all States to work to strengthen respect for the rule of law. I made that call at the outset of a very important period for the international community. Next year, world leaders will be reviewing progress in implementing the Millennium Declaration which they adopted in 2000. As part of that review, I believe that the time will have come to renew the United Nations, and make it a more effective instrument for a collective response to the threats and challenges of the twenty-first century. If

    Member States can rise to that challenge, and find the common ground necessary for real reform, they will have made an important step toward a global order based on respect for international law.

    The challenge of strengthening international law is not the responsibility of governments alone. We must all work to create a culture of respect for the rule of law at home and abroad, where all members of the community respect the law and are protected and empowered by it. Meetings such as yours are crucial for bringing a true understanding of international law to civil society, and for bringing local concerns to international fora. I have no doubt that the participants in this conference can make a real contribution to the rule of law in India and beyond. I therefore wish you all the best for a productive discussion.

    * *** *