Top Stories : AsianSIL Inter-Sessional Regional Conference 2015, The Rule of Law and Development Nexus: A New Deal for Asia? News

Top Stories : AsianSIL Inter-Sessional Regional Conference 2015, The Rule of Law and Development Nexus: A New Deal for Asia?

Presentation

by

H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand

to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva

at the AsianSIL Inter-Sessional Regional Conference 2015

The Rule of Law and Development Nexus: A New Deal for Asia?

First Plenary: The Rule of Law and Sustainable Development:

The Post-2015 Development Agenda

Thursday 4 June 2015, Plaza Athénée, Bangkok

 

------------------------------

 

Your Royal Highness,

 

Mr. Chair, Thank you for your kind introduction. May I first say how honoured I am to join this distinguished panel. Now in New York and Geneva, most discussions are centred upon the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Coming from Geneva, I will at times bring with me a little of the Geneva perspective on the new Agenda, particularly as it concerns human rights, so I hope you will bear with me.

 

Thailand firmly believes that the rule of law and sustainable development are mutually reinforcing. The rule of law is an essential foundation for strong and sustained economic and social development, one that ensures people empowerment, democratic society, solid economic growth and life with dignity.

 

We therefore fully support the views of the United Nations Secretary-General as elaborated in his report on the MDGs, “A Life of Dignity for All”, that “Lasting peace and sustainable development cannot be fully realized without respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

 

This is also why Thailand fully supported the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 of the Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels[1].

 

In it, Member States stated their conviction that “the advancement of the rule of law at the national and international levels is essential for sustained and inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and hunger and the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.”

 

As the international community is meeting in New York to finalize the Post-2015 Development Agenda, there is general agreement that the rule of law is a great enabler of development, that the rule of law is a powerful driver of development at all levels—local, national and international.

 

Here, there are a number of issues relating to the rule of law that resonates with Thailand and we believe they should be integrated into the new Agenda. Many of these issues of course were also highlighted during the High-level Event on Contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, held in New York last year.

 

First and foremost, if the rule of law is to be an enabler of development, we must have clear legal frameworks. And clear legal frameworks in turn will help promote good governance and accountability, at both the national and international levels. 

 

Nationally, the rule of law ensures that everyone and every entity are accountable to just, fair and equitable laws. This also applies to the State itself. It means that all are entitled, without discrimination, to equal protection of the law, including fair remedies. Accountability ensures good governance, which in turn helps address the problem of corruption. In the context of natural resources, it also ensures that natural resources are managed in a sustainable manner and for the shared prosperity of all concerned.

 

Internationally, the rule of law applies to all States and organizations, leading to a more inclusive and participatory approach. It will help ensure that our rules-based multilateral trading system is free and fair, as should be global governance in other areas such as finance, investment, intellectual property and climate. It will also ensure that all development actors are accountable, ensuring that their endeavours help promote sustainable growth in the long run rather than achieve short term gains. Only with rule of law can we ensure that international rules and policies are consistent with the right to development.

 

Secondly, the rule of law helps to alleviate poverty.  Good legal frameworks—and by this we mean fair, stable, predictable and gender-sensitive—promotes inclusive, sustainable and equitable development, growth and employment. It also supports the protection of land, property and other resource use rights, the enforcement of contracts, the regulation and protection of labour rights and the enforcement of fair trade rules and equal access to markets and social protection floors, all of which supports inclusive economic growth.

 

Thirdly, the rule of law can help address inequalities and empower people, thus also promoting inclusive growth. Here, particular attention should be given to women and girls who often face discrimination and particular challenges. Here, we need to better respond to their gender-sensitive needs.

 

In this regard, Thailand spearheaded a resolution last year at the Human Rights Council stressing the importance of “technical cooperation to support inclusive and participatory development and poverty eradication at the national level” mindful that development has been uneven within and across countries, with many poor, disadvantaged and marginalized people in both developed and developing countries left behind.

 

The empowerment of people is also linked to the fourth point, the importance of having a legal identity.  This is essential if everyone is to enjoy equal access to services and benefit from their rights. This is especially important for those most marginalised and vulnerable who are disproportionately affected, such as migrants or minorities. In this regard, Thailand’s policy of birth registration for everyone, including migrants and displaced persons has been well received and used as an example and a best practice for others.

 

Fourth, access to justice is crucial. We need to ensure that everyone has access to justice in a manner that is timely, transparent, effective, fair, responsive, participatory and accountable. This provides for the peaceful resolution of disputes and provides effective remedies for grievances and claims in a fair and independent manner. Here, one should also note the importance of the independence of judicial systems which underpins the whole issue of the rule of law.

 

Fifth, peace and development are mutually dependent. And without the rule of law, our societies will neither peaceful nor stable. The rule of law is essential if we are to tackle challenges such as transnational organized crime, trafficking in persons and illicit drugs, and illicit financial flows. The rule of law, at the national and international level, and close collaboration between States in this regard, can help tackle these problems which are also transnational in nature, thus leading to peace and sustainable development.

 

Sixth and last, but not least, we believe that human rights should also be highlighted. Our legal frameworks need to emphasize a rights-based approach. We need to close the gap between the rich and the poor and ensure that everyone in society has access to justice and enjoy their fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.

 

At the Human Rights Council last year, Thailand therefore was the lead country in drafting and delivering a joint statement on behalf of nearly forty countries on “Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, stressing the importance of such issues as equal opportunity, non-discrimination, empowerment of people and equitable distribution of development benefits, with priority given to the rights and needs of the poorest, disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable, as well as the promotion of free, informed, active and meaningful participation of all stakeholders throughout the development process, including measures to fight corruption, promote good governance, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.

 

The rule of law and development nexus is also important regionally.

 

This is particularly the case for South East Asia as ASEAN moves from a loose regional grouping to a more rules-based, people-centred Community by the end of this year. In this context, rule of law means that international law and treaty obligations are adhered to based on the notions of non-discrimination and equality before the law—principles that commit all ten Member States to implement their obligations under international treaties to which they are party, and thus paving the way for them to live together in peace and harmony. Promoting dialogue among Member States regarding the advancement of the rule of law is also crucial for promoting the rule of law at the national, regional and international levels.

 

It is in this regard that Thailand has been actively promoting the linkage between the rule of law and sustainable development. Under the leadership of Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, through the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), Thailand initiated three General Assembly resolutions on the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice in the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015, calling for more enhanced UN system-wide coordination and the more integrated Post-2015 development agenda.  

 

In November 2013, the Government of Thailand hosted the “Bangkok Dialogue on the Rule of Law: Investing in the Rule of Law, Justice and Security for the Post-2015 Development Agenda” which brought together world leaders and global experts to discuss how to promote sustainable development through a fair, humane, equitable and accountable justice system.

 

And earlier this year, the Doha Declaration adopted at the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice reaffirming that “sustainable development and the rule of law are strongly interrelated and mutually reinforcing.”  This outcome document will chart the course for our future endeavour in justice policy development for many years to come.

 

There is no doubt that the international community recognizes the need to promote rights-based and gender specific approach as an integral part of the crime prevention and criminal justice policies through the implementation of United Nations standards and norms in the treatment of offenders.

 

This includes, among others, the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) and the Revised UN Standard Minimum Rule for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules).

 

Turning now to the Post-2015 Development Agenda itself, Thailand believes that the outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals should be the main basis for the new Agenda.

 

We support fully Goal 16 of the zero draft of the outcome document for the UN Summit this September, entitled “Transforming our World by 2030 – A New Agenda for Global Action” which aims to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” We look forward to its adoption this September. 

 

The crucial step is how countries will improve their criminal justice systems to be more effective, more transparent and humane with a will to facilitate development and long term prosperity. Criminal justice reform is therefore imperative and must be politically driven.

 

For Thailand, the recently adopted “Justice Fund Act”, a new legislation which provides people in criminal proceedings with equal access to legal aid and legal guidance.

 

In the area of empowering women in prison setting, we have been implementing the Bangkok Rules in our correctional system. Women prisoners are trained with vocational skills so that they can reintegrate into society. At present, we have over a hundred prisons operating in accordance with the Bangkok Rules.

 

In conclusion, Thailand believes that rule of law is a prerequisite for the advancement of peace and security, development and human rights. We therefore stand ready to work with all stakeholders to further promote the rule of law at the national, regional, as well as international levels.

 

Thank you.

 

---------------------------

 

 



[1] A/RES/67/1