Strengthening the rule of law in international relations is a priority for Austria’s UN policy. Austria´s standing and leadership on the issue is widely recognised, including due to the initiative launched by Austria in the context of its Security Council membership in 2009-2010 on the role of the Security Council in strengthening a rules-based international system.
Since 2005, Austria coordinates the “Group of Friends of the Rule of Law“ in New York, an informal network of around 50 UN Member States from all regional groups. The group meets at the invitation of the Austrian Permanent Mission at Ambassador and/or expert level to discuss various issues, and to work together to promote strengthening and coherence of UN rule of law activities. The 2012 Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels (A/RES/67/1) marked an important milestone as it was adopted by the UN General Assembly by consensus. The issue of the rule of law creates tensions amongst UN member states, which made negotiations on the declaration difficult. Many member states were concerned with the increasing focus on the rule of law at the national level and feared interference in domestic policies. Nevertheless, and also thanks to Austrian efforts, the text that was adopted encompasses both the international and the national levels of the rule of law in a well-balanced way. The high level declaration also calls for an annual report by the UN Secretary General on the linkages between the rule of law and the three pillars of the UN - peace and security, development, and human rights. The Rule of Law topic is discussed every year in the framework of the 6th Committee of the UN General Assembly, and Austria works with the Group of Friends to preserve the cross-cutting nature of the discussions relating to all three pillars of the UN.
As coordinator of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, Austria contributed significantly to anchoring the rule of law in the Post 2015 agenda by, inter alia, delivering group statements in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, coordinating a joint letter signed by nearly 60 States from all regional groups, and information exchange and coordination at expert level.
Austria also delivers statements on other rule of law related issues on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, including in open debates of the UN Security Council.
Furthermore, Austria is actively engaged in negotiations on the annual resolution at the UN General Assembly on “The rule of law at the national and international levels“.
An initiative by Austria together with Liechtenstein, Mexico and the UN Secretariat has led to better exchange of views between the UN Secretariat and UN Member States through a series of briefings. Discussions with representatives from DPKO, UNDP, UNODC, UNEP, UNCITRAL und OLA were positively received and met with much interest, including by critical UN Member States, as an opportunity to exchange views.
As a member of the Group of Like-Minded States on targeted sanctions, Austria is also dedicated to further improve due process with regard to UN Security Council sanctions regimes.
In the context of peacekeeping, Austria supports the DPKO’s Office of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI) and actively participates in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34).
In recent years, the UN’s Rule of Law of Architecture has undergone significant change, aimed at making the UN more efficient and coherent. The UN’s Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group now encompasses 20 entities with important normative components in their mandates, including DPA, DPKO, OHCHR, OLA, UNDP, UNODC, UN Women. The Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections Areas in the Rule of Law in Post-conflict and other Crisis Situations was set up to ensure better coordination and coherency amongst UN entities as well as with donors and recipients.