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52nd session of the Human Rights council

Statement by the Director-General, Ms Jan Beagle
High-Level Segment
27th February 2023
Mr. President,
Mr. High Commissioner,

It is a pleasure to address this Council on behalf of the International Development Law Organization.

As many before me have noted, human rights are under tremendous pressure from a combination of overlapping and linked challenges, from the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, to increasing conflict, and the effects of climate change.

Through our work in some of the world’s poorest and most fragile contexts, IDLO knows all too well the threat that these challenges pose to peace, sustainable development and human rights.

Seventy five years ago, the drafters of the Universal Declaration were fully aware of the symbiotic relationship between human rights and the rule of law.

Human rights give the rule of law its moral content, while the rule of law helps turn rights into reality.

Strengthening this mutually reinforcing relationship is critical.

The Declaration’s call for human rights to be protected by the rule of law has rarely been more urgent, or timely, than at this time of intersecting global crises.

Allow me to share three reasons why:

First, the rule of law can help constrain the arbitrary and unchecked exercise of power at both national and international levels.

Rising conflict and authoritarianism, closing space for dissent and debate, and attacks on the independence of the judiciary are all symptoms of this malaise.

IDLO takes a dual approach, working from the bottom up to empower individuals and communities to claim their rights and hold decision makers to account.

We also operate from the top down, partnering with justice systems to increase effectiveness, access, and accountability, while ensuring greater respect for people’s rights.

Much of this work takes place in crisis contexts, where our support is most needed.

One year into the war in Ukraine, IDLO is proud to support national partners, including the Office of the Prosecutor General, to strengthen access to justice and respect for international law.

We are also continuing our longstanding work on anti-corruption reform in Ukraine, given its significant role in reconstruction and laying the foundations for sustainable peace.

Secondly, the rule of law is essential to realizing human rights by ensuring that development is sustainable, inclusive and equitable.

The 2030 Agenda is humanity’s most ambitious collective blueprint to help make the full spectrum of human rights a lived reality for all – and the rule of law is its key enabler.

The rule of law encourages economic growth by providing stability and certainty, and resolving disputes fairly and expeditiously.

It also helps to make it inclusive and sustainable through the application of human rights principles of equality, equity and non-discrimination.

In this context, IDLO’s Investment Support Programme for Least Developed Countries provides eligible countries with no-cost support in investment negotiation and dispute settlement.

My third, and final point, is that the rule of law is key to protecting human rights in the face of frontier technologies, and existential threats such as climate change.

A rapidly changing world means that our conception of rights must also evolve.

In 2021, for example, this Council recognized for the first time that a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.

A rule of law based approach can help turn this right into reality.

Applying a justice lens to climate action can empower the most climate-vulnerable people to have a voice in setting climate and biodiversity-related policies.

We know, for instance, that women and girls are hit first, and worst, by the effects of climate change but are often not included in climate decision-making.

So IDLO’s approach places an emphasis on gender responsive climate action.

Last year, we launched comprehensive gender assessments of climate – and environment – related legal and regulatory frameworks in several countries.

We are also supporting women leaders to lead and influence decision-making processes on climate and environmental governance at the national level.

In conclusion, I would submit that if we want to promote and protect human rights we must invest in the rule of law.

A genuine commitment to the rule of law, and placing people at the centre through inclusive governance, accountability and equality before the law, will go a long way to resolving many of the factors that contribute to the current crises.

Our biggest challenge, and the true measure of our success, will be reaching those whose rights are afforded the least protection, who live in conditions of the gravest injustice, and who are most at risk of being left behind.

Achieving this will not be easy.

It will require time, effort, and collective action, guided by the principles of justice, equality and solidarity enshrined in the Universal Declaration.

The Human Rights Council and the Geneva based multilateral community will have a key role to play.

IDLO is committed to partnering with you, through our Headquarters in Rome, and our offices in Geneva and around the world, to promote our shared goals of promoting peace and sustainable development and building a culture of justice.

Thank you.