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28th Session of the Human Rights Council: General Segment

5 Mar 2015

5 March 2015
Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
Delivered by John Burley

Thank you Mr. President, for this opportunity to address the Council. As the only intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to advancing the rule of law, the IDLO strongly believes that the rule of law, properly understood and applied, is essential to ensure respect for all human rights.

As a field based organization with over 30 years of experience of working in some of the world’s most challenging development environments, IDLO has witnessed the importance of the rule of law in upholding and operationalizing human rights – whether that relates to the provision of adequate health services, protecting vulnerable groups from discrimination, fighting gender-based violence or upholding the right to fair trial.

The rule of law requires states to respect the universality and indivisibility of rights. As the High Commissioner said here a few days ago, states should not ‘pick and choose’ which rights to uphold. 

In development settings, the rule of law is fundamental to addressing the deprivation, exclusion and discrimination that perpetuate poverty and that are essentially a denial of human rights.  By establishing the standards and institutions for equitable development and providing avenues for redress when rights are violated, the rule of law promotes transparency, accountability and inclusive participation in development processes. 

In our daily work we have experienced how the rule of law can make a difference in access to justice for vulnerable groups. For example, in a number of Latin American countries and in collaboration with the authorities, IDLO has established ‘houses of rights’. By providing information, counselling and legal assistance to the poor and marginalized, the houses of rights have helped to improve basic access to justice for vulnerable groups.

Realizing rights through the rule of law means that governments need to translate principles of equality and non-discrimination into laws, policy and regulations, as well as in the culture of institutions. To quote the High Commissioner again, many violations of human rights are derived from explicit “policy choices, which limit freedom and participation, and create obstacles to the fair sharing of resources and opportunities.” 

For individuals and groups to fully realize their rights, we must combine top down efforts to reform laws and institutions, with empowerment techniques that allow people to effectively claim their rights and actively engage with laws and institutions. 

For a vivid illustration of the multiple challenges facing development and human rights, I invite you all to view IDLO’s photo exhibition In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda that is taking place just outside this chamber.

We believe the rule of law holds a strong transformative potential that should be embraced by the international community in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Working in partnership with other development and human rights actors, including OHCHR, IDLO is committed to promote sustainable development and ensure that everyone is able to live a life of dignity, free from fear and free from want.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) enables governments and empowers people to reform laws and strengthen institutions to promote peace, justice, sustainable development and economic opportunity.