The Rule of Law in the 2030 Agenda

Abstract

While the rule of law is the cornerstone of the international legal order, the analysis of intergovernmental instruments, statements made by States, and negotiation records, indicates that within the UN the rule of law has grown increasingly contested in the past years, culminating at the post-2015 process leading to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This research article, first, sets out the background of the rule of law debate at the UN, followed by analysis of the rule of law elements in the 2030 Agenda, and finally, explores whether the rule of law is a universal concept that carries normative authority, in particular within the SDGs framework. Reflections drawn from the post-2015 process illustrate that the rule of law - or at least the “thick” understanding of the concept - is in decline in institutional and normative contexts. Simultaneously with the broadening of the rule of law - with more substance and interpretations attached to it - its normative specificity is being diluted, which creates uncertainty and disagreement among States on its core content. This conceptual weakness impacts also the implementation of the rule of law elements in the 2030 Agenda, and can be perceived as symptomatic of a broader crisis of the international legal order.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, “The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet”, 4 December 2014, A/69/700, para. 3.

  2. 2.

    Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted 25 September 2015, A/RES/70/1.

  3. 3.

    Donald and Way (2016), at 208.

  4. 4.

    Expressing the determination of the founding Members of the Organization “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. Charter of the United Nations, 24 October 1945, 1 UNTS XVI. This etymology of the rule of law from the Charter is questioned by some of the membership. Most recently in 2015, at the 6th Committee, Russia reiterated its objection to viewing the rule of law as an inalienable part of the Charter, stating that the Charter does not mention “rule of law” at all, but addresses international law. Russia has also objected to the Secretary-General’s 2004 definition of the term.

  5. 5.

    Report of the Secretary-General: The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies”, 23 August 2004, S/2004/616, para. 6.

  6. 6.

    Declaration of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels, adopted 24 September 2012, A/RES/67/1.

  7. 7.

    For a summary record, see http://www.un.org/en/ga/sixth/71/rule_of_law.shtml.

  8. 8.

    Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels, 13 December 2016, A/RES/71/148, para. 26.

  9. 9.

    Association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

  10. 10.

    Summary record of the 6th meeting of the Sixth Committee, 15 October, agenda item 85: The rule of law at the national and international levels, A/C.6/70/SR.6, para. 54.

  11. 11.

    Ibid., para. 56.

  12. 12.

    See for instance, Wirth (1995).

  13. 13.

    “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.” Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 14 June 1992, A/CONF.151/26.

  14. 14.

    Orellana (2016), at 51.

  15. 15.

    See for instance, Sachs (2005).

  16. 16.

    Millennium Declaration, 8 September 2000, A/RES/55/2, para. 9: “we resolve […] to strengthen respect for the rule of law in international as in national affairs and, in particular, to ensure compliance by Member States with the decisions of the International Court of Justice, in compliance with the Charter of the United Nations, in cases to which they are parties,” and para. 24: “we will spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.”.

  17. 17.

    1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 2. Achieve universal primary education; 3. Promote gender equality and empower women; 4. Reduce child mortality; 5. Improve maternal health; 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7. Ensure environmental sustainability; 8. Develop a global partnership for development.

  18. 18.

    http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/goals/gti.htm.

  19. 19.

    Note similar language in SDG 17.10: “Promote a universal, rules based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system […]”.

  20. 20.

    Jeffrey Sachs, Investing in Development, at 115.

  21. 21.

    Statement by Pakistan on behalf of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, on Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Promotion of Durable Peace, Rule of Law and Governance, OWG8, 3-7 February 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/6315pakistan1.pdf.

  22. 22.

    Aust and Nolte (2012).

  23. 23.

    2005 World Summit Outcome, 24 October 2005, A/RES/60/1, para.134.

  24. 24.

    Ibid., para. 134 (a).

  25. 25.

    Ibid., para. 11.

  26. 26.

    For an overview of the “rise” of the rule of law at the UN between 1993-2008, see Fitschen (2008).

  27. 27.

    Selous (2016). Similar but more inauspicious observation was made by Judith Shklar on the notion of the rule of law some thirty years ago, underlining the “ideological abuse and general over-use […] of this bit of ruling-class chatter”. Shklar (1987) at 1.

  28. 28.

    The Future We Want, adopted 27 July 2012, A/RES/66/288, para. 246. For discussion of the notion “sustainable development”, see Dernback and Cheever (2015).

  29. 29.

    The Future We Want, para. 10.

  30. 30.

    Ibid.

  31. 31.

    For example, para. 43: “we underscore that broad participation and access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings are essential to the promotion of sustainable development”; para. 88(h): “[Member States will] ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders drawing on best practices and models from relevant multilateral institutions and exploring new mechanisms to promote transparency and effective engagement of civil society”; and para. 238: “the repeal of discriminatory laws and the removal of formal barriers, ensuring equal access to justice and legal support, the reform of institutions to ensure competence and capacity for gender mainstreaming and the development and adoption of innovative and special approaches to address informal, harmful practices that act as barriers to gender equality.”

  32. 32.

    For example, para. 77: “we acknowledge the vital importance of an inclusive, transparent, reformed, strengthened and effective multilateral system in order to better address the urgent global challenges of sustainable development […]”; and para. 78: “we underscore the need to strengthen United Nations system-wide coherence and coordination, while ensuring appropriate accountability to Member States […]”.

  33. 33.

    Declaration of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels, adopted 24 September 2012, A/RES/67/1.

  34. 34.

    Ibid., para. 1. For analysis of the Declaration and the negotiations, see Feinäugle (2016).

  35. 35.

    Selous (2016), at 25.

  36. 36.

    Declaration on the Rule of Law, para. 3.

  37. 37.

    Declaration on the Rule of Law, para 11.

  38. 38.

    See Selous (2016), 25.

  39. 39.

    Declaration on the Rule of Law, para. 41.

  40. 40.

    Also some other parts of the Declaration relate to law and development: para. 8 (legal frameworks in generating development); para. 9 (trade restrictions in hindering development); 24 (world drug problem and transnational crime undermining security and development); and 25 (negative impact of corruption on development).

  41. 41.

    For analysis on the neutrality and universality of the rule of law, reflecting on the High-Level Declaration five years on, see Noora Arajärvi and Julian Kulaga, “The Rule of Law at the UN: Neither Universal nor Neutral?”, KFG Working Paper Series, forthcoming in early 2018 (draft paper on file with the author).

  42. 42.

    Addendum to the Report of the Secretary-General on strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities, 11 July 2014, A/68/213/Add.1.

  43. 43.

    Declaration on the Rule of Law, para. 41: “[…] we request the Secretary-General to propose ways and means of developing, with wide stakeholder participation, further [linkages between the rule of law and the three main pillars of the United Nations], and to include this in his report to the Assembly at its sixty-eighth session.”.

  44. 44.

    Ibid., para. 17.

  45. 45.

    Ibid., para. 14.

  46. 46.

    Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda” (2014), para. 20.

  47. 47.

    The Future We Want, para. 248.

  48. 48.

    Chasek (2016).

  49. 49.

    For example, Miyazawa and Zusman (2015).

  50. 50.

    The Future We Want, para. 247. See also, Secretary-General’s remarks to the General Assembly on the Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 Agenda, New York, 4 December 2014, available at http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=8250.

  51. 51.

    Synthesis report, paras. 66-81.

  52. 52.

    The Open Working Group was established on 22nd of January 2013 by decision 67/555 (see A/67/L.48/rev.1) of the General Assembly. See also A/67/L.48/Rev.1, Annex.

  53. 53.

    For an interesting stock-taking on the negotiations by the Permanent Representative of Ireland, see Donoghue (2016).

  54. 54.

    Initial input of the Secretary-General to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, 17 December 2012, A/67/634.

  55. 55.

    For summaries of all the sessions, see https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/owg.html.

  56. 56.

    TST was established pursuant to paragraph 249 of the Rio + 20 outcome document, the Future We Want. Prior to the sessions of the OWG, the TST circulated an issues brief outlining the reasons and rationale for the inclusion of peace and security on one hand, and the rule of law and governance on the other: Issues Brief 29: Conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and the promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance, United Nations General Assembly, Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, Compendium of TST Issues Briefs (October 2014), at 225-240.

  57. 57.

    Progress report of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals, available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3238summaryallowg.pdf.

  58. 58.

    See the Statements of Netherlands on behalf of the UK, Australia and Netherlands (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/6370uk3.pdf) and Sweden (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/6535sweden2.pdf), on Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Promotion of Durable Peace, Rule of Law and Governance, eighth session of the OWG, 3-7 February 2014.

  59. 59.

    The Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development”, 30 May 2013.

  60. 60.

    For an overview on the debate on the rule of law, see Bergling and Jin (2015).

  61. 61.

    Iran on behalf of NAM, the EU, Guyana on behalf of CARICOM, Austria on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, Mexico, Peru, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Southern African Countries, the United States, Canada, Israel, Romania, Poland, Netherlands, UK, Australia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Singapore, Cyprus, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, France, Benin for LDC’s, Nepal, Tanzania, Japan, Guinea on behalf of the African Group, Timor-Leste, Moldova, Palau, Sweden, Finland, Korea, Lichtenstein, Uganda, Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria, Lebanon, South Africa, Jordan and Palestine. This list is based on personal notes of the meeting.

  62. 62.

    See Co-Chairs’ Summary bullet points for OWG-8, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3190summarybullets.pdf.

  63. 63.

    Statement by Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, on Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Promotion of Durable Peace, Rule of Law and Governance, the eight session of the OWG, 3-7 February 2014. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/6360iran1.pdf.

  64. 64.

    For instance, the statement by Brazil on behalf of Brazil and Nicaragua, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/6520brazil.pdf.

  65. 65.

    Statement by Bolivia on behalf of Bolivia and Ecuador, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/6663bolivia2.pdf.

  66. 66.

    Statement by Pakistan on behalf of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/6315pakistan1.pdf.

  67. 67.

    Ibid.

  68. 68.

    See UN Webcast Library, 10th meeting, OWG8, 7 February 2014, at 41:30-45:45, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&nr=872&type=12&menu=1807&template=1042&play=477 Transcript not available on the OWG website.

  69. 69.

    For example, the World Justice Project: http://worldjusticeproject.org/rule-of-law-index, and the Freedom House: https://freedomhouse.org/issues/rule-law. See also Merkel (2012).

  70. 70.

    Co-Chairs’ Summary bullet points for OWG-8, supra note 62.

  71. 71.

    Focus Area Document (24 February 2014), available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3276focusareas.pdf.

  72. 72.

    See https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/owg9.html.

  73. 73.

    Ibid.

  74. 74.

    Brazil, Nicaragua, Russia, China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, and Cuba. See https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/owg10.html and https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&nr=872&type=12&menu=1807&template=1042&play=642.

  75. 75.

    Ibid and https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/8132nicaragua.pdf.

  76. 76.

    https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/owg10.html.

  77. 77.

    See the statements by UK, Australia and the Netherlands (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/8017uk3.pdf) and by Germany, France and Switzerland (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/8102france17.pdf).

  78. 78.

    See the UN Webcast Library, 1st meeting, OWG11, 5 May 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&nr=872&type=12&menu=1807&template=1042&play=710.

  79. 79.

    Working Document for the Eleventh Session of the Open Working Group on SDGs, 5-9 May 2014, p. 10, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3686WorkingDoc_0205_additionalsupporters.pdf

  80. 80.

    Introduction and Proposed Goals and Targets on Sustainable Development for the Post2015 Development Agenda, 2 June 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4528zerodraft12OWG.pdf.

  81. 81.

    For instance, incorporating inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making; capacity building for peaceful and inclusive societies; “unity in diversity” through democratic practices and mechanisms; formal and non-formal dispute resolution; internally displaced persons and refugees; capacity, professionalism and accountability of the security forces, police and judiciary; effective, accountable and transparent public institutions; access to justice and legal aid; legal identity; public access to information and government data; promulgation of all laws; accountability for corruption and bribery; and freedom of media, association and speech. Ibid., at 15-16.

  82. 82.

    Points by the Russian delegation on proposed SDG 16 “Achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law, effective and capable institutions”, OWG12, 19 June 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/10494russia.pdf.

  83. 83.

    Article 2 (7) UN Charter reads “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter”.

  84. 84.

    Points by the Russian delegation on proposed SDG 16, supra note 82.

  85. 85.

    Ibid.

  86. 86.

    Targets 16.13 (provide legal identity for all), 16.14 (improve public access to information and government data) and 16.15 (ensure that all laws are publicized). Ibid.

  87. 87.

    See the letter of co-chairs, 30 June 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4324lettercochairs30june14.pdf.

  88. 88.

    Revised zero-draft, 30 June 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4523zerodraft.pdf.

  89. 89.

    Sully (2014).

  90. 90.

    For instance, the statement by the delegation of Liechtenstein in OWG13, 19 July 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/112382014-7-19%20LIE%20Statement%20OWG%2013_final.pdf.

  91. 91.

    See the letter by the Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the UN, addressed to the co-chairs of the OWG, 25 July 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11062Egypt%20(Algeria,%20Morocco,%20Saudi%20Arabia,%20Tunisia%20and%20UAE).pdf, and a letter by the Permanent Mission of Sudan to the co-chair, 1 August 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11097Sudan.pdf.

  92. 92.

    “Last, in connection with the reference to foreign occupation in the chapeau, we reaffirm our view that this text is not the place to address issues of this nature.” Closing statement and explanation of position by the Representative of the USA, OWG13, 19 July 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11117United%20States.pdf.

  93. 93.

    Letter by Sudan, supra note 91.

  94. 94.

    Closing statement on behalf of the Netherlands, Australia and the United Kingdom, OWG13, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11107United%20Kingdom%20(Australia,%20Netherlands).pdf.

  95. 95.

    Statement on behalf of Romania and Poland, OWG13, 19 July 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11207Poland%20(Romania).pdf.

  96. 96.

    Rights of migrants are addressed under SDG 8 and SDG 10. But see van Dillen (2015).

  97. 97.

    2030 Agenda, para. 35: “We call for further effective measures and actions to be taken, in conformity with international law, to remove the obstacles to the full realization of the right of self-determination of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation […]”.

  98. 98.

    2030 Agenda, para. 23 and para. 29.

  99. 99.

    For instance, see statements made in the OWG by the African Group; Brazil and Nicaragua; Iran; Benin; Tunisia; India; and Sierra Leone.

  100. 100.

    2030 Agenda, paras. 9 and 35.

  101. 101.

    Ibid., para. 44. See also para. 63 under the “Means of Implementation and Global Partnership”.

  102. 102.

    Statement by the representative of Tanzania, OWG13, 19 July 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11112United%20Republic%20of%20Tanzania.pdf. Exclamation in the original.

  103. 103.

    Jandl (2017).

  104. 104.

    Synthesis report, title of part I.

  105. 105.

    Ibid., title of part II, section C.

  106. 106.

    Ibid., title of part VI.

  107. 107.

    Ibid., paras. 26-35.

  108. 108.

    Ibid., paras., 36-47.

  109. 109.

    Ibid., paras. 66-81.

  110. 110.

    Ibid., parts IV and V.

  111. 111.

    2030 Agenda, para. 10.

  112. 112.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights treaties, the Millennium Declaration, the 2005 World Summit Outcome, Declaration on the Right to Development. Ibid.

  113. 113.

    2030 Agenda, para. 8.

  114. 114.

    Ibid., para. 9.

  115. 115.

    Ibid., para. 35.

  116. 116.

    Report of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators, 19 February 2016, E/CN.3/2016/2/Rev.1. See also http://unstats.un.org/sdgs/indicators/Official%20List%20of%20Proposed%20SDG%20Indicators.pdf.

  117. 117.

    See Hák et al. (2016), and Beisheim (2015).

  118. 118.

    For measuring the rule of law and governance generally, see Davis et al. (2012) and Merry et al. (2015), Versteeg and Ginsburg (2017).

  119. 119.

    Indicators: 16.1.1 Number of victims of intentional homicide per 100,000 population, by sex and age, 16.1.2 Conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population, by sex, age and cause; 16.1.3 Proportion of population subjected to physical, psychological or sexual violence in the previous 12 months; 16.1.4 Proportion of population that feel safe walking alone around the area they live.

  120. 120.

    Indicators: 16.2.1 Proportion of children aged 1-17 years who experienced any physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by caregivers in the past month; 16.2.2 Number of victims of human trafficking per 100,000 population, by sex, age and form of exploitation; 16.2.3 Proportion of young women and men aged 18-29 years who experienced sexual violence by age 18.

  121. 121.

    Indicators: 16.4.1 Total value of inward and outward illicit financial flows (in current United States dollars); 16.4.2 Proportion of seized small arms and light weapons that are recorded and traced, in accordance with international standards and legal instruments.

  122. 122.

    Fiedler et al. (2015).

  123. 123.

    Ibid., at 82-83.

  124. 124.

    Levy and Scobie (2015), .

  125. 125.

    Indicators: 16.3.1 Proportion of victims of violence in the previous 12 months who reported their victimization to competent authorities or other officially recognized conflict resolution mechanisms; 16.3.2 Unsentenced detainees as a proportion of overall prison population.

  126. 126.

    Charlotte Fiedler et al., at 83.

  127. 127.

    Indicators: 16.5.1 Proportion of persons who had at least one contact with a public official and who paid a bribe to a public official, or were asked for a bribe by those public officials, during the previous 12 months; 16.5.2 Proportion of businesses that had at least one contact with a public official and that paid a bribe to a public official, or were asked for a bribe by those public officials during the previous 12 months.

  128. 128.

    Indicators: 16.6.1 Primary government expenditures as a proportion of original approved budget, by sector (or by budget codes or similar); 16.6.2 Proportion of the population satisfied with their last experience of public services.

  129. 129.

    Indicators: 16.7.1 Proportions of positions (by sex, age, persons with disabilities and population groups) in public institutions (national and local legislatures, public service, and judiciary) compared to national distributions; 16.7.2 Proportion of population who believe decision-making is inclusive and responsive, by sex, age, disability and population group. On drafting history of 16.7.2, see Long (2015).

  130. 130.

    Indicator: 16.9.1 Proportion of children under 5 years of age whose births have been registered with a civil authority, by age.

  131. 131.

    Indicator: 16.8.1 Proportion of members and voting rights of developing countries in international organizations.

  132. 132.

    Indicators: 16.10.1 Number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months; 16.10.2 Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information.

  133. 133.

    Indicator: 16.a.1 Existence of independent national human rights institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles.

  134. 134.

    Indicator: 16.b.1 Proportion of population reporting having personally felt discriminated against or harassed in the previous 12 months on the basis of a ground of discrimination prohibited under international human rights law.

  135. 135.

    Charlotte Fiedler et al., at 81.

  136. 136.

    Dasandi et al. (2015).

  137. 137.

    See discussion in the previous section on the elimination of reference to “governance” in the OWG.

  138. 138.

    Statement by the representative of Liechtenstein, Sixth Committee, agenda item 84: The rule of law at the national and international levels, 6 October 2016, http://statements.unmeetings.org/media2/7661288/liechtenstein.pdf.

  139. 139.

    SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

  140. 140.

    SDG 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

  141. 141.

    See in particular 10.3, “Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard”. For analysis of SDG 10, see Anderson (2016).

  142. 142.

    Dernbach and Cheever (2015), at 251.

  143. 143.

    2030 Agenda, Preamble, and Declaration, para. 5.

  144. 144.

    2030 Agenda, para. 12. See also para. 55: “The Sustainable Development Goals and targets are integrated and indivisible, global in nature and universally applicable, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.” And para. 71: “We reiterate that this Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, including the means of implementation, are universal, indivisible and interlinked.”.

  145. 145.

    See the implementation-related targets at the end of each goal, and specifically, SDG 17 on implementation.

  146. 146.

    Same could be said about 3.1. and 3.2. on reducing maternal and infant mortality below certain thresholds, and 4.1 on ensuring free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.

  147. 147.

    For example, 3.1 By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio; 3.6 By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents; 7.3 By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; 11.4 Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage; 15.c Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species.

  148. 148.

    1.3 Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable; 2.3 By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers; 8.1 Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances.

  149. 149.

    1.1 By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere; 5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

  150. 150.

    1.b Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions.

  151. 151.

    Graham Long, “The Idea of Universality in the Sustainable Development Goals”, at 206.

  152. 152.

    Ibid.

  153. 153.

    Langford (2016), at 173.

  154. 154.

    Unlike with, for instance, gender equality, which was successfully mainstreamed across the SDGs. For discussion, see Fredman et al. (2016).

  155. 155.

    Kate Donald and Sally-Anne Way, “Accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals”, at 208.

  156. 156.

    “Many of the goals are praiseworthy. But most of the goals and, even more, the targets, remain too general and vague to provide much practical guidance to those working to promote human rights and environmental protection.” Knox (2015), at 536.

  157. 157.

    Kim (2016), at 15.

  158. 158.

    Boyle and Freestone (1999), at 6.

  159. 159.

    Barral (2012).

  160. 160.

    Similarly, Dernbach and Cheever suggest that “[t]he policy space created by the concept of sustainable development is being filled by a variety of laws, policies, and activities that further social and economic goals while protecting the environment.” Dernbach and Cheever, “Sustainable Development and Its Discontents”, at 286.

  161. 161.

    Malcolm Langford, “Lost in Transformation? The Politics of the Sustainable Development Goals”, at 176.

  162. 162.

    Statement by the representative of the United States in OWG13, 19 July 2014, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11117United%20States.pdf.

  163. 163.

    The issue of data collection is predominantly a matter of the Statistical Commission, and is based on the proposed indicator(s) for each target.

  164. 164.

    2030 Agenda, Preamble.

  165. 165.

    Ibid.

  166. 166.

    Carozza and Crema (2014).

  167. 167.

    For discussion, see Hilpold (2015); Bachman (2016); Krieger and Nolte (2016); Krieger (forthcoming 2018).

  168. 168.

    2030 Agenda, para, 18.

  169. 169.

    Especially when read together with the preceding sentence: “[…] every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity.” Ibid.

  170. 170.

    United Nations, The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017, 17 May 2017, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. See also, Winkler and Williams (2017).

  171. 171.

    Whaites (2016).

  172. 172.

    Halonen et al. (2017).

  173. 173.

    Supra note 171, Whaites (2016), at 6.

  174. 174.

    Ibid, at 6.

  175. 175.

    Soyeju (2015), at 372.

  176. 176.

    For example, Report of the Secretary General on Critical milestones towards coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review at global level, 15 January 2016, A/70/684.

  177. 177.

    See for instance, Reisman (1990).

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Acknowledgements

For very helpful comments and suggestions, I am grateful to the members of the Berlin Potsdam Research Group “The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline?”. An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the 12th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law in September 2016. All errors remain my own.

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Correspondence to Dr. Noora Arajärvi.

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Arajärvi, N. The Rule of Law in the 2030 Agenda. Hague J Rule Law 10, 187–217 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40803-017-0068-8

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Keywords

  • Public international law
  • Rule of law
  • United Nations
  • General assembly
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • 2030 Agenda