Bringing Back Rule of Law

Louise Arbour, CEO of the International Crisis Group and Global Thinker No. 71, spoke with Foreign Policy's Susan Glasser about WikiLeaks and the future of international human rights law. Excerpts:

Valerie Everett/flickr
Valerie Everett/flickr
Valerie Everett/flickr

The U.N. is plagued by a multiplicity of actors and institutions and organs, and I'm talking here about all the agencies, funds, and programs -- quite apart from the more political voices. So it spends a lot of time on things that are not very conducive to creative ideas.


If I had to pick one dominant theme in conflict prevention and particularly in post-conflict reconstruction, it's the emergence of the necessity for the rule of law. The previous decade was the decade of governance, where governance was the big theme, human rights to a certain extent, democracy promotion. But I think now the deficits in the rule of law, properly understood, are emerging as the big theme. You see it through international tribunals, for instance. How we're still really struggling with the idea of accountability for violations of international law norms, particularly international humanitarian law and peace processes and so on. We don't have the blueprint for that. There is a kind of creeping legalization of politics in the international scene that has not yet found its footing.


You don't have to be for WikiLeaks or against it; you have to just live with it. In this world with the methods of communications we have, we just have to adjust. I don't think one can talk about the morality of it all. It's the reality of the modern world. And on balance more is better than less when it comes to information.

The U.N. is plagued by a multiplicity of actors and institutions and organs, and I’m talking here about all the agencies, funds, and programs — quite apart from the more political voices. So it spends a lot of time on things that are not very conducive to creative ideas.


If I had to pick one dominant theme in conflict prevention and particularly in post-conflict reconstruction, it’s the emergence of the necessity for the rule of law. The previous decade was the decade of governance, where governance was the big theme, human rights to a certain extent, democracy promotion. But I think now the deficits in the rule of law, properly understood, are emerging as the big theme. You see it through international tribunals, for instance. How we’re still really struggling with the idea of accountability for violations of international law norms, particularly international humanitarian law and peace processes and so on. We don’t have the blueprint for that. There is a kind of creeping legalization of politics in the international scene that has not yet found its footing.


You don’t have to be for WikiLeaks or against it; you have to just live with it. In this world with the methods of communications we have, we just have to adjust. I don’t think one can talk about the morality of it all. It’s the reality of the modern world. And on balance more is better than less when it comes to information.

Susan Glasser is a former editor in chief of Foreign Policy; former Moscow bureau chief of the Washington Post; and co-author, with Peter Baker, of Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution.

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