Photo Harmen de Jong

Madeleine K. Albright gives the Inaugural Global Justice Lecture

Photo Harmen de Jong

The critical role of the rule of law in bringing peace and justice to the most troubled parts of the world was the theme of the inaugural Madeleine K. Albright Global Justice Lecture, given by the former U.S. Secretary of State and Chair of The Hague Institute’s Advisory Council on 17 June.

In her speech, co-hosted with the Brookings Institution, Secretary Albright argued that law is “the cornerstone of civilization” as it establishes “the framework for political organization, commercial activity, and social relations” and “defines the balance between collective and individual rights.” However, she went on the warn that “if that cornerstone is to bear weight it must have the integrity that comes from legitimacy, consistency, accessibility, and fairness” and “such integrity can only flourish in conditions of peace and security.”

In front of a packed audience, including the Ambassadors of the United States, Algeria, Senegal and Ukraine and the head of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands, Secretary Albright said that the world “must strive for rule of law, not rule by law.” This task, she noted, has been “made harder by the chaos and turmoil now ripping apart much of the Middle East and North Africa” as well as other international legal conundrums. In particular, she cited the examples of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, whose problems include India and Pakistan as well as the more recent challenge of Iran and North Korea, as well as Russia’s invasion of the Crimea as reasons why the international rule of law cannot be taken for granted.

The former Secretary of State was appearing at The Hague Institute the day after launching the Commission on Security, Justice and Governance’s new report, Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance at the Peace Palace. The report, a joint initiative between The Hague Institute and the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., examines the challenges facing the current global governance architecture, in particular fragile states, climate change and the hyper-connected global economy.

Together with her Co-Chair, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, former Nigerian Foreign Minister and UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Secretary Albright led a team of experts from around the world in devising several recommendations to reform international organizations to address these challenges. They include creating a new UN Global Partnership platform, reforming the Security Council, establishing new UN conflict mediation and peace operations capacities and transforming the G20 into the G20+, to focus on economic stability and sustainable development.

In her lecture, Dr. Albright reflected on the wider theme of the Commission’s work on security and justice, noting that the challenges of today do not fit into neat categories but instead “stand at the noisy intersection of justice andsecurity.” She discussed the delicate balance between a judicial or military response to threats to the rule of law, a dilemma Secretary Albright grappled with during her time in office when it came to responding to the Balkans conflict (creating the ICTY) and the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings (military strikes against Al-Qaeda.)

However, regardless of the method used, Dr. Albright argued the goal must be the same: to ensure that those threatening the international system are “held accountable to the law.” To achieve this aim, she argued that it is imperative “that those responsible for international justice must work together more closely and cooperate more effectively with those responsible for international security” instead of focusing on one at the expense of the other.

Secretary Albright concluded by stating that such cooperation means embracing “a vision of justice and security that is practical, interconnected, and achievable” – a goal ideally suited to both The Hague as the city of peace and justice and the work of The Hague Institute at the intersection of security, justice and governance.

To catch up with the event watch the video or read the full transcript of Secretary Albright’s remarks.

The Madeleine K. Albright Global Justice Lecture, a new initiative from The Hague Institute and the Brookings Institution, will host on an annual basis a high-profile speaker to discuss the most pressing challenges to global justice. It stands as a counterpart to the Justice Stephen Breyer Lecture on International Law in Washington, D.C.. We are grateful for the support of the mayor and city of The Hague in establishing the lecture.

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