22 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/L/3398

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

18th Meeting (AM)


Legal Committee Is Told ‘Rule of Law’ Assistance Programme,

 

Facing Growing Global Demands, Seriously Short of Funds

 


Delegates Urge Contributions, Say Regular Budget Should Help; Decision

Taken on System of Justice at UN, Working Group Asked to Report At Next Session


While approving a draft decision on the administration of justice at the United Nations, delegates of the Sixth Committee (Legal) this morning also discussed activities of the legal Programme of Assistance, and called for its funding from the United Nations regular budget, since the rule of law had steadily emerged as a universal aspiration.


By the draft decision, on justice at the United Nations, approved without a vote, the Assembly would continue to include the item on its agenda, with a working group to consider the item at the next session, taking into account previous work as well as the deliberations of the Sixth (Legal) and Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committees.  Elements still to be considered included remedies for non-staff personnel and the code of conduct for judges of the Dispute and Appeals Tribunals.


On the various activities related to international law undertaken under the Programme of Assistance, the delegate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said it was unfortunate that funding for regional training courses had been cut at a time when there was a growing acceptance that a wider appreciation of international law was essential for securing its acceptance and for overcoming obstacles to development.  He said the principle that international law took primacy over internal national law did not mean international norms, or that they could be enforced.   He called for States to make financial contributions to the Programme’s activities, and said funding from the regular budget should be increased.


Stating that next month his country would be hosting the first regional conference in five years, the representative of the Republic of Korea also said there was a growing consensus on rule of law as central to the work of the United Nations.  The significant increase in demand for international law training and dissemination was why the Programme of Assistance was now considered on an annual basis, rather than biennially.  The current level of resources was far from adequate.  Resources must be allocated from the regular budget, including for the Audiovisual Library, which was providing quality training on a global scale at a low cost.


Speaking for the African Group, Ghana’s delegate said a regional course would shortly be held in Addis Ababa after decades of inaction.  Such courses should become regular events, since development aims could not be achieved without the promotion of international law.  The funding of fellowships from the regular budget should be fully restored, and all activities of the Programme be adequately funded on a sustainable basis.  States should make contributions to the Trust Fund to keep commitments to the rule of law from “ringing hollow”.


Sweden’s representative said the accessibility of the United Nations archives in electronic form was central to the dissemination of international law:  more than 190 countries were accessing the Audiovisual Library.  Resources were crucial for long-range plans and his country would contribute $25,000.


Recalling the view that “international law was the common language of a global community often separated by political stances”, the delegate of Mexico said he was pleased that the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Award could be presented again this year after a hiatus of three years because of shortage of funds.  He called for contributions to enable its continuation.

On other aspects of the Programme, Argentina’s representative noted the importance of its capacity-building activities.  The representative of Morocco representative called for linguistic diversity to be taken into account when planning Programme activities.


Speaking as a member of the Programme Advisory Committee, the delegate of Lebanon said the body of international law was increasing in both volume and relevance.  Access to the law was a necessary condition for maintaining a fair and enabling international system where States, organizations and individuals were all empowered, and able to exercise rights and observe obligations.  “Bridging the digital gap” would be vital and the greatest challenge would be to meet an ever-growing demand.


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Belgium for the European Union, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Tunisia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Monaco, Pakistan, South Africa, Iran, Eritrea, Burkina Faso and Uganda.


The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, 25 October, to begin its annual consideration of the report of the International Law Commission.


Background


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to consider the Programme of Assistance in the legal area, and to take action on a draft decision regarding the administration of justice at the United Nations.


For the Programme, the Committee has before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (document A/65/514), which covers implementation of programme components during 2010.  Included are activities of the Office of Legal Affairs, including its components in the Codification Division, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the International Trade Law Division, the Treaty Section and the Publications sector.  Activities of the United Nations Office in Geneva are also covered.


The report says the Office of Legal Affairs continued its practice of receiving and assigning interns, “externs” and post-graduate research assistants to participate in the work of the divisions, offices and other bodies.  The Codification Division also cooperated with research institutions in the preparation of studies of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs.


The Codification Division, the report continues, carried out its responsibility for implementing the Programme, with activities centred around the International Law Fellowship Programme, regional courses and the Audiovisual Library.  Among the numerous publications issued were the United Nations Juridical Yearbook and summaries of judgments, advisory opinions and orders of the International Court of Justice.  Dissemination activities included the maintenance of 21 websites.


Activities of the Ocean Affairs Division in 2010, according to the report, included the awarding of the twenty-third Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship Award after a three-year hiatus due to insufficient funding.  The award - to provide $38,000 to support the promotion of international law - was made possible on an exceptional basis and appeals were issued for contributions.  The Division also continued its publications and dissemination programmes.


The International Trade Law Division, according to the report, focused its activities on the harmonization and unification of international trade law by disseminating information among government officials, judges, lawyers and scholars.  Activities were also organized to help countries assess legislative needs and to adapt legislation to new trade law texts.  The Treaty Section, meanwhile, continued its technical assistance and training programme on participation in multilateral treaties.  The Geneva Office conducted the forty-sixth session of the International Law Seminar from 5 to 23 July.


In a section on administrative and financial implications of United Nations participation in the Programme for the period 2010-2011, the report states that the actual cost of producing and supplying publications to institutions in developing countries fell under what had been allocated in 2010.  For the two-year period, a total of $419,600 was provided from the regular budget for the International Law Fellowship Programme.  During the reporting period, the Programme received voluntary contributions from Panama ($1,500) and Trinidad and Tobago ($10,000).


Contributions for the Audiovisual Library of International Law were made by Austria ($13,000); Norway ($56,345); Republic of Korea ($10,000); Slovenia ($7,500); Sweden ($25,000); Switzerland ($25,000) and Germany ($33,000 pledge).


For the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, the report says, contributions were made by Chile ($5,000); Cyprus (nearly $7,000 total); Lebanon ($2,000) and Oman ($5,000).  The contributions were partially offset by an earlier deficit.


The Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance met last week (on 14 October), according to the report.  Several members expressed support for the efforts of the Codification Division that had led to the revitalization and further development of Programme activities, in particular with regard to the International Law Fellowship Programme, the regional courses in international law and the Audiovisual Library.  Concern was expressed about the limited resources available for activities, and members stressed the need to ensure adequate funding for the Programme.  The suggestion was made to fund the Audiovisual Library and the regional courses from the regular budget.  It was said that voluntary contributions should be encouraged.


There was also focus on the training activities of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the International Trade Law Division and the Treaty Section, according to the report.  The hope was expressed that the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea would be continued.  Appreciation was expressed to the Republic of Korea and Ethiopia for hosting regional courses in 2010 and 2011, respectively.


An annex contains a listing of the Internet uniform resource locators, or web addresses, of sites maintained by the Office of Legal Affairs.


By the draft decision on the administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/C.6/65/L.2), the Assembly would decide that it would continue to include the item on its agenda.  It would also decide that a working group would consider the item at the Assembly’s next session, taking into account previous work as well as the deliberations of the Sixth (Legal) and Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committees.  Among elements still to be considered were the question of effective remedies for non-staff personnel and, the code of conduct for judges of the Dispute and Appeals Tribunals


Statements on Programme of Assistance


JEAN-CÉDRIC JANSSENS DE BISTHOVEN ( Belgium), speaking for the European Union, noted the almost five decades of work accomplished by the United Nations Programme of Assistance in Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.  He stressed that knowledge of international law was the basis for establishing and strengthening international peace and security, and securing friendly relations and cooperation among States.  The Programme of Assistance had made “a tremendous contribution” in the advancement of rule of law and to the international legal community.


He commended the utilization of modern technology in its work, notably in the establishment and continuous expansion of the Audiovisual Library of International Law, which offered easy access to a wide range of legal resources, free of charge.  This Library had been accessed in 191 Member States and engaged by students, international law practitioners and historians, among others.  This illustrated that the Library was an important resource for the legal community.  Furthermore, the Codification Division’s achievements in reducing the backlog of publications was also commendable, as was its continued efforts in examining options to resuming regional courses in international law.


He said the Programme of Assistance should be regarded as “a core activity” of the United Nations for all States, both developed and developing.  However, adequate resources were essential so that it could continue to meet the needs of the international law community, and he observed that certain aspects of the Programme had been reduced due to budget constraints.  To this end, he thanked the Member States who had made significant voluntary contributions to the Programme and urged those States that had not already done so to consider such contributions in the future.


ALEJANDRO RODILES ( Mexico) reiterated his country’s commitment to strengthening all actions and programmes in the dissemination of international law.  This was, he emphasized, a fundamental task in the promotion of rule of law.  Recalling the words of the former President of the International Court of Justice, Rosalyn Higgins, he said that international law was the common language of a global community often separated by political stances.


To this end, he said, his country was pleased to work actively with the Audiovisual Library.  Recently, several presentations of the Library had been held in his country, including a conference on the Library convened in the last year by the Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the Law Department of the National University.  However, he said, he regretted that between the years 2007 and 2009, the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Award could not be presented to a student of law because insufficient funding.  He was pleased that this year, with funding from the Trust Fund, this important award would be conferred again.  He called for Member States to contribute toward the Programme of Assistance so that such important work would be able to continue.


DIANA TARATUKHINA ( Russian Federation) noted the growing interest in international law the world over, and said it was appropriate that the United Nations should be the entity that satisfied the interest.  The interest went beyond the academic level and reached into the legal life of every country.  The international treaty days, in the context of the annual high level segment of the Assembly, were of great assistance to States.  The Audiovisual Library and the growing presence of the Programme on the Internet had given a big boost to the dissemination of information, including by facilitating exchanges between experts the world over.  The Programme should be fully supported by States.


YARA SAAB ( Lebanon) said her country was a member of the Programme Advisory Committee and had noted that the body of international law was increasing in both volume and relevance.  Access to the law was a necessary condition for maintaining a fair and enabling international system where States, organisations and individuals were all empowered, and able to exercise rights and observe obligations.


She said the Programme’s capacity-building activities targeted at developing countries were particularly valuable for enriching competencies to participate in the development of international law.  The Audiovisual Library was also of particular value and should be expanded further.  “Bridging the digital gap” would be vital for reaching the widest possible audiences.  Further, the greatest challenge for the Programme’s “training pillar” was to meet the increased demand, both to develop legal skills and to accommodate the growing body of international law.  Both were welcome trends.  States must ensure that training needs were met with adequate resources.  Alternative methods of dissemination should also be explored, including the “Training the Trainers” seminars.  Those activities ensured sustainability, by empowering jurists at the local, sub-regional and regional levels to conduct training programmes designed by the Programme so as to maximise their reach by branching out in an ever-widening network.  Technical assistance could also be provided for the oversight of progress.


Finally, she said consideration should continue to be given on how the Programme could strengthen its activities to meet the changing needs of the global community as they were better identified.  “In an information age”, she said, “the unhindered transfer of knowledge” was essential to the common well-being.


FERNANDA MILLICAY ( Argentina), noted that the goals of the Programme of Assistance  supported the promotion of the rule of law and capacity-building, particularly for developing countries, and she said there were three aspects essential to the success of these goals.  First were the publications and other resources relating to international law.  The Audiovisual Library, launched two years ago, also participated in this important aspect of dissemination,  The second aspect crucial to the Programme’s efforts was the organizing of regional courses for developing countries.  She regretted that these had been suspended since 2005, and hoped that the new regional course that would be taking place next month would be the first step in their resumption. 


Finally, she spoke of fellowships, including The Hague International Law Academy course and the International Law Seminar, which contributed to the training of lawyers and public officials from developing countries.  She noted that, because of lack of funds the Amerasinghe Fellowship, granted every year since 1986, had not been conferred from 2007 to 2009 because of lack of resources; this year a national of the United Republic of Tanzania had received the fellowship, but only because the Legal Counsel provided financial support from the Trust Fund.  She urged Member States to commit to the support of the Programme, since it was integral to the promotion of the rule of law and to capacity-building.


MASIR ANAK KUJAT (Malaysia) said, after a hiatus of nearly five years, that he was pleased a regional course would be held in Seoul, the Republic of Korea this coming November, in which his country would be participating.  He also welcomed the proposal for a regional course in Africa in 2011.  He also commended the restart of regional courses, as well as the increase of fellowships, due to the innovative measures by the Codification Divisions in the International Law Fellowship Programme, as well as the clearing of the backlog of the United Nations Juridical Yearbook which was for “practically the first time ever” on schedule. 


However, the dire financial straits facing the United Nations Audiovisual Library were of great concern, noting the increase of its budget from $100,000 to $400,000.  He stressed that, even with additional voluntary contributions, the figure was “untenable”.  He called for new and innovative ways of financing to be identified.  To this end he suggested that a fee levied on users of the Library be explored and considered.


CHULL-JOO PARK ( Republic of Korea) said there was growing consensus on the centrality of the rule of law in all aspects of the work of the United Nations, and that it was a key tool in achieving the Organization’s mandates.  With the growing awareness of the important role of the rule of law came a significant increase in the demand for international law training and dissemination.  In response, it had been agreed to consider the Programme on an annual basis rather than every other year, so that it could be comprehensively reviewed.  At the same time, the current level of resources was far from enough to meet the need.  More resources must be allocated from the regular budget.


In addition, he said, the Audiovisual Library provided quality training at low cost on a global scale and his country had made a contribution to it this year.  People from more than 190 countries were trained through the Library free of charge.  Funding from the regular budget should be provided to ensure stable development.  In addition, the regional courses were another important tool in the dissemination of international law.  For the first time in five years, a regional course would be held in November.  It would be in his region and his country would be host.


EBENEZER APPREKU ( Ghana) said for the African Group that the Programme had become more relevant now that more emphasis was put on promoting the rule of law, including international law.  Urgent attention must be paid to addressing the challenges presented to the Programme.  That applied particularly to financial and other constraints in the Programme carrying out its mandate to promote a better knowledge of international law as a means of strengthening international peace and security as well as friendly relations among States.


He noted that a regional course would be held in Addis Ababa after decades of inaction in the region and he called for such courses to become regular events, if not annual.  Noting that none of the pillars of development could be met without the promotion of international law, he said cuts in the funding of fellowships from the regular budget were of deep concern.  Adequate resources must be provided for all the Programme’s activities on a sustainable basis and States must make contributions to the Trust Fund if they were to keep their commitment to the rule of law from sounding “hollow”.


ADEL BEN LAGHA ( Tunisia) said the increasing demand for international law training and dissemination activities had “created new challenges” for the Programme of Assistance, thus raising concerns about its limited resources.  The progress of the Programme’s was being hindered, in particular, by its dependence on voluntary contributions.  The funding of the Programme should be ensured from the regular budget of the Organization.


He also pointed out that regional courses in international law, which were “of special benefit” to practitioners in developing countries, needed to be assured of consistent and adequate funding, and he urged that Member States make additional contributions.  He also called upon universities and international and regional organizations to support the Programme of Assistance, through increased activities promoting international law.  He concluded by thanking the Republic of Korea and Ethiopia for their hosting of regional courses in 2010 and 2011, respectively.


OLEKSANDR PAVLICHENKO ( Ukraine) in his national capacity and as a member of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance, praised the Office of Legal Affairs, in particular the Codification Division, for keeping the Programme functioning despite a sufficient lack of funding.  He said their cost-saving measures had revitalized and further pushed the Programme’s activities, including the International Law Fellowship Programme and the regional courses on international law.


The recent Audiovisual Library’s presentation in Kiev had been very successful, he said, with Ukrainian scholars and students and he stressed the need to keep developing this project as an important training resource worldwide.  The role of the Programme in the promotion of international law and strengthening of the rule of law, especially for developing countries and newly independent states, could not be overestimated and he urged Member States, who had not already done so, to consider contributing to the Programme.  He also called for the Programme to be included in the regular budget of the Organization.


RETA ALEMU NEGA ( Ethiopia) said the cut in the funding of the fellowship programme was unfortunate, at a time when the demands for international legal training and activities were increasing.  Funding for the fellowship must be restored and should continue on a sustainable level from the regular budget.  Talks with the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) should begin, with a view to increasing the number of fellowships awarded.  At this point, the Programme of Assistance itself should be funded from the regular budget.


VALERIE BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said the Programme of Assistance was the cornerstone of the legal framework for the United Nations.  The Codification Division had carried out its increasing workload without an increase in budget but now adequate funding must be insured from the regular budget.  With the recognized growth of importance in the rule of law, the Programme must not only be allowed to continue, but it must be able to increase its activities with regard to the fellowship programme, the regional course work and the Audiovisual Library, which was a virtual learning centre for the benefit of all countries.  The publication in digital format of the archives, for example, had made available a bedrock document for the further development of international law.


ABDUL HAMEED ( Pakistan) said his country had been an ardent advocate of the Programme, and he particularly applauded the activities of the Codification Division and the accessibility of the Audiovisual Library.  As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, there was clearly a growing demand for international law training.  That there had not been any regional courses since 2005 was of concern.  He said that while acknowledging that several countries had provided support for regional courses, he hoped the Codification Division would be able to procure the maximum resources for this particular area. 


He noted the increased budgetary demands for dissemination activities, in particular through the increased utilization of the Audiovisual Library by developing countries, and said he hoped that efforts by the Codification Division to increase financial and in-kind contributions from universities, philanthropic foundations, institutions and organizations would prove successful.


HILDING LUNDKVIST ( Sweden) said the Audiovisual Library, which was “a rather simple idea”, had proven to be a success providing high quality training at a low-cost on a global scale.  The fact that 191 countries from around the world had accessed it was of great importance and he commended the Codification Division for this achievement.


Turning to the archives, he said that the effort to transfer older materials into electronic form was central to the dissemination of international law.  He regretted that not all materials had been preserved, especially those from the beginning of the Organization.  Resources were crucial in the long-range plans of the Library, which was depended on voluntary contributions.  Thus, Sweden had just decided to contribute $25,000 to it.


DIRE TLADI ( South Africa) said that although his country’s delegation had rarely spoken on this topic, its support was strong.  However, this year the issue of funding was serious and he called for the Programme of Assistance to be widely supported.  In previous debates, South Africa had spoken on the rule of law and the work of the Programme was important to this crucial element of international law.  The Programme, through a variety of means, supported students and practitioners, notably with the Audiovisual Library, which allowed anyone, anywhere to access such teachings; he urged Member States to contribute to this “amazing initiative”.


Applauding the plans for two regional workshops in the Republic of Korea in 2010 and in Africa in 2011, he said he wished there had been more scholarships available for interested applicants.  States should contribute to the Programme and alternative funding should be sought, including through the regular budget.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said the duration of the Programme of Assistance since 1945 was an indication of the high faith and credibility it enjoyed in general.  The inclusion of the new item on the rule of law in the Assembly’s work since 2006 had reinforced the key role of the Programme in the work of the United Nations more than ever before.

He said two characteristics of the Programme had enabled it to be effective.  It had proved to be consistently relevant and it had maintained its productivity by making the best use of all available resources and means to discharge its mandate while expanding its audience.  Making the best use of advanced technologies was one of its tools, as borne out by the Audiovisual Library.  The project was a work in progress that needed to be supplemented to keep pace with developments in international law.  “It needs sustainable adequate resources to keep going”, he stated.  In addition, the regional seminars were useful in reaching out to developing countries and familiarizing their academia and institutions with the latest developments in international law.

ISMAIL CHEKKORI ( Morocco) noted that the financing for the fellowship programme had been cut at a time when calls were being sent out to increase the strength of the Programme’s activities.  He said the real need was for a new impetus that would garner the financial and political support to ensure that efforts to strengthen the rule of international law were strengthened.  Regional courses, for example, represented an essential mechanism of the international community for extending the reach of international law to young lawyers.  The necessary resources must be provided on a sustainable basis for the important work of strengthening the rule of law.  The linguistic aspect of the Programme’s work should also be taken into account when planning activities.  Addressing linguistic diversities could facilitate the carrying out of the work of the Programme.


HELENE AWET WOLDEYOHANNES ( Eritrea) said the efforts of the Programme of Assistance to develop a better knowledge of international law, and to strengthen international peace and security, would contribute to the promotion of friendly relations and cooperation among States.  International law had become more complex and required more qualified professionals in specific fields, particularly within government and universities.  In this regard, the Audiovisual Library was an essential tool to promoting a greater understanding of the role of the Organization in the field of international law and a greater awareness of the legacy of the United Nations.


She said she welcomed the regional courses being organized in Asia and Africa and hoped that similar regional courses would take place more regularly.  All activities of the Programme of Assistance, including the Audiovisual Library, should receive adequate support from the regular budget and she called for the establishment of a sustainable financial mechanism in order for the work of the Programme to flourish.


ANTOINE SOMDAH ( Burkina Faso), expressing gratitude to donors to the Programme, said teaching was an effective means to promote the rule of law, one of the “guiding objectives” that led to the establishment of the Programme.  He called for all institutions and Member States to contribute to the efforts, as they were important in developing countries’ progress in establishing legal frameworks. He said the Codification Division should also continue its efforts, and those needed support from appropriate sources.


He said the International Association of Law Libraries had given the Audiovisual Library the award for best website in 2009, which clearly illustrated that this work should be maintained, and supported in adapting to changing needs.  He also commended Ethiopia for hosting the upcoming regional workshop and hoped such workshops would continue on a regular basis, in order to implement and strengthen international law in Africa.


MUKONGO NGAY ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the rules of international law were not well known, and were often ignored in many parts of the world.  International law was more than an academic or legal exercise; it affected people’s lives and had to take root within people worldwide through the encouragement of a constant and close link between academia and government.  That could not be done on a global level without the Programme of Assistance.


He said a wider appreciation of international law was vital for overcoming obstacles to development.  For example, the principle that international law took primacy over internal national law did not mean that international law would be achievable internally, nor did it mean that international norms could be enforced.  The legal structure of States did not always allow for the turning of international norms into national law.  Some national legislatures also put curbs on the effectiveness of international law.


Therefore, he said, a wider appreciation of international law was essential for securing its acceptance by people.

 That made it all the more regrettable that funding for regional courses had been cut, and they had not been held for five years.  States must make financial contributions to the Programme’s activities and the Organization must increase funding from the regular budget.  The regional courses must be consistently conducted with sustainable funding.  The impact could also be amplified by holding meetings at various national and regional levels.


DUNCAN LAKI MUHUMUZA ( Uganda) said funding of the Programme from the regular budget was vital, and contributions by States were appreciated.  The regional courses, such as that being held in Addis in November, were particularly important in the implementation of the Programme’s work.  His country had offered to host a regional seminar on the Law of the Sea within the next years.  The purpose was to highlight the importance of the sea as a commonly shared universal natural resource.  The hosting of such an event by a landlocked country was sure to bring notice and increased participation.


MR. APPREKU (Ghana), speaking again, recalled that he had been chair of the Programme Advisory Committee and as such had found that the Secretariat had enabled the Advisory Committee to be fruitful in its work.  Recommendations had been made for the Advisory Committee to meet more frequently and for the composition of the Advisory Committee to be more widely publicised.


Action on Draft Decision


The Committee took up the draft decision on the administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/C.6/65/L.2).


The decision was adopted without a vote.


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