16 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/L/3451

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

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Sixth Committee

25th Meeting (AM)


Upholding Tradition of Consensus, Legal Committee Approves 11 Draft

 

Resolutions, One Request for Observer Status in Final Debate

 


Lack of Political Will Impedes General Assembly Revitalization,

Speakers Say, Calling for Achievable Goals, Practices to Realize ‘True Reform’


Upholding its tradition of consensus, the Sixth (Legal) Committee concluded its current session by approving one request for observer status by the European Organization for Nuclear Research and 11 draft resolutions, including the text on the revitalization of the General Assembly.


Among others, delegates approved without a vote draft resolutions on the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission, the United Nations Programme of Assistance, the rule of law at the national and international levels, and the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction.


However, the Committee failed to reach consensus on three other requests for observer status, including those for the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties and the International Chamber of Commerce.  Those requests were deferred to the next General Assembly session.


During the discussion on those requests, delegates of Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Azerbaijan expressed support for the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States’ request, pointing out that the Council was an intergovernmental organization that embraced the principles of the United Nations Charter.  It met the required criteria and fully deserved to be granted observer status.


Cyprus’ representative, though, reiterated concerns expressed last year, saying that there had not been enough opportunity to address the objectives of the Council.  It was also unclear how and in what parts of the world it would promote its work.  Echoing that, the delegate of Armenia noted that because the Council was newly formed, it was not apparent whether its operations covered matters of interest to the Assembly.


Chile’s delegate said it was important for all regions to be involved in the drafting of resolutions, commenting that observer status requests, in particular, could not reasonably be discussed in one session.  On the revitalization of the Assembly’s work, he emphasized that efforts not end in the delivering of statements, but be directed at taking concrete steps in order to achieve its more ambitious goals.


Emphasizing the vital importance of the General Assembly to the Organization’s work, Cuba’s representative said a lack of political will was impeding reform.  It was unacceptable that the majority of the Assembly’s resolutions had not been implemented, and he urged that focus be on achievable goals and practices that would facilitate that body’s revitalization and bring true reform to the Organization.


Speaking on the Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country was the representative of the United States.  Speaking on the draft resolutions and requests for observer status were representatives of Sweden, Syria, Egypt, Finland, Russian Federation, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Japan, Venezuela and France. 


Speaking also on the Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country was a representative of the delegation of the European Union.


Background


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to consider the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (document A/67/26), and to take up a series of draft resolutions.  Among topics addressed in the report are entry visas issued by the host country, the question of the security of missions and the safety of their personnel, and host country activities to assist members of the United Nations community.


The report says that the Observer of Iran expressed concerns regarding the revocation of an entry visa for an Iranian official at Vienna International Airport.  Although the United States Mission had recently informed the Iranian Mission that the revocation was due to an administrative error and that the visa had since been reinstated, the effort had come too late.  The host country’s representative stated that his country had moved expeditiously to ensure that the Iranian representative was provided with a visa to complete her journey to New York in sufficient time.  The United States Mission would also work to try to prevent such situations from happening again.  


Regarding the security of missions and the safety of personnel, the report states that the Observer for Saint Kitts and Nevis, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), had expressed concern regarding an incident, on 28 March of 2012, during which the delegate of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was arrested and handcuffed by a New York City police officer for alleged disorderly conduct.  The host country’s response to his Government concerns about the incident’s implications on national sovereignty and dignity had been commendable, with plans to examine ways to prevent such incidents from occurring, and with an internal investigation being launched by the New York City Police Department.


On host country activities to assist members of the United Nations community, the report states that the Observer for Syria had addressed JPMorgan Chase Bank’s closure of permanent mission bank accounts in 2011.  The United States Mission had assisted in finding a replacement bank, Washington First Bank, which then also decided to close permanent missions’ bank accounts.  As his Mission was again without any banking services, he had requested the Chair to immediately apprise the Secretary-General of the matter in order to find a solution and ensure the proper functioning of United Nations diplomatic missions in New York.  The host country’s representative said that her Mission had so far assisted 26 missions in finding replacement banks and would continue to assist the 9 remaining missions without accounts.


Also in the report are the Committee’s recommendations to the host country, which include:  continued training of police, security, customs and border control officers; proper investigation and remedy of cases; preventing interference with the functioning of the missions; continued communication with New York City officials to report on problems experienced by permanent missions; timely issuance of entry visas to Member States; and removal of travel restrictions.


The Committee was also expected to take action on a series of draft resolutions.  First considered would be a draft resolution on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (A/C.6/67/L.19) which would, among other provisions, have the General Assembly request the host country to consider removing travel restrictions imposed on certain mission and Secretariat staff, and note concerns expressed by delegations about the denial and delay of entry visas as well as difficulties in obtaining suitable banking services.  It would have the Assembly welcome host country efforts to facilitate the opening of bank accounts, in that regard, and request the Secretary-General to remain actively engaged in the United Nations relations with the host country.


Considered for action next would be draft resolutions on the following:  the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (A/C.6/67/L.17); the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (A/C.6/67/L.15); the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third and sixty-fourth sessions (A/C.6/67/L.13); and, status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (A/C.6/67/L.14).


As well, action would be taken on draft resolutions, including: consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives (A/C.6/67/L.10); the Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (A/C.6/67/L.11); the rule of law at the national and international levels (A/C.6/67/L.9); the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (A/C.6/67/L.16); and, measures to eliminate international terrorism (A/C.6/67/L.12).  For background on all noted draft resolutions, see Press Release GA/L/3450.


Action was also expected in regards to a request for observer status in the General Assembly for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (A/C.6/67/L.6) (for background, see Press Release GA/L/3450), the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties and the International Chamber of Commerce (for background on the latter two, see Press Release GA/L/3440).


The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on the revitalization of work of the General Assembly (A/C.6/67/L.18), which would establish the provisional programme of work of the Sixth Committee for its sixty-eighth session. 


Committee on Host Country Relations


NICHOLAS EMILIOU ( Cyprus), Chair of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, introduced the Committee’s report, stating that the Committee had continued to provide an environment where delegations could raise concerns relating to the agenda and where discussions could take place in a constructive manner.


He then turned to an incident that had been brought to the Committee, in which the Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was arrested and handcuffed in the host country.  The host country, he said, had expressed regret and the New York City Commissioner for the United Nations and Consular Corps had announced an investigation.  Also expressed was the need for additional training for police officers who work with the diplomatic community. 


He said it was unfortunate that the closure of some permanent missions’ bank accounts and difficulty obtaining new accounts remained an issue.  The host country was continuing efforts to help provide suitable banking services for those who, to date, remained without a bank account.  In closing, he thanked those who supported the work of the Committee, including the Committee members, the host country, the Secretariat and the New York City Commissioner for the United Nations and Consular Corps.


He then introduced the new draft resolution on the Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (A/C.6/67/L.19) and gave an overview of the contents of the resolution.


Statements on Host Country Committee Report


GILLES MARHIC, delegation of the European Union, expressed appreciation to the host country for addressing the different issues of missions in New York and to promote understanding between the diplomatic community and the City of New York.  Although the matters before the Committee were often practical in nature, they went to the heart of preserving the legal regime that defined the status of the United Nations and outlined the rights and obligations of diplomatic agents. 


Because the observance of privileges and immunities of diplomatic personnel was an issue of great importance, he said it was paramount to safeguard the integrity of the relevant body of international law, particularly the Headquarters Agreement between the United Nations and the host country, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.  Noting the host country’s continued efforts to issue entry visas to representatives of Member States and observers in a timely manner, he offered a full endorsement of the conclusions and recommendation in the Host Country Committee report.


JOHN ARBOGAST ( United States), expressing pride for the role his country played as host to the Organization, said meetings of the Committee were an opportunity to assess and address the United Nations community’s concerns.  Noting the cooperative and constructive spirit of Committee members, he said the participation in its meetings of delegations who were not Committee members had made deliberations open and more representative of the diplomatic community.


Likewise, he said, the Committee’s limited, but representative membership had made it an efficient and unusually responsive General Assembly body, recalling that deliberations this past year had focused on mitigating delays in visa issuance, ensuring the safety and security of missions, and assisting missions with securing banking services.


Action on Draft Resolutions


The Committee had before it a draft resolution on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country (A/C.6/67/L.19), introduced earlier by a representative of Cyprus.  It was approved without a vote.


Also before the Committee were draft resolutions on the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (A/C.6/67/L.17), the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (a/C.6/67/L.15) and the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-third and sixty-fourth sessions (A/C.6/67/L.13), all of which were introduced at the Committee’s previous meeting, and approved today without a vote.


Speaking before action on a draft resolution on the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts (A/C.6/67/L.14), Sweden’s delegate announced additional co-sponsors.  That draft resolution was approved without a vote.


Speaking after action, Syria’s delegate said that he had joined consensus on the draft, but reaffirmed reservations to any direct or indirect mention of the third Protocol because it did not enjoy the required consensus. 


The representative of Egypt, also speaking after action, said the loss of life of innocent civilians and destruction caused by the ongoing Israeli military operations in Gaza brought awareness to the importance of protecting civilians and to the application of international humanitarian law.  However, any reference in the resolution to Protocol III, including indirect references to all additional Protocols did not, in any way, indicate support for that Protocol.  The Protocol’s adoption by vote in 2005 had been regrettable, as it failed to account for reservations expressed during negotiations on the draft, and which were still relevant today.  The vote, therefore, constituted an undesirable precedent related to international humanitarian law.


Speaking before action on the draft resolution, consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives (A/C.6/67L.10), Finland’s delegate introduced additional co-sponsors.  That draft resolution was approved without a vote.


The Committee also had before it draft resolutions on the Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (A.C.6/67/L.11), the rule of law at the national and international levels (A/C.6/67/L.9) and the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (A/C.6/67/L.16), all of which had been introduced at the Committee’s previous meeting.  They were approved without a vote.


The draft resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism (A/C.6/67/L.12) was also approved without a vote. 

Speaking after action, Syria’s delegate said he had joined consensus on the resolution, but had reservations on its mention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  That organization was a military alliance, different from the other organizations mentioned on the list in the draft. 


Requests for Observer Status


Before the Committee was a draft resolution containing a request for Observer status for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (A/C.6/67/L.6) in the General Assembly.  It was approved without a vote.


Speaking on the request for Observer status for the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States in the General Assembly (A/66/141 and A/C.6/67/L.2), the delegate of Kyrgyzstan said that several consultations had been conducted on the matter.  The Cooperation Council fully deserved to be granted observer status since it met the established criteria and its main purposes were in full correspondence with the goals and objectives of the United Nations.  Representatives of Turkey and Azerbaijan echoed the statement of Kyrgyzstan’s representative. 


The delegates of Cyprus and Armenia expressed their concerns about granting observer status to the Council, noting that it was unclear whether the Council met the criteria.  A representative of the Russian Federation, emphasizing that the Council’s structure and documents had not changed in the past year, said that given there was no consensus on the matter, the Committee was obliged to take a decision on the future forms of work on the request. 


The Sixth Committee deferred consideration of the item to its sixty-eighth session.


A representative of the Philippines said that, in regards to the proposal to draft a resolution requesting observer status for the International Conference on Asian Political Parties, his delegation had facilitated an informal consultation on the item on 13 November, 2012.  During that consultation, no consensus could be reached.  Some delegations had reiterated their suggestions to withdraw the item from the Sixth Committee’s further consideration, as it had not met the requirements for observer status.  Recognizing the clear divergence of views on the matter, he recommended that no action be taken on the matter at this time.


The Republic of Korea’s representative agreed that the consideration of the item should be deferred to the Committee’s next session, emphasizing that efforts had not been exhausted towards reaching consensus.  Also addressing the item, delegates of Pakistan, Japan and the Russian Federation said they appreciated the Philippines’ effort to hold the informal consultations, as well as the decision to defer consideration until the next session.


However, the Russian Federation’s delegate said it was important not to create a precedent that would bind the Committee to this sort of conduct concerning further questions on similar legal matters.  In particular, she rejected proposals to amend criteria for granting observer status to the General Assembly, noting that the Committee used those legal criteria in its decisions on each request, which were then individually assessed.


Venezuela’s delegate pointed out that her delegation had not received notice about the informal consultation that took place and was therefore not present.  Thus, she called for such a situation to be prevented in the future so that the process could be open, transparent and involve all Member States.


The Committee deferred consideration of the item to its sixty-eighth session.


Speaking before action on the draft resolution requesting observer status of the International Chamber of Commerce (A/C.6/67/L.5) in the General Assembly, France’s representative, whose country had held informal consultations on the matter, said that delegations were wholly supportive of the Organization’s work.  However, the Chamber did not hold an intergovernmental status.  Her delegation, with others who had expressed interest, had met with representatives of the Organization, but more time was needed to discuss with them the nature of the Chamber’s status.  She recommended that the Sixth Committee defer its consideration of the item to sixty-eighth session.


The Committee deferred consideration of the item to its sixty-eighth session.


Draft Resolution on Revitalization


Lastly, the Committee had before it a draft resolution on the revitalization of work of the General Assembly (A/C.6/67/L.18), which would establish the provisional programme of work of the Sixth Committee for the sixty-eighth session.


Before action, the representative of Chile, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that during the Sixth Committee’s sixty-seventh session, efforts had been made to avoid the overlapping of issues.  He urged that such efforts continue.  The delay in delivering certain reports, however, had hindered proper review.  Those reports, particularly the report of the International Law Commission, should be delivered according to the sixth week rule.  Although the current session had been affected by a force majeure event that prevented all issues being considered as originally intended, in the future, appropriate time should be allotted to the Law Commission’s report.


He also called for closer links between the Commission and the Sixth Committee, necessary financial support to the Special Rapporteurs to bring them to New York, for part of the Commission’s annual session to be held in New York, for all regions to be involved in drafting resolutions, and for an appropriate amount of time to be allocated to different agenda items.  The requests for observer status, in particular, could not reasonably be discussed in a single session.


On the revitalization of the General Assembly’s work, he said that those efforts could not be confined to delivering statements, but should aim towards adopting agendas designed to achieve more ambitious goals.  He noted with concern that the calls of the General Assembly, embodied in its resolutions, were not being abided to.  The Assembly’s revitalization was paramount for a genuine reform of the Organization and it should fully exercise all its functions and powers. 


Also speaking before action, Cuba’s representative emphasized that the General Assembly, as a democratic and representative organ of the United Nations, was of vital importance to the Organization’s work and current international relations.  Different proposals made by regional groups and countries concerning the Assembly’s reform had gone unheeded, resulting in inertia.  It could not be accepted that so many years after the Organization’s founding, normative provisions were “worthless dead letters” ignored by the international community.  The fact that the majority of General Assembly resolutions were not being implemented was unacceptable.  The focus should be on achievable goals and practices that would lead to the Assembly’s revitalization.


He said the principle impediment to reform was a lack of political will.  The General Assembly was where the sovereign equality of States was truly reflected, and it was made legitimate by its inclusive and democratic nature.  The Security Council was not independent and had to bow to the provisions of the Charter and provide special reports to the General Assembly.  Radical reform of the Security Council was therefore needed to make it transparent and democratic.  The revitalization of the General Assembly was of primordial importance to achieving true reform of the United Nations and only a universal and democratic body could address global problems in an equitable way.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.


Election of Officers


Turning to the current session’s last agenda item, on the election of officers for the Committee, the Chair said that all committees must elect a full bureau at least three months prior to the new session.  He suggested that regional groups hold consultations before that time, in order for the Committee to elect its next Chairperson, three Vice-Chairpersons and a Rapporteur.


He then concluded the session, expressing gratitude to all delegations for their support and cooperation, as well as to the Bureau, the Committee’s Secretariat and all services that supported the Committee’s work during the session.


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For information media • not an official record