Back to top

Sixty-third session

Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (agenda item 78)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/63/100)

The item entitled “Need to consider suggestions regarding the review of the Charter
of the United Nations” was included in the agenda of the twenty-fourth session of
the General Assembly, in 1969, at the request of Colombia (A/7659).

At its twenty-ninth session, the General Assembly decided to establish an Ad Hoc
Committee on the Charter of the United Nations to consider any specific proposals
that Governments might make with a view to enhancing the ability of the United
Nations to achieve its purposes, as well as other suggestions for the more effective
functioning of the United Nations that might not require amendments to the Charter
(resolution 3349 (XXIX)).

Meanwhile, another item, entitled “Strengthening of the role of the United Nations
with regard to the maintenance and consolidation of international peace and
security, the development of cooperation among all nations and the promotion of the
rules of international law in relations between States”, was included in the agenda of
the twenty-seventh session of the General Assembly at the request of Romania
(A/8792).

At its thirtieth session, the General Assembly decided to reconvene the Ad Hoc
Committee as the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on
the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization to examine suggestions and
proposals regarding the Charter and the strengthening of the role of the United
Nations with regard to the maintenance and consolidation of international peace and
security, the development of cooperation among all nations and the promotion of the
rules of international law (resolution 3499 (XXX)).

Since its thirtieth session, the General Assembly has reconvened the Special
Committee every year (resolutions 31/28, 32/45, 33/94, 34/147, 35/164, 36/123,
37/114, 38/141, 39/88, 40/78, 41/83, 42/157, 43/170, 44/37, 45/44, 46/58, 47/38,
48/36, 49/58, 50/52, 51/209, 52/161, 53/106, 54/106, 55/156, 56/86, 57/24, 58/248,
59/44, 60/23 and 61/38).

At its sixty-second session, the General Assembly decided that the Special
Committee should hold its next session from 27 February to 5 March and on
7 March 2008 and requested it to submit a report on its work to the Assembly at its
sixty-third session (resolution 62/69).

The Special Committee met at United Nations Headquarters from 27 to 29 February
and on 3 to 5 and 7 March 2008.

Also at its sixty-second session, the General Assembly requested the Special
Committee, at its session in 2008: (a) to continue its consideration of all proposals
concerning the question of the maintenance of international peace and security in all
its aspects in order to strengthen the role of the United Nations, and, in that context,
to consider other proposals relating to the maintenance of international peace and
security already submitted or which might be submitted to the Special Committee at
its session in 2008; (b) to continue its consideration of the working document
submitted by the Russian Federation, entitled “Basic conditions and standard criteria
for introduction and implementation of sanctions”, on a priority basis; and (c) to
continue to consider, on a priority basis and in an appropriate substantive manner
and framework, the question of the implementation of the provisions of the Charter
of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application
of sanctions under Chapter VII of the Charter based on all of the related reports of
the Secretary-General and the proposals submitted on the question; and requested
the Secretary-General to submit to it at its sixty-third session a report on both the
Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice
of the Security Council, and a report on the implementation of the provisions of the
Charter related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions
(resolution 62/69).

Consideration at the sixty-third session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 12th, 13th and 26th meetings, on 22 and 23 October and on 14 November 2008. At the 12th meeting, on 22 October, the Chairman of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization introduced the report of the Special Committee (A/63/33).

Statements were made by the representatives of Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), France (on behalf of the European Union; the Candidate Countries Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Montenegro and Serbia, the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Armenia aligned themselves with the declaration), Belarus, China, India, Egypt, Nigeria, the Sudan, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq, Cuba, the Russian Federation, the Syrian Arab Republic, Senegal, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Turkey, the United States of America, Yemen, South Africa, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Algeria and Malaysia.

Some delegations recalled the important role of the Special Committee in the maintenance of international peace and security.

Some speakers recalled that sanctions, which are an important tool for the maintenance of international peace and security, should be used only in last resort, be clearly defined, targeted, limited in duration and periodically reviewed. It was also emphasized that sanctions should strictly comply with the Charter of the United Nations, international law and human rights and never be unilaterally imposed. The progress achieved in various United Nations fora to target and streamline sanctions procedures was welcomed by some delegations.

In this context, some delegations expressed their support for the revised working paper proposed by the Russian Federation on the “Basic conditions and standard criteria for the introduction and implementation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations”, as it would provide a clear sanctions regime, and called for its early adoption after its consideration at the next session of the Special Committee. However, some other delegations, while sharing this view, observed that the proposal could not be adopted as such and would require further consideration and amendments. Furthermore, a view was expressed that the Special Committee was not the adequate framework to devise norms concerning the design and implementation of sanctions.

Some speakers noted the importance of the consideration of the issue of the negative effects of sanctions on third States, including by establishing a working group to study this issue. The point was made that it should remain on the agenda of the Special Committee as it provides a forum to raise concerns regarding the Security Council’s exercise of its sanctions powers. A view was expressed in support of the establishment of a mechanism to assist third States affected by sanctions. However, some other speakers observed that this matter was usefully addressed by the Sanctions Committees and therefore coupled to the fact that targeted sanctions made this topic irrelevant, a suggestion was made that this topic could be removed from the Special Committee’s agenda. In view of the divergence of opinions on the relevance of this item for the Special Committee, a suggestion was made to survey Member States in order to take a decision. Still on this topic, divergence of views was expressed on the meaning and interpretation to be given to Article 50 of the Charter, especially on the responsibility of the Security Council to assist third States affected by the imposition of sanctions.

A view welcoming the deletion from the agenda of the Special Committee of the item legal basis for peacekeeping operations was expressed, as well as a wish that the recommendations made by the Special Committee on the matter be taken into account by the Fourth Committee.

While some delegations expressed support for the joint proposal submitted by Belarus and the Russian Federation, to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the resort to the use of force by States without prior authorization by the Security Council, except in the exercise of the right to self-defence, some other delegations did not support this proposal. A point was also made that that further discussion and study was required to formulate a suitable question to the Court, if any. An emphasis on the principle of free choice of means in dispute settlement was also made.

Concerning the working methods of the Special Committee, some speakers were of the view that they should be further improved towards a better use of the resources allocated to the Committee, including by reducing the duration of its session to one week, and reviewing items on which no consensus is foreseeable only every two or three years. However, it was also underlined by some other speakers that the shortcomings within the Special Committee were due to the lack of political will and not to its working methods. A view was also expressed that a reasonable amount of time should be allocated for the submission of proposals.

While some delegations supported the proposal of the Rio Group to include a new topic on the agenda of the Special Committee, entitled “Consideration of the legal aspects of the reform of the United Nations”, some other delegations emphasized their general reluctance to include a new topic in view of the great number of items already on the Special Committee’s agenda, and that therefore further information would be required in this regard.

Some speakers commended the efforts made by the Secretariat in the preparation of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council and welcomed the posting of the advance versions of various studies on the United Nations website. They also welcomed the cooperation with academia. It was recalled that those publications contribute to the institutional memory of the Organization and are valuable tools for both researchers and practitioners.

Some delegations encouraged further consideration of the proposals submitted by Cuba and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, concerning the “Strengthening of the role of the Organization and enhancing its effectiveness”, and the “Strengthening of the role of the Organization in the maintenance of international peace and security”, respectively.

A point was also made that the Special Committee could be the best forum to discuss the possibility and means to record and preserve the gentlemen’s agreement between African and Asian States on the distribution of seats among them at the Security Council.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 26th meeting of the Committee, on 14 November 2008, the representative of Egypt, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization” (A/C.6/63/L.19). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/63/L.19 without a vote. Under this draft resolution, the General Assembly would decide that the Special Committee shall hold its next session from 17 to 25 February 2009.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fourth session (2009)