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Sixty-fourth 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 82)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/64/100)

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 considered the report of 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, 61/38 and 62/69).

At its sixty-third session, the General Assembly decided that the Special Committee should hold its next session from 17 to 25 February 2009; requested the Special Committee, at its session in 2009: (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; (b) to continue its consideration, on a priority basis, of the working document submitted by the Russian Federation, entitled “Basic conditions and standard criteria for introduction and implementation of sanctions”, with a view to focusing on the outstanding issues; 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-fourth 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 63/127).

The Special Committee met at United Nations Headquarters from 17 to 25 February 2009.

Consideration at the sixty-fourth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 11th and 25th meetings, on 19 October and on 12 November 2009. At the 11th meeting, on 19 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/64/33). The Director of the Codification Division, Office of Legal Affairs, made a statement on the status of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs. The Chief of the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch, Department of Political Affairs, made a statement on the status of the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council.

Statements were made by the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union; the Candidate Countries Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, and the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia aligned themselves with the statement); Tunisia (on behalf of the African Group); Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement); New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia and Canada); Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group); Egypt; Belarus; China; Cameroon; the Russian Federation; Cuba; Azerbaijan; Tunisia; Viet Nam; Morocco; the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Algeria; Iran (Islamic Republic of); Turkey; Malaysia; Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of); Afghanistan; and the United States of America. The representatives of the Republic of Korea and of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea exercised their right of reply.

Several delegations stressed that sanctions, which are an important tool for the maintenance of international peace and security, should be carefully targeted, take into account the rights of due process for the individuals concerned and the need to minimize their adverse impact on third parties, limited in duration and periodically reviewed. It was pointed out that sanctions should also have clear objectives, be proportionate, and comply with the Charter of the United Nations and human rights. Several other delegations also recalled that sanctions should be used only in last resort and be clearly defined. It was further emphasized that sanctions should strictly comply with international law and never be unilaterally imposed, applied preventively, or aimed at undermining the political and legal order in the States. The progress achieved in various UN fora to target and streamline sanctions procedures was welcomed by some delegations.

In this context, several delegations expressed support for the revised working paper proposed by the Russian Federation on the “Introduction and implementation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations” and called for the conclusion of negotiations on it and its adoption at the current session of the General Assembly. The revised working paper was characterized as a balanced document ready for adoption by the Assembly which reflected the latest trends in the application of sanctions and contributions of various delegations to its text. It was suggested that the text be annexed to the General Assembly resolution. Some other delegations, while supporting the adoption of the paper by the Committee, stated that they had concerns with some aspects of its section on “Unintended side effects of sanctions” and considered, inter alia, that humanitarian aid should be provided with the host State’s consent and that appropriate humanitarian exemptions to sanctions were imperative. The view was reiterated that the Special Committee was not the adequate framework to devise norms concerning the design and implementation of sanctions and that it should not pursue activities in this area that would be duplicative or inconsistent with the roles of the principal organs of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter. It was pointed out that certain provisions of the working paper needed further consideration.

Several delegations recognized the importance attached to the continuation of the study on the negative effects of sanctions on third States in order to minimize any adverse impact that sanctions might cause on civilian populations and third States.  On the other hand, other delegations reiterated their view that the question of assistance to third States affected by sanctions was no longer relevant to the Special Committee and could be removed from the agenda especially considering the fact that no Member State had approached any of the sanctions committees since 2003 for special economic problems arising from imposition of sanctions. Some representatives also emphasized the importance of adherence to Article 50 of the Charter, while some others rejected any assimilation of the right of States to consult with the Security Council under Article 50 with the responsibility of the Organization to assist third States adversely affected by sanctions.

Regarding the peaceful settlement of disputes, several delegations reaffirmed the essential part it played in the maintenance of international peace and security, and the important role of the International Court of Justice as the principle judicial organ of the Organization.  The importance of free choice of means in peaceful dispute settlement was also emphasized.  While some delegations expressed their support for the proposal submitted by Belarus and the Russian Federation to request an advisory opinion from the Court 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 of self-defense, a divergent view was also voiced. 

Regarding the working methods of the Special Committee, several delegations expressed their support for the topics currently on the agenda of the Special Committee.  The lack of political will, rather than working methods, was pointed out as the cause for the reduction of productivity of the Committee in recent years.  Several delegations mentioned the possibility of shortening the meeting time of the Special Committee, and emphasized the need for better approaches to efficiency.  It was also stressed that no amendment to the Charter should be made before a clear mandate from the General Assembly was given.

Favorable consideration was expressed on further discussion of the proposal on “Strengthening of the role of the Organization and enhancing its effectiveness” submitted by Cuba, and some delegations supported the proposal by the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on “the strengthening of certain principles concerning the impact and application of sanctions.”

Delegations welcomed the progress made in the preparation of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, in particular the efforts undertaken by the Secretariat in order to reduce the backlog of these publications and make them available on the internet.  Several delegations emphasized the importance of ensuring the timely issuance of all language versions of these publications.  It was observed that the Repertory and the Repertoire contributed to the institutional memory of the Organization and were valuable tools for both researchers and practitioners.  The enhanced cooperation with academia in the preparation of studies was welcomed by several delegations, some of which also encouraged Member States to make additional contributions to the trust funds established for these publications.
Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 25th meeting of the Committee, on 12 November 2009, 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.6/64/L.9). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/64/L.9 without a vote. The representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on behalf of the States Members of the United Nations that are members of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, made a statement in explanation of position before the adoption of the draft resolution.

Under this draft resolution, the General Assembly would decide that the Special Committee shall hold its next session from 1 to 9 March 2010. The Assembly would also take note of the document entitled “Introduction and implementation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations”, the text of which would be annexed to the resolution.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fifth session (2010)