Back to top

Sixty-fifth session

United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (Agenda item 78)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/65/100)

The United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law was established by the General Assembly at its twentieth session, in 1965 (resolution 2099 (XX)). The Assembly authorized the continuation of the Programme at its annual sessions until its twenty-sixth session, and thereafter biennially (resolutions 2204 (XXI), 2313 (XXII), 2464 (XXIII), 2550 (XXIV), 2698 (XXV), 2838 (XXVI), 3106 (XXVIII), 3502 (XXX), 32/146, 34/144, 36/108, 38/129, 40/66, 42/148, 44/28, 46/50, 48/29, 50/43, 52/152, 54/102, 56/77, 58/73, 60/19, and 62/62).

In the performance of the functions entrusted to him by the General Assembly, the Secretary-General is assisted by the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, the members of which are appointed by the Assembly.

The following 25 Member States are members of the Advisory Committee for a period of four years, beginning on 1 January 2008 and ending on 31 December 2011: Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Russian Federation, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, United States and Uruguay (resolution 62/62).

At its sixty-fourth session, the General Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to carry out in 2010 and 2011 the activities specified in his report, including the provision of a number of fellowships to be awarded to qualified candidates from developing countries to attend the International Law Fellowship Programme in The Hague in 2010 and 2011, and a number of fellowships to be determined in the light of the overall resources for the Programme of Assistance and to be awarded to qualified candidates from developing countries to attend regional courses in international law in 2010 and 2011; also authorized the Secretary-General to award a minimum of one scholarship in both 2010 and 2011 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, subject to the availability of new voluntary contributions made specifically for that fellowship; requested the Secretary-General to provide relevant information to the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance, to facilitate its consideration of the possibility of providing funding from the regular budget for the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law; also requested the Secretary-General periodically to invite Member States and interested organizations, as well as individuals, to make voluntary contributions towards the financing of the Programme of Assistance or otherwise to assist in its implementation and possible expansion; and further requested the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session on the implementation of the Programme of Assistance during 2010 and, following consultations with the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance, to submit recommendations regarding the execution of the Programme in subsequent years (resolution 64/113).

Consideration at the sixty-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 18th, 27th and 28th meetings, on 22 October and on 5 and 11 November 2010 (A/C.6/65/SR.18, 27 and 28).

Statements were made by the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union; the Candidate Countries Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA country Norway, a member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia which aligned themselves with the statement), Mexico, Russian Federation, Lebanon, Argentina, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Ghana (on behalf of the African Group), Tunisia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Monaco, Pakistan, Sweden, South Africa, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Morocco, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Ghana.

In their general comments, delegations expressed their strong support for the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law. Delegations emphasized that the goal of the Programme of Assistance remains just as essential today as it was at the time of its establishment forty-five years ago, in contributing to a better knowledge of international law as a means of strengthening international peace and security and promoting friendly relations and co-operation among States. Delegations highlighted the importance of the Programme of Assistance as a key tool in the strengthening of the rule of law at the national and international levels.

Delegations welcomed the report of the Secretary-General (A/65/514) concerning the implementation of the Programme of Assistance in 2010, and in particular, commended the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs for its efforts in strengthening and revitalizing the various activities under the Programme of Assistance in order to meet the increasing demand for international law training and dissemination in developing countries as well as developed countries.

Several delegations commended the Codification Division for its cost-saving measures that resulted in an increased number of fellowships for the International Law Fellowship Programme. Some delegations noted with deep concern that in previous years, due to increased costs and significant budget cuts, the number of fellowships had declined. In this context, they recalled General Assembly resolutions 62/62 and 64/113 in which the Assembly requested that necessary resources be provided under the programme budget with a view to ensuring the effectiveness of the Programme of Assistance.

The establishment and continuous expansion of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law was welcomed as a significant achievement by several delegations and it was noted that the Audiovisual Library had become an important resource for international law training and research for the legal community. A number of delegations also noted that the Audiovisual Library had been accessed in 191 Member States. The point was made welcoming the award conferred on the Audiovisual Library by the Association of International Law Libraries for the 2009 Best Website.

Delegations expressed the view that regional courses were an important mechanism for the study of subjects of particular interest to developing countries in a given region. The hosting of regional courses in the Republic of Korea in 2010 and Ethiopia in 2011 was welcomed by several delegations. They expressed the hope that the regional courses would be organized on a regular basis. A number of delegations expressed regret that no such courses had been held since 2005 due to insufficient funding for fellowships.

Regarding the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, some delegations expressed concern that the Amerasinghe Fellowship had not been granted in 2007, 2008 and 2009 due to lack of resources in its trust fund. The point was made commending the decision of the Legal Counsel to provide - on an ad hoc basis - financial support from the trust fund for the dissemination of international law.

Several delegations expressed appreciation for the achievements of the Codification Division with respect to its desktop publishing programme and online publications. The reduction of publication backlogs was also welcomed and some delegations commended the Codification Division for the timely publication of the 2009 United Nations Juridical Yearbook, thereby eliminating the previous backlog. In this context, the view was expressed that adequate resources within the budget of the Organization should be allocated to the Codification Division to continue this programme. Some delegations also emphasized the continuing importance of publishing hard copies of publications for the benefit of lawyers and other persons in developing countries.

With regard to technical assistance, the point was made commending the Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs for the organization of its annual Treaty Events and seminars on International Treaty Law and Practice.

While several delegations commended those States that had made voluntary contributions to the Programme of Assistance and encouraged others to consider such contributions in the future, it was noted that progress on the Programme was being hindered by its dependence on voluntary sources of funding. Some delegations expressed the view that the Programme of Assistance should be regarded as a core activity of the United Nations in the promotion of international law for the benefit of all States, developing or developed and that it was crucial to ensure that the Programme had adequate resources within overall existing resources to continue to meet the needs of the international community. The view was expressed by a number of delegations that the Programme should receive sustainable adequate resources to continue and expand to meet the growing need for international law training and research materials. In this context, several delegations emphasized that to be sustainable; the Programme of Assistance must be adequately resourced from the regular budget. The point was made urging the Sixth Committee to work with the Fifth Committee in order to ensure that adequate resources were allocated to the Programme of Assistance in accordance with operative paragraph 6 of General Assembly resolutions 62/62 and 64/113 on this agenda item.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 27th meeting, on 5 November, the representative of Ghana, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law” (A/C.6/65/L.16), and orally revised it as follows:

(a) Operative paragraph 2, which read:

“2. Also authorizes the Secretary-General to award a minimum of one scholarship in 2011 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, subject to the availability of new voluntary contributions made specifically for this fellowship”,

was replaced by:

“2. Also authorizes the Secretary-General to award a minimum of one scholarship in 2011 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, subject to the availability of voluntary contributions made for this fellowship, and in this regard calls upon States, intergovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, donor agencies, non-governmental organizations and natural and juridical persons to make voluntary contributions to its trust fund”;

(b) In operative paragraph 6, the final phrase “taking into account paragraph 65 of his report” was deleted.

At its 28th meeting, on 11 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/65/L.16, as orally revised, without a vote. At the same meeting, the representative of Belarus made a statement (A/C.6/65/SR.28). Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would reaffirm that the Programme constitutes a core activity of the United Nations; that there is an increase in the demand for international law training; and would commend the efforts by the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs to revitalize the Programme to better respond to the needs of the international community, particularly with regard to the International Law Fellowship Programme, the regional courses in international law and the Audiovisual Library of International Law. It would express appreciation to the Republic of Korea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for hosting regional courses in international law in Seoul in 2010 and in Addis Ababa in 2011. The General Assembly would reiterate its authorization for the Secretary-General to carry out these activities in 2011; express concern over the reduction in the programme budget for fellowships; and would further request the Secretary-General to provide the necessary resources to the programme budget in 2011 as well as for the next and future bienniums to ensure the Programme’s continued effectiveness and further development, in particular, the regional courses in international law and the Audiovisual Library of International Law.

In addition, the General Assembly would decide to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-sixth session an item entitled “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law” as well as request the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-sixth session on the implementation of the Programme during 2011, including information with regard to the provision of the necessary resources to the programme budget.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-sixth session (2011).