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Sixty-fifth 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 84)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/65/100)

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, 62/69 and 63/127).

At its sixty-fourth session, the General Assembly decided that the Special Committee should hold its next session from 1 to 9 March 2010; requested the Special Committee, at its session in 2010: (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 (b) 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-fifth 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 64/115).

The Special Committee met at United Nations Headquarters from 1 to 9 March 2010.

Consideration at the sixty-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 13th, 14th, 27th and 28th meetings, on 18 October and on 5 and 11 November 2010, respectively.

The Chairman of the 2010 session 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/65/33) at the 13th meeting, held on 18 October 2010. 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 Iran (Islamic Republic of), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union; the Candidate Countries, Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the EFTA countries Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well the Republic of Moldova and Georgia which aligned themselves with the statement), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Chile (on behalf of the RIO Group), Egypt, Belarus, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Zambia, China, the Russian Federation, Cuba, Afghanistan, Malaysia, the United States of America, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), South Africa, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ghana and India. The representatives of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Several delegations emphasized the importance of the Special Committee examining the legal aspects of the reform process of the United Nations.

Some delegations underscored that the Security Council bears the primary but not exclusive responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. In this context, the view was expressed that the role of the General Assembly as the deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations should be strengthened. Some delegations voiced their concern over the continuing encroachment by the Security Council on the functions and powers of the General Assembly and those of the Economic and Social Council through addressing issues which fall within the competence of the latter organs.

With regard to sanctions, while the view was expressed that sanctions are an important tool for the maintenance and restoration of international peace and security, several delegations reiterated their view that they should be used only in last resort and after all peaceful means to the settlement of dispute have been exhausted. It was also stated that sanctions should be clearly defined and only be imposed when there exists an actual threat to peace or an act of aggression. The view was also expressed that sanctions should not be imposed in a preventive manner, aimed at punishment, or utilized to realize political gains. Several delegations also stated that the imposition of sanctions should have a specified time frame and sanctions should be lifted as soon as the objectives are achieved. It was suggested that sanctions should be subject to periodic reviews. It was also stated that sanctions should be in support of legitimate objectives, and the Security Council should be accountable for consequences of sanctions imposed for unlawful objectives. It was suggested that the International Law Commission should be requested to give due consideration to the legal consequences of arbitrarily imposed sanctions against member States by the Security Council, under the topic “Responsibility of International Organizations”. It was further stated that States should be compensated for damages inflicted upon them by unlawful sanctions and a compensation regime should be established in this regard. In terms of another view, it was inappropriate for the Special Committee to devise norms concerning the design and implementation of sanctions.

With regard to the negative effects of sanctions on third States, several delegations welcomed the fact that due to the shift from comprehensive economic sanctions to targeted sanctions, no Security Council sanctions committees were approached by Member States with regard to special economic problems arising from the implementation of sanctions. The view was also expressed that the question of assistance to third States affected by sanctions was no longer relevant to the Special Committee and could be removed from its agenda.

Regarding the peaceful settlement of disputes, several delegations reaffirmed the essential part it played in the maintenance of international peace and security. The important role of the International Court of Justice as the principle judicial organ of the Organization and the importance of free choice of means in peaceful dispute settlement were also emphasized.

While several delegations expressed their support for the 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 of self-defense, a divergent view was expressed.

Regarding the working methods of the Special Committee, several delegations expressed concern over the efficiency of the work of the Special Committee. It was proposed that the duration of the Special Committee’s sessions be reduced in order to reflect the realities of the debate on the topics under consideration. Caution was also advised regarding the inclusion of new items on the Committee’s agenda, as well as needlessly duplicating work being undertaken in other United Nations fora. The view was also expressed that the Special Committee should not pursue activities concerning international peace and security, which would be inconsistent with the roles of the principal organs of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter.

The view was expressed that it was important to improve coordination and cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations and arrangements. It was suggested that not only the United Nations could propose how to strengthen its cooperation with regional organizations and arrangements, but also the United Nations could call on these organizations and arrangements to consider ways and means of enhancing their contributions.

The Secretariat was commended for its efforts to eliminate the backlog in the preparation of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the progress achieved in this area. It was observed that the Repertory and the Repertoire contributed to the institutional memory of the Organization and were important research tools for the international community, particularly the diplomatic community and academia. Following a query, the Secretariat made a statement regarding volume III of Supplements Nos. 7 to 10 of the Repertory.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 27th meeting, on 5 November, 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.6/65/L.12). At the 28th meeting, on 11 November, the Secretary of the Committee made a statement regarding the financial implications of the draft resolution. At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/65/L.12 without a vote. The representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Mexico, the Islamic Republic of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement) and Cuba made statements in explanation of position after the adoption of the draft resolution.

Under the draft resolution, the General Assembly would, inter alia, authorize the Special Committee to meet from 28 February to 4 March and 7 and 9 March 2011, with a view to continuing its consideration of all proposals concerning the question of the maintenance of international peace and security and to continue to consider, on a priority basis, 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, and ways and means of improving the Committee’s working methods and enhancing its efficiency.

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