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Sixty-eighth session

United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (Agenda item 80)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/68/100)

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)), to contribute towards a better knowledge of international law as a means of strengthening international peace and security and of promoting friendly relations and cooperation among States. The Assembly authorized the continuation of the Programme annually until its twenty-sixth session, biennially until its sixty-fourth session and annually thereafter (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, 62/62, 64/113, 65/25 and 66/97 and 67/91).

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.

At its sixty-seventh session, the General Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to carry out in 2013 the activities specified in his reports on the Programme of Assistance submitted to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions, including the provision of 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 the International Law Fellowship Programme in The Hague and United Nations Regional Courses in International Law in 2013. The Assembly also authorized the Secretary-General to award a minimum of one scholarship in 2013 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, subject to the availability of voluntary contributions made for that fellowship. The Assembly further authorized the Secretary-General to continue and further develop the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law as a major contribution to the teaching and dissemination of international law around the world and to continue to finance the activity from provisions in the regular budget, as well as, when necessary, from voluntary financial contributions (resolution 67/91).

At the same session, the General Assembly reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to provide to the programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 the resources necessary to ensure the continued effectiveness and further development of the Programme of Assistance, in particular the organization of United Nations Regional Courses in International Law on a regular basis and the viability of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law; to periodically invite Member States, universities, philanthropic foundations and other interested national and international institutions and 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, following consultations with the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance, to submit recommendations regarding the execution of the Programme in subsequent years. The Assembly decided to consider the viability of voluntary contributions as a sustainable method for funding the United Nations Regional Courses in International Law and the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law and the need to provide a more reliable funding method, taking into account the recommendation of the Advisory Committee at its forty-eighth session (resolution 67/91).

Consideration at the sixty-eighth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 11th, 12th, 27th and 28th meetings, on 16 and 17 October and 6 and 8 November 2013 (see A/C.6/68/SR.11, 12, 27 and 28). For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General (A/68/521).

During the 11th meeting, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law made a statement. During the 12th meeting, the Secretary of the Advisory Committee made a statement.

Statements were made by the representatives of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (on behalf the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Cuba (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Fiji (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), the European Union (also on behalf of the candidate countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland and Serbia; and the countries of the stabilisation and association process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina; as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia¬† and Armenia, which aligned themselves with the statement), Thailand, Ethiopia, South Africa, the United States of America, Argentina, Malaysia, Portugal, Chile, Eritrea, the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, the Russian Federation, Uruguay, Ireland, Costa Rica, Israel and Brazil.

Delegations welcomed the report of the Secretary-General (A/68/521) and stressed the central importance of the Programme of Assistance, especially as part of the strengthening of the rule of law, and to ensure peaceful relations between States. They emphasized the benefit of the Programme of Assistance for lawyers from all countries and commended the work of the Codification Division.

Delegations expressed concern about the financial situation of the Programme. Several delegations emphasized the unsustainability of the Programme under voluntary contributions and expressed the importance of providing adequate resources for the Programme, in particular for the Audiovisual Library of International Law and the Regional Courses in International Law, through the regular budget of the Organization, with voluntary contributions as complementary sources of funding. In this regard, reference was made to operative paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 67/91. Some other delegations noted the importance of ensuring that the Programme has adequate resources, within overall existing resources and through voluntary contributions. Delegations further expressed their appreciation for those States who had made voluntary contributions, as well as to the Governments of Ethiopia, Thailand and Uruguay for hosting the Regional Courses.

Delegations commended the Audiovisual Library of International Law as a very helpful tool to achieve the goals of the Programme. Delegations also highlighted the value of the International Law Fellowship Programme and the Regional Courses in International Law. In this context, regret was expressed over the cancellation of the 2013 Regional Course for Asia-Pacific. The importance of hosting a Regional Course for Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where a Regional Course had not been held for almost ten years, was also recognized. Furthermore, the websites maintained by the Codification Division were acknowledged.

With respect to legal publications, several delegations praised the desktop publishing of the Codification Division, in particular the summaries of the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, the Legislative Series, the United Nations Juridical Yearbook, and the Yearbook of the International Law Commission. Some delegations highlighted the necessity of having the summaries of the decisions of the International Court of Justice in all official languages of the United Nations. Increased resources were called for by some delegations to enable the Secretariat to publish research papers and other studies on international law.

Several delegations noted the importance of the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe scholarship on the law of the sea.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 27th meeting, on 6 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.6/68/L.14) and orally revised operative paragraph 18 by replacing the words “Expresses its appreciation to Ethiopia and Thailand” with the words “Expresses its appreciation to Ethiopia for hosting and to Thailand” in the first line. At its 28th meeting, on 8 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/68/L.14, as orally revised, without a vote.

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would reaffirm that the Programme constitutes a core activity of the United Nations and recognize the Programme’s important contribution to the furtherance of the United Nations’ rule of law programmes and activities. The General Assembly would, inter alia, authorize the Secretary-General to carry out the activities specified in his report on the Programme in 2014 and 2015 and reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to provide to the programme budget for 2014 and 2015 the resources necessary for the Programme to ensure its continued effectiveness and further development. It would also conclude that voluntary contributions have not proven to be an adequate method for funding Programme activities specified in the report of the Secretary-General and in resolution 67/91, in particular the Regional Courses in International Law and the Audiovisual Library of International Law, and that, consequently, there is a need to provide more reliable funding for those activities, taking into account the conclusion of the Advisory Committee on the Programme at its forty-eighth session. In addition, the General Assembly would decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of its sixty-ninth session.