LEGAL COMMITTEE, ENDING SESSION, RECOMMENDS THAT GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEFER FOR TWO YEARS CONSIDERATION OF HUMAN CLONING

6 November 2003
GA/L/3246

LEGAL COMMITTEE, ENDING SESSION, RECOMMENDS THAT GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEFER FOR TWO YEARS CONSIDERATION OF HUMAN CLONING

06/11/2003
Press ReleaseGA/L/3246

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

23rd Meeting (AM)

LEGAL COMMITTEE, ENDING SESSION, RECOMMENDS THAT GENERAL ASSEMBLY

DEFER FOR TWO YEARS CONSIDERATION OF HUMAN CLONING

Action on Pending Drafts Not Taken; Texts Approved on Effects of Sanctions

On Third States, Backlog of Two Publications, International Law Commission Report

By a recorded vote of 80 in favour to 79 against, with 15 abstentions, the Sixth Committee (Legal), this morning approved a motion to defer, for two years, consideration of the question of a convention on human cloning.  (For details of vote, see Annex.)

The motion was moved by Iran on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), supported by the representatives of Belgium and India.  The representatives of Uganda and Spain spoke in opposition of the motion. 

Lauro L. Baja, Chairman of the Sixth Committee, speaking after the vote, which came as the Committee concluded its session, said that the action, in effect meant that the Committee had recommended to the General Assembly that it consider the question at its sixtieth session, in 2005.  Consequently, there would be no action on the two differing draft resolutions before the Committee on the subject:  that contained in document A/C.6/58/L.2 entitled “International convention against human cloning” and draft resolution A/C.6/58/L.8 entitled “International convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings”. 

In explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Germany said his country and France were seeking a ban on human cloning as soon as possible.  However, to achieve a convention that could be adopted as soon as possible, a mandate to cover all as aspects of the issue was needed.  The goal was to establish a universally applicable instrument banning human cloning.

Nigeria’s representative said he had voted against the deferral motion because his delegation had always supported a total ban.  Developing countries would be the source of the millions of embryos needed for scientific research.  The resources for this effort should be turned to development purposes. 

The representatives of Canada, Mexico and Romania also explained their votes. 

By draft resolution L.2, the Assembly would have reconvened its ad hoc committee on cloning in 2004 to urgently prepare the draft convention against human cloning.  States would have been encouraged, pending the adoption of the instrument, to take measures to prohibit any research, experiment, development or application of any technique to clone human beings. 

By the terms of L.8, the General Assembly would also have reconvened its ad hoc committee to elaborate a draft international convention against the reproductive cloning of humans, possibly by the end of 2004.  In developing the instrument, the ad hoc committee would have been requested to include elements such as obligation on contracting parties to ban reproductive cloning of human beings and to control other forms of human cloning through legislation or imposition of a moratorium. 

In other actions this morning, the Sixth Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution by which the Assembly would ask the Special Committee on the Charter and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization to meet from 29 March to 8 April, in 2004, and to give priority consideration at that session to the implementation of Charter provisions on assistance to third States affected by sanctions. 

By the draft text, the Secretary-General would be encouraged by the Assembly in his efforts to reduce the backlog in the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and in the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, including the possible involvement of academic institutions to ensure their timely publication. 

Delegations held an exchange with the Secretariat over why there were budget implications to the draft.  An official explained that the Repertory had remained unaccounted for in the budget in the context of the Secretary-General’s overall reform package.  With the resolution now approved, the question would be considered by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). 

By other provisions of the text, the General Assembly would decide that the Special Committee should consider at its next session proposals on the maintenance of international peace and security and the future of the Trusteeship Council.  In addition, the Special Committee would be requested to keep the issue of peaceful settlement of disputes on its agenda, and to give priority consideration to enhancing its own effectiveness. 

Before action on the draft, the representatives of Canada (on behalf of Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland), United States, Japan and Italy (on behalf of the European Union and associates States) said they would not block consensus but supported the Secretary-General’s reform package.  The Repertory had been determined to be heavy in cost and of limited interest. 

In explanation of position after the vote, the representatives of Venezuela and Uruguay said they supported the Committee’s well-known consensus.  The documents in the Repertory were very valuable, but the budgetary implications would be difficult to absorb.  Costa Rica’s representative said the approval of the text proved the Repertory’s value.  The statements made by those dissociating themselves from consensus were the results of misrepresentation.  Delegates of Mexico, Guatemala, Morocco, Fiji, Brazil and Thailand expressed continued support for publishing the Repertory

In another action related to the work of the Special Committee on the Charter, the Sixth Committee approved, without a vote, a text by which the Assembly would renew its invitation to the Security Council to consider establishing further mechanisms or procedures for consultations with third States confronted with special economic problems arising from preventive or enforcement measures imposed by the Council. 

Earlier, the Sixth Committee had approved a draft resolution on the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-fifth session.  By the text, the Assembly would take note of the report with appreciation and recommend that the Commission continue its work on the topics in its current programme, taking into account comments of governments. 

Also this morning, the Committee decided that its chairperson for the next Assembly session would be elected at least three months before the opening of the session and that its other officers would be elected by the end of the first week of the new session.  The Chairman recommended that the regional groups hold informal consultation on the selection of a chairperson for the Committee’s next session. 

In closing remarks, the Chairman thanked Committee members for their hard work, support and cooperation, which greatly facilitated the fulfillment of his functions.  He noted that the Committee’s deliberations were conducted in a constructive atmosphere, a fact that reflected the spirit of cooperation and understanding that traditionally characterized the Committee’s work. 

Representatives of the various regional groups paid tribute to the Chairman and the bureau for the able manner in which the work of the Committee was conducted.  They also commended the Office of the Legal Counsel and the Codification Division for their contributions. 

The Committee’s reports will be considered by the General Assembly at a time to be announced in the Journal.

Background

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this morning to consider a number of draft resolutions before it on reports of the International Law Commission and of the Special Committee on the United Nations Charter, and on the issue of an international convention against cloning of human beings.  The Committee was also expected to elect its officers for the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly.

A draft resolution on the Report of the International Law Commission (document A/C.6/58/L.25) was expected to be introduced and acted upon.  By its terms, the Assembly would take of the report, with appreciation, and recommend that the Commission continue its work, requesting the Secretary-General to invite States and organizations to submit information on practice relevant to the responsibility of international organizations.  It would welcome the enhanced dialogue between the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee, and would encourage further interaction.  The draft would also reaffirm previous decisions on the indispensable role of the Codification Division of the Legal Affairs Office in assisting the Commission, and it would request the Secretary-General to provide the International Law Seminar with adequate services.

On the report of the Special Committee on the Charter, the Sixth Committee has before it a draft on implementation of Charter provisions related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions (document A/C.6/58/L.17).  By this draft, the Assembly would renew its invitation to the Security Council to consider establishing further mechanisms or procedures for consultations with third States confronted with special economic problems arising from preventive or enforcement measures imposed by the Council.  It would invite the Council, its sanctions committees and the Secretariat, to ensure a range of actions such as including analyses of likely sanction impacts in both pre-assessment and ongoing assessment reports.

Further, the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to ensure that the Secretariat developed the capacity, modalities, technical procedures and guidelines to provide information about international assistance available to those third States.  The Assembly would welcome the view of the ad hoc expert group, as contained in the Secretary-General’s report; would reaffirm the important role of all organs in addressing the question; would request the Special Committee to consider the matter on a priority basis at its 2004 session; and would finally decide to continue considering the issue within the Sixth Committee at the next General-Assembly session.

By a further text before the Committee relating to the report of the Special Committee on the Charter and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (document A/C.6/58/L.18), the Assembly would decide that the Special Committee would next meet from 29 March to 8 April, 2004.  The Special Committee would also be asked to give priority consideration to provisions of the Charter related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions.  Further, it would be asked to consider proposals for maintaining international peace and security so as to strengthen the role of the Organization; to keep the issue of peaceful settlement of disputes on the agenda; to consider proposals concerning the Trusteeship Council; and to continue giving priority consideration to enhancing its own effectiveness.

In addition, the Assembly would encourage the Secretary-General in his efforts to eliminate the backlog in publications of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and in the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, including by exploring options for cooperation with academic institutions.  The Secretary-General would be requested to make every effort to make electronic versions available as soon as possible.

In a note on programme budget implications to the draft resolution on the Special Committee’s report (document A/C.6/58/L.21), the Secretary-General describes the additional work required with regard to the Repertory and Repertoire, and the modifications resulting in the work programme for 2004-2005, and he outlines the costs involved in implementing the above resolution.  He concludes that since the meeting of the Special Committee has already been programmed in, no additional appropriation would be required.  With regard to the Repertory, an additional amount of $2,357,600 would be required.

On the issue of cloning, the Committee has before it two draft resolutions.  One concerns an international convention against human cloning (document A/C.6/58/L.2), sponsored by Costa Rica and others.  By its terms, the Assembly would request the ad hoc committee on the matter to reconvene and prepare on an urgent basis a draft text of the convention, bearing in mind that it will not prohibit the use of nuclear transfer or other cloning techniques to produce DNA molecules and related matter other than human.  It would recommend that work on the convention continue during the next Assembly session.

The other draft concerns an international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings (document A/C.6/58/L.8).  Sponsored by Belgium and others, it would have the Assembly decide that the ad hoc committee on the matter would reconvene and prepare on an urgent basis -- and if possible by the end of 2004 -- a draft on the reproductive cloning of human beings.  It would request the ad hoc committee to include elements such as an obligation to ban reproductive cloning of humans and to take control of other forms of human cloning by adopting a ban, imposing a moratorium or adopting legislation.

For its consideration of the question, the Committee also has before it the report of the working group on the international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings, (document A/C.6/58/L.9).  This states that the group decided on 3 October, at the end of a five-day session, to refer its report to the Committee for continued consideration of elaborating a negotiation mandate during the current Assembly session, taking into account the working group’s discussions.

In a further development on the issue of cloning, the representative of Iran, on Friday, 31 October, introduced an oral motion on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), to defer consideration of the item for a period of two years.

Introduction and Action on Law Commission Report

The Committee took up the draft on the Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-fifth session (document A/C.6/58/L.25).

GAILE RAMOUTAR (Trinidad and Tobago), Committee Vice-Chairperson, introduced the draft.  (The 24-hour requirement for waiting before action after introduction was waived.)  The resolution was approved without a vote.

Action on Special Committee on Charter

The draft resolution on the Report of the Special Committee on the Charter (document A/C.6/58/L.18) was taken up.  It had been introduced by Egypt.  Attention was drawn to the Secretary-General’s statement relating to the item (document A/C.6/L.21).

A number of representatives spoke.  Turkey’s delegate asked why a Programme Budget Implications statement was needed for the item.  The representative of Syria asked whether a resolution had been taken in the General Assembly to stop budgeting for the Repertory.  The delegate of Egypt asked whether the recommendation should not have been endorsed by one of the organs.  What was the practice on budgeting before 1996?  Mexico’s representative said the Secretary-General’s recommendation regarding the Repertory last year had not been welcomed by the Committee.

SHARON VAN BUERLE, Chief of the Political, Legal and Humanitarian Service of the Secretariat’s Programme Planning and Budget Division, recalled that the Secretary-General had proposed that the Repertory be discontinued in context of his overall reform of the Organization.  For that reason, she said, no resources had been allocated.  Since the Committee was requesting that the Repertory be continued, resources had to be re-entered into the budget.  Marginal programmes were often considered in that way.  The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) would now take up the matter.

In explanation of vote before the vote, the representatives of Canada, United States, Japan and Italy (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), said they would not block consensus but supported the Secretary-General’s reform package.  The Repertory had been determined to be heavy in cost and of limited interest.  The position put forward here would not reflect on the upcoming consideration in the budgetary Committee.  The objections expressed should be reflected in the official record.

The draft was approved without a vote.

In explanation of position after the vote, representatives of Venezuela and Uruguay said they supported the Committee’s well-known consensus.  The documents in the Repertory were very valuable, but the budgetary implications would be difficult for her country to absorb.  Costa Rica’s representative said the adoption showed the value of the Repertory.  The statements made by those dissociating themselves from consensus were a result of the Secretariat’s misrepresentation.  Delegates of Mexico, Guatemala, Morocco, Fiji, Brazil and Thailand expressed continued support for publication of the Repertory.

The representatives of Italy (on behalf of the European Union) and the United States held an exchange with the Committee Chairman regarding procedural matters.  Pakistan’s delegate also took part, as did the representative of Sierra Leone.

Action on cloning convention drafts

The Committee took up the draft resolution on the international convention against human cloning (document A/C.6/58/L.2) and the draft resolution on the international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings (document A/C.6/58/L.8).

The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the OIC, recalled a procedural motion that had been agreed upon by the OIC at the ambassadorial level on 28 October, for deferring discussion of the matter for two years.  He said he was deeply concerned that no consensus had been reached on the very delicate subject of human cloning.  The additional time would permit study of the issue and to come up with a better basis for consensus.  The OIC did not intend to take sides with either resolution.  The motion was without prejudice to national positions taken to date.  He was moving under Assembly rule 116 to defer the item for two years.

The Chairman explained that, under the rule, two delegates were invited to speak in favour of the motion and two against it.

Speaking in favour of the OIC motion, as a co-sponsor of the resolution to ban reproductive cloning, the representative of Belgium said his proposal would have been a good basis for further discussion but a vote should not be taken on either proposal since it would be divisive.  The motion to defer discussion was not a satisfactory solution but it was a way to gain the additional time needed for consideration of the issue, particularly since scientific development would shed more light on the debate in the meantime.  Further, under the motion, delegates would not be voting for one proposal or the other but would be affirming the importance of the question.

Also speaking in support of the OIC motion, the representative of India said it reaffirmed the importance of the question.  Since the Committee had not been able to come to a consensus on the two competing proposals, he said the issue should be taken up when the greatest number of States could back a resolution against human cloning.  All States agreed that reproductive cloning should be banned but there was no agreement on how to do that.  By supporting the motion, he was not supporting either proposal.

Speaking against the motion, the representative of Uganda said she was in a difficult position as a co-sponsor of the resolution to ban all forms of cloning at the same time that she was a member of the OIC.  Much as she had tried to accommodate all viewpoints, she could not go along with the OIC motion.  The issue had been urgent when France and Germany had first brought the item to the Assembly agenda.  It had not become any less important.  It could not wait two years.  Much as the lack of consensus was troubling, the motion was not necessary and did not reflect well on the Committee.

Also speaking against the motion, the representative of Spain said the necessity to prohibit cloning and the production of human life in order to manipulate it was a matter of urgency.  She would not repeat her country’s well-known position, but deferring the item was the position the Committee had taken the previous year.  It was not the right message to send to the international community.  Iran’s motion was contrary to the Assembly’s rules of procedure.  There was no rule for postponing an item.  Iran’s proposal was a draft decision, not a procedural motion.  Because the matter was urgent and Iran’s motion was poorly founded, she would vote against it.

The motion by Iran was adopted by a recorded vote of 80 in favour to 79 against, with 15 abstentions.  Consideration of the two draft resolutions was deferred.  (For voting, see Annex).

In explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Germany said his country and France were seeking a ban on human cloning as soon as possible.  However, to achieve a convention to be adopted as soon as possible, a mandate covering all human cloning was needed.  Germany’s national legislation prohibited cloning.  In addition to stringent laws, France was introducing new legislation to cover an area of “crimes against the human species”.  Ultimately, with the question now before the Committee, the goal was to establish a universally applicable instrument banning human reproductive cloning.

Canada’s representative said he regretted that all the efforts had not been able to come up with a consensus.  He had abstained from voting on the motion not because it undervalued the importance of the question but because the will to move forward on the question had not been shared by all.  The question of human cloning required a strong response from governments at the national level.  His country would push for a more satisfactory resolution in 2005.

The representative of Mexico said he had voted in favour of deferral in order to bring about better conditions for considering the issue.  The divergences in the Committee were great but the presence of the item on the Assembly agenda was a sign of progress.  The issue must remain on the agenda.  Further, consideration of the matter had generated an expectation in the world at large that results could be achieved within the Organization.  He condemned all forms of human cloning at the same time that he supported science.  Adoption of a universal instrument should not be jeopardized before the delicate balance between progress and human ethics was reached by consensus.  His country would organize seminars to promote understanding of the issue.

Romania’s delegate reaffirmed that he had promoted compromise, and the need to converge rather than diverge.

Finally, the representative of Nigeria said he voted against the motion because he had always supported a total ban.  Developing countries would be the source of the millions of embryos needed for scientific experimentation with clones.  The resources for that effort were better turned to development purposes.  The issue was sensitive morally and otherwise, and should not be treated lightly.  Consensus was vital.  Last year the question had been deferred for one year.  What was magical about deferring it for two years now?  Would the question be deferred for four years then?

Action on help for third States affected by sanctions

The Committee took up the draft on implementation of Charter provisions related to assistance for third States affected by sanctions (document A/C.6/58/L.17), which had been introduced by the Russian Federation.

The draft was approved without a vote.

ANNEX

Vote on motion to defer consideration of human cloning

The oral motion (under Assembly rule 116) to defer for two years consideration of the agenda item on human cloning was approved by a recorded vote of 80 in favour to 79 against, with 15 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Albania, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Gambia, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Spain, Suriname, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia

Abstaining:  Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Jamaica, Peru, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, Uruguay.

Absent:  Afghanistan, Benin, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Libya, Mongolia, Mozambique, Seychelles, Togo, Turkmenistan.

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For information media. Not an official record.