Due to Hard-Won Funding from Regular Budget, Programme of Assistance Expands Legal Resources, Regional Courses, Online Materials, Sixth Committee Hears

GA/L/3527
17 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 17th Meeting (AM)

Due to Hard-Won Funding from Regular Budget, Programme of Assistance Expands Legal Resources, Regional Courses, Online Materials, Sixth Committee Hears

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) began its deliberations on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law today, speakers noted that the 2016 budgetary commitments enacted by the General Assembly during its seventieth session had enabled the Programme to continue and expand its work, most notably with regard to its Regional Courses.

With the Secretary-General’s report on the matter before the Committee (document A/71/432), Virginia Morris, Secretary of the Advisory Committee of the Programme underscored the decision by the General Assembly to provide an additional $1.8 million in regular budget funding for the Programme during its 2016-2017 biennium.  As a result, such funding enabled the convening in Uruguay of the Regional Course for Latin America and the Caribbean, a course which had not been held for over ten years.   

Other achievements she highlighted included the four-volume International Law Handbook, which would be ready for use by the International Law Fellowship Program by 2017, and would be based on study materials used since 2010, as well as consultations with lecturers.  The Handbook would be available for free online. Because of the technology gap between developed and developing countries and the resulting lack of internet access, hard copies would be available, as well.

The Chair of the Programme’s Advisory Committee, Martha A. A. Pobee (Ghana), lauded the work of delegations in the Sixth and Fifth Committees, which culminated in the inclusion of funding for the Programme in the Organization’s budget.  That inclusion resulted in the first time in over fifty years that funding was not an issue of critical concern for the Advisory Committee when it recently convened.  Instead, the Advisory Committee had been able to focus on curriculum development, the resumption of desktop publishing, and the production of the Handbook on International Law.

"We are talking here of entire generations of State lawyers from all the corners of the world who benefit from the lessons given by leading experts on every subject of the international legal agenda,” said the representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  He also stressed that the Programme’s electronic publishing programmes often constituted the only way for teachers, researchers and students of CELAC countries to access the contents of rich jurisprudence.

The representative of Thailand, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed gratitude that the necessary resources had ensured that the International Law Fellowship Programme and the Regional Courses for Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America would be held.  Underscored the importance of the Audiovisual Library of International Law, he called the Library an essential tool for lawyers globally to access low cost and high quality legal training via the Internet. 

Speaking for the African Group, the representative of South Africa stated that for a world order based on the rule of law, there was a need to study, understand and disseminate knowledge of international law.  The Programme of Assistance, established in 1965, had trained generations of State lawyers.  He urged all Member States to ensure that regular budgetary finding was provided for the Programme for the benefit of developing and developed countries alike.

Noting that the Regional Course on International Law for Asia-Pacific was due to be held in Bangkok later in 2016, the representative of Cambodia, speaking on behalf of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said he hoped that the course would take place at future times, too.

Also speaking today were representatives of Qatar, El Salvador and Singapore, as well as the European Union.

The Sixth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 October to conclude debate on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law jurisdiction. It would then move on to consideration of the prevention of harm and the allocation of loss, and the matter of transboundary aquifers.

Opening Remarks on the Programme of Assistance

VIRGINIA MORRIS, Secretary of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law highlighted that the number of lawyers who benefited from the Programme increased from less than 20 lawyers a decade ago to over one million today, in every Member State.  In 2015, the General Assembly took the decision to provide an additional $1.8 million in regular budget funding for the Programme.  For the first time, the International Law Fellowship Programme and all three of its Regional Courses would be held in one year.

Offering an overview of the Programme’s activities, she underscored that the International Law Programme was the most comprehensive training course under the Programme of Assistance, with participants attending the Public International Law sessions of The Hague Academy of International Law.  As well, the Regional Courses provided training on core subjects of international law and topics of interest to that region.

In the past, she continued, the failure to conduct courses on a regular basis was due to delays in negotiating host country agreements, as well as a lack of funding.  Addressing that, the Codification Division had recommended identifying permanent venues for the regional courses in order to conduct them on a regular basis.  

She also noted that, currently, applications were being accepted for the first Regional Course for Latin America and the Caribbean, to be held in cooperation with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  Applications would also be accepted for the International Law Programme to be held in English in 2017.

Emphasizing the standard curriculum of core subjects of international law, she said that it currently included international law, treaty law, State responsibility, environmental law, the Law of the Sea, trade and investment law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international peace and security and the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

The Codification Division had also prepared study materials for each of its training courses, and had produced as many as thirteen study books for the Regional Course for Africa, she continued.  In 2015, the Division had proposed creating a comprehensive handbook containing a collection of the core international law instruments that were needed to teach seminars that comprised the standard curriculum for all training courses.

The International Law Handbook would consist of four volumes, the contents of which would be based on the study materials that had been used since 2010 as well as consultations with lecturers, she said.  It was hoped that the set would be ready to use for the International Law Fellowship Program by 2017. 

In addition, a desktop publishing assistant would be preparing the volumes, and that salary would be paid for by voluntary contributions, she said.  The Handbook was not a sales publication or an official document and would be available free-of-charge online.  Hard copies, she underscored, were essential in developing countries, as the technology gap between developed and developing countries could not be ignored.

She highlighted some recent innovations with respect to the Audiovisual Library of International Law, including the addition of related materials for all of the Library lectures, as well as the recording of mini-series on core subjects and the expansion of geographic and linguistic representation on the Lecture Series.  There was, as well, an increasing demand by Government lawyers and academics for international law education in Africa.  In 2016, the Programme had received 600 applications for the Regional Course in International Law for Africa, more than three times the number applications from other regions.

Noting that she would retire in 2017 after thirty years with the Codification Division, she thanked the Director of the Division, who had made it possible for her to work exclusively during her last year on the Programme of Assistance.  That focus would ensure that as many projects as possible could be completed before her departure.

MARTHA A. A. POBEE (Ghana), speaking both as Chair of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance and in her national capacity, highlighted the combined efforts of delegations in the Sixth and Fifth committees during the General Assembly seventieth session, which culminated in the inclusion in the proposed budget of the Organization funding for the Programme, the regional courses and the International Law Audiovisual Library.  The Regional Course for Latin American and the Caribbean, which had not been undertaken for over ten years, had just been held in Montevideo, Uruguay in February, while the regional course for Asia-Pacific would be held in Thailand before the end of 2016.

At the recent fifty-first session of the Advisory Committee, she pointed out, the question of funding had not been an issue of critical concern for the first time in over 50 years.  Instead, the Committee focused on the development of curriculum, the need to resume desktop publishing, and the Handbook on International Law.  Recalling that her country had had hosted the first International Law Seminar for African Universities in August, she expressed gratitude to the African Institute of International Law, the Codification Division and the African Union, as well as various donors whose contributions had made the seminar possible.

Statements

JUAN ÁVILA (Dominican Republic), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) said that the scholarships and courses on international law, including the well-known courses at The Hague Academy of International Law, had a multiplying effect.  "We are talking here of entire generations of State lawyers from all the corners of the world who benefit from the lessons given by leading experts on every subject of the international legal agenda,” he said. Regional courses were highly effective platforms for the teaching and dissemination of international law. He also said that he was pleased the Programme had finally received the necessary financial resources for the three regional courses.

Praising the work of the Office of Legal Affairs in furthering the electronic publishing programmes, he added that the academic community benefited a great deal from online access to materials compiled in signature publications.  Those included the legislative series and the summaries of advisory opinions and judgements for both the International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of International Justice.  The compilations of the summaries and decisions of the International Court of Justice must be published in all the official languages of the United Nations.  That constituted the only way for teachers, researchers and students of CELAC countries to access the contents of that rich jurisprudence.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reiterated his support to the Programme as an effective tool to strengthen international peace and security, as well as close cooperation between States.  He expressed gratitude that the necessary resources had been secured in the Organization’s biennium 2016-2017 regular budget for the International Law Fellowship Programme and the three Regional Courses for Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, as well as the Audiovisual Library of International Law.  He also supported the view that permanent venues for the Regional Courses would provide enhanced efficiency and greater certainty.

Underscored the importance of the Audiovisual Library of International Law, he called the Library an essential tool for lawyers globally to access low cost and high quality legal training via the Internet.  The Codification Division’s work on finalizing the preparation of handbooks on international law in English and French was also welcomed.  The promotion of the rule of law by the Programme of Assistance aided one of the targets of Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda.  Furthermore, the inclusion of the Programme in the United Nations regular budget for the biennium 2018-2019 would ensure the continuation of related activities in the coming years.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), speaking for the African Group, and associating himself with the “Group of 77”, emphasized that the United Nations had been founded on the conviction that international law ruled the relations among States.  For a world order based on the rule of law, there was a need to study, understand and disseminate knowledge of international law.  The Programme of Assistance, established in 1965, had trained generations of State lawyers.  He urged all Member States to ensure that regular budgetary finding was provided for the Programme for the benefit of developing and developed countries alike.

He also pointed out that the African Union contributed to the Regional Course in International Law for Africa.  Recently, the African Institute of International Law had been established with the objectives of progressive development of international law in Africa, codification of international law in Africa, and the revision of treaties in Africa.  The Institute was dedicated to offering higher education and research in international law, which was needed for the development of Africa.  It also contributed to the objectives and principles of the African Union.  Lastly, he voiced his support for the proper funding of the Programme of Assistance through the regular budget of the Organization.

RY TUY (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the “Group of 77”, said that the Programme of Assistance had steadily contributed to the strengthening of international peace and security.  Praising the work of the Office of Legal Affairs for its tireless efforts in implementing the Programme, despite oft-occurring budgetary constraints, he added that the Programme had provided comprehensive training and invaluable opportunities for lawyers, particularly from developing countries and emerging economies.  The International Law Fellowship Programme, recently held in The Hague, had also afforded an opportunity for participants to exchange ideas through dialogue.

After a number of cancellations in previous years, the Regional Course on International Law for Asia-Pacific was slated to be held in Bangkok later in 2016, he said, adding that he hoped it would continue to take place at future times as well.  Turning to the Audiovisual Library, he said that the publishing of the summaries of judgements, advisory opinions and the orders of the International Court of Justice as well as the legislative history of the Convention on the Law of the Sea were indispensable to the conduct of friendly relations among nations. Therefore, funding for the regional courses and the Library should be made available from the regular budget.

ERIC CHABOUREAU, representative for the European Union, said that the continuous expansion of the Audiovisual Library was an especially significant achievement, offering easy access to a vast range of legal resources, free of charge and in several languages.  The Codification Division continued to disseminate legal publications and information through the Internet, and was currently preparing a handbook on international law in English and French.

He underscored the recent Regional Courses organized by the Division, including the first International Law Seminar for African Universities, which had been held in Ghana in August.  Also highlighted was the contribution of the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship to the wider application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  In order to sustain the projected regional courses, the Audiovisual Library and the Memorial Fellowship States, he encouraged all Member States to contribute to the Programme.

SAOUD ALQAHTANI (Qatar), commending the Programme for having raised generations of legal experts, said that recent developments in international law showed the need for “an evolving programme” and the importance of ensuring its continuity.  Furthermore, the Audiovisual Library also performed an important function in disseminating international law.  Because international law was one ofthe main pillars of policy for Qatar, his country had provided financial assistance to the Programme to overcome various obstacles.  Given the vital role played by the Codification Division, Qatar would continue to support the Programme, enabling legal officials in developing countries to participate in its activities. 

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador), stressing that international law had played a key role in governing relations between States, noted some recent changes in that field.  Over the past few decades, international law had achieved “transcendental humanization” by raising the standards for fundamental rights and freedoms.  Stressing the role played by his region, he recalled that the first international standing court had been established in 1907 created to resolve conflicts between Central American States.  International law had evolved new frameworks such as the Law of the Sea, international environmental law, and international trade law, necessitating capacity building in States.  Regretting that the lack of funding to organize regional courses had affected his own region, he noted with satisfaction that it had recently changed, with the course held in Uruguay earlier in 2016.

NATALIE Y. MORRIS-SHARMA (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN and the “Group of 77”, welcomed the approval of the budget of the three 2016 regional courses and for the continuation of the Audiovisual library.  She said she looked forward to the funding from the regular budget that would promote longer term sustainability of the Programme of Assistance.  She also welcomed the fact that the upcoming International Law Handbook would be available online free of charge and that the possibility was being explored of cooperation with universities in preparation for translating the Handbook in different languages.  The Secretariat should continue to seek assistance in the implementation of the Programme from relevant organizations, universities and institutions.

For information media. Not an official record.