Sixth Committee (Legal) — 73rd session

Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework (Agenda item 91)


Summary of work

Background (source: A/73/150)

Prior to the 73rd session

At its 70th session, under the agenda item “the rule of law at the national and international levels”, the General Assembly invited the Secretary-General to present elements to inform a review of the regulations to give effect to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations (“the Regulations”). Accordingly, the Secretary-General presented such elements in his 2016 report on “Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities” (A/71/169). During the 71st session, while the Sixth Committee was unable to consider in detail the recommendations made by the Secretary-General, it mandated him to further elaborate on the issue in a dedicated report.

The report of the Secretary-General submitted in 2017 pursuant to this request was entitled “Review of the regulations to give effect to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations” (A/72/86). It outlined the historical background of the Regulations and outlined seven areas for consideration by the General Assembly. The report also discussed possible means for increasing the efficiency of the registration and publication process and enhancing the role played by the Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs in supporting Member States.

During the 72nd session, in its debate under the same agenda item, the Sixth Committee was again unable to consider this issue in depth. However, the General Assembly underlined that the Regulations should be useful and relevant to Member States.

In a note verbale dated 7 June 2018 (A/73/141), which made reference to the report of the Secretary-General mentioned above (A/72/86), the Permanent Representatives of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Italy and Singapore to the United Nations requested the inclusion of the new item “Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework” in the provisional agenda of the seventy-third session.

At its 3rd plenary meeting, on 21 September 2018, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the General Committee, decided to include this item in its agenda and to allocate it to the Sixth Committee.

Consideration at the seventy-third session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 5th meeting on 5 October 2018 (see A/C.6/73/SR.5).

Statements were made by the representatives of Brazil (on behalf of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Italy, and Singapore), El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)) [in English], European Union (also on behalf of its member States (the candidate countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia aligned themselves with the statement)), Gabon, Switzerland, Sudan, Romania, the United States of America, Tonga, Mexico, Colombia, Singapore, New Zealand, Togo, Canada, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Argentina, Austria, Mauritius and Paraguay.

Delegations highlighted the importance of the agenda item, noting that it would contribute to the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly. They underlined that it was aimed at reaffirming and promoting the appropriate registration and publication of treaties and international agreements under Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations, and expressed the wish to create a dedicated platform for the a review of the Regulations, which was overdue, in order to take into account the evolution of practice and encourage the use of modern technological tools, by establishing a new, updated and user friendly e-platform for the international treaty framework, as well as streamlining the procedural requirements for registration and promoting compliance with the obligation contained in Article 102. They recalled that, although over 70,000 treaties and more than 125,000 treaty actions had been registered since 1945, such obligation had not yet been met with universal compliance and the extent of treaty registrations appeared to be geographically imbalanced. They also underscored that a significant number of treaties had not been registered. They thus aimed at concluding a review of the Regulations and considered that the debate under the agenda item could trigger a broader exchange of views among Member States regarding their treaty-making practice and serve as a platform for the identification of trends and the sharing of best practices in treaty-making. They also suggested that the agenda item could provide a space for discussion on other treaty law-related topics, such as role of the Secretary- General as a depositary of multilateral treaties and the update of the Summary of Practice of the Secretary-General as Depositary of Multilateral Treaties. Delegations also called upon the General Assembly’s support to build capacity underlining the existing gap among States to promote and strengthen the international treaty framework.

Archived videos of plenary meetings

Video   5th meeting (5 October 2018, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   35th meeting (13 November 2018, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 35th meeting, on 13 November 2018, the representative of Brazil, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework” (A/C.6/73/L.28). The Secretary informed the Committee that the draft resolution had no budgetary implications for the current biennium.

At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/73/L.28 without a vote.

Under the draft resolution, the General Assembly would, inter alia: recall Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirm the importance of the registration and publication of treaties, as well as their accessibility. The Assembly would also amend the Regulations to give effect to Article 102 of the Charter, as detailed in the Annex to the resolution, and would note that some Member States consider that there remain outstanding issues where the Regulations may need further consideration or possible updating. Furthermore, the Assembly would welcome efforts to build the capacity of States in treaty law and practice; welcome the efforts made to develop and enhance the United Nations electronic treaty database; recognize the importance of the legal publications prepared by the Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs; and call upon the Secretary-General to ensure the expedited publication of the United Nations Treaty Series. Finally, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to provide, at the seventy-fifth session, a report, following broad consultations with Member States, with information on practice and possible options to review the Regulations, taking into account outstanding issues identified by Member States.

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

This agenda item will be considered at the seventy-fifth session (2020).

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