Sixth Committee (Legal) — 74th session

Diplomatic protection (Agenda item 80)

Documentation

Summary of work

Background (source: A/74/100)

At its sixty-first session, the General Assembly, under the item entitled “Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-eighth session”, took note of the draft articles on diplomatic protection adopted by the International Law Commission, and decided to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-second session an item entitled “Diplomatic protection” (resolution 61/35).

The Assembly has had the item on its agenda triennially since its sixty-second session (resolutions 62/67, 65/27, 68/113 and 71/142).

At its seventy-first session, the Assembly decided to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-fourth session the item entitled “Diplomatic protection” and, within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee, in the light of the written comments of Governments, as well as views expressed in the debates held at the sixty-second, sixty-fifth, sixty-eighth and seventy-first sessions of the Assembly, to continue to examine the question of a convention on diplomatic protection, or any other appropriate action, on the basis of the above-mentioned articles and to also identify any difference of opinion on the articles (resolution 71/142).

Consideration at the seventy-fourth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 13th, 14th, 15th, 34th and 35th meetings, on 15 and 16 October, and 11 and 20 November 2019 (see A/C.6/74/SR.13, 14, 15, 34 and 35). For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General (A/74/143).

Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 71/142 of 13 December 2016, at its 1st meeting, on 7 October, the Committee established a Working Group on Diplomatic Protection to further examine, in the light of the written comments of Governments, as well as views expressed in the debates held at the sixty-second, sixty-fifth, sixty-eighth and seventy-first sessions of the General Assembly, the question of a convention on diplomatic protection, or any other appropriate action, on the basis of the articles on diplomatic protection and to also identify any difference of opinion on the articles. The Working Group was open to all States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Committee elected Mr. Thabo Molefe (South Africa) as the Chair of the Working Group. The Working Group held two meetings, on 16 and 23 October 2019. At its 34th meeting, on 11 November 2019, the Committee heard and took note of the oral report of the Chair of the Working Group (see A/C.6/74/SR.34).

During the general debate on the item, statements were made by the representatives of Norway (also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden (Nordic Countries)), Slovakia, Singapore, Sudan, United States of America, Cuba [in English], Eritrea, Russian Federation, Portugal, Cameroon, Malaysia, El Salvador, Islamic Republic of Iran, Mexico and South Africa.

Several delegations expressed support for proceeding to the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the articles on diplomatic protection. It was underlined that the articles struck a fair balance between the progressive development of international law and its codification. In their view, apparent inconsistencies between the articles and State practice could be resolved, and certain aspects of the articles could be improved, through negotiations on a convention. Therefore, a future convention would bring legal certainty and achieve greater acceptance by States. Moreover, a number of delegations stressed that such a convention would provide an important tool for the protection of human rights, including protection of refugees and stateless persons. Several delegations also emphasized the link between the articles on diplomatic protection and those on the responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts. In that connection, the view was expressed that the two sets of articles could lead to parallel conventions.

A number of delegations made specific comments on the contents of the articles.

Several other delegations considered that proceeding towards the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles was premature, preferring to allow more time to further consider their content. It was recalled that States had expressed diverging views on the articles, raising concerns that certain provisions did not reflect existing customary international law. According to some delegations, strengthening the status and acceptance of the articles would be best served by allowing them to guide State practice. It was also suggested that further deliberations concerning the articles on diplomatic protection could be continued following the conclusion of discussions regarding the articles on the responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts, given the close connection between the two sets of articles.

Archived videos of plenary meetings

Video   13th meeting (15 October 2019, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   14th meeting (15 October 2019, 4:00pm – 5:00pm)

Video   15th meeting (16 October 2019, 12:00pm – 1:00pm)

Video   34th meeting (11 November 2019, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Video   35th meeting (20 November 2019, 10:00am – 1:00pm)

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 35th meeting, on 20 November 2019, the representative of South Africa, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Diplomatic protection” (A/C.6/74/L.17). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/74/L.17, without a vote.

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would invite Governments to submit in writing to the Secretary-General any further comments, including comments concerning the recommendation by the International Law Commission to elaborate a convention on the basis of the articles. In addition, the Assembly would decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of its seventy-seventh session and invite Governments to focus their statements, in the light of the written comments submitted to the Secretary-General, as well as views expressed in the debates held at the sixty-second, sixty-fifth, sixty-eighth, seventy-first and seventy-fourth sessions, on the question of a convention on diplomatic protection, or any other appropriate action, on the basis of the above-mentioned articles, and also on identifying any difference of opinion on the articles.

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

The agenda item will be considered next at the seventy-seventh session (2022).

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