Sixth Committee (Legal) — 75th session

Protection of persons in the event of disasters (Agenda item 89)


Summary of work

Background (source: A/75/100)

At its seventy-first session, the Assembly, under the item entitled “Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-eighth session”, decided to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-third session an item entitled “Protection of persons in the event of disasters”. The Assembly invited Governments to submit comments concerning the recommendation by the Commission to elaborate a convention on the basis of the draft articles on the protection of persons in the event of disasters presented by the Commission (resolution 71/141).

At its seventy-third session, the Assembly allocated the item to the Sixth Committee, where statements in the debate were made by 24 delegations (see A/C.6/73/SR.31). The Assembly decided to include the item in the provisional agenda of its seventy-fifth session (resolution 73/209).

Consideration at the seventy-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 17th, 18th, and 19th meetings, on 11 November, 13 November and 19 November 2020 (A/C.6/75/SR.17, A/C.6/75/SR.18 and A/C.6/75/SR.19).

For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General submitted to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session (A/75/214).

During the debate on this item, statements were made by the representatives of Sweden (also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway (Nordic countries)), Singapore, Bangladesh, the Philippines, El Salvador, Switzerland, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Egypt, Brunei Darussalam, Portugal, Jamaica, the Russian Federation, Japan, Italy, Cuba [in English], Thailand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Israel, Islamic Republic of Iran, China, Nigeria, Viet Nam, Haiti, Brazil, Tonga and United States of America.

Several delegations welcomed further discussion on the item in the Sixth Committee and expressed appreciation for the work of the International Law Commission and the Special Rapporteur on the topic. Taking note of the increasing frequency and severity of natural and human-made disasters and the related challenge of climate change, a number of delegations stressed the imperative to develop means to prevent and mitigate the effects of disasters. Some delegations spoke about recent experiences either as an affected State or as a responding State. 

Several delegations supported the elaboration of an international convention on the basis of the draft articles. Some delegations expressed openness to discussing the advantages and disadvantages of elaborating such a convention. Concern about specific aspects of certain draft articles was also raised. Other delegations expressed the view that protection of persons in the event of disasters was best addressed through guidelines and practical cooperation or found the elaboration of a convention to be premature.

Several delegations commended the emphasis of the draft articles on human rights and human dignity and considered the draft articles to reflect various principles of international law. Several delegations emphasized the importance of the principles of the sovereignty of States and non-interference in the internal affairs of States. Some delegations underlined the importance of attention to the needs of the particularly vulnerable, while some also proposed integrating a gender perspective. Delegations considered that the draft articles could help contribute to the achievement of various Sustainable Development Goals. Some delegations also mentioned the role of disaster risk reduction in relation to forced displacement.

Some delegations expressed the view that the draft articles reflected existing State practice and principles of international law and that they constituted progressive development of international law. It was also stated that some draft articles codified international law and that some draft articles did not codify international law. The need to avoid overlap with norms of international humanitarian law was mentioned. A number of delegations noted the centrality of soft law instruments, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 (resolution 69/283), in guiding current efforts relating to disasters, while some also emphasized the role of regional instruments. Some delegations wished to ensure that cooperation in response to disasters included the exchange of good practices and relevant information, and some described relevant national policies and legal frameworks.

Many delegations saw the COVID-19 pandemic as highlighting the importance of the draft articles as well as of multilateralism and international cooperation in the area of disaster prevention and relief. Certain delegations considered that pandemics might qualify as “disasters” in accordance with the definition provided in draft article 3 (a).

Archived videos and summaries of plenary meetings

Video   17th meeting (11 November 2020, 10:00am – 1:00pm) | Summary

Video   18th meeting (13 November 2020, 10:00am – 1:00pm) | Summary

Video   19th meeting (19 November 2020, 3:00pm – 6:00pm) | Summary

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 19th meeting, on 19 November 2020, the representative of Indonesia, on behalf of the Bureau, recommended a deferral of the consideration of the agenda item to the seventy-sixth session of the Assembly.

At the same meeting, the Committee decided to recommend that the General Assembly defer the consideration of the agenda item to the seventy-sixth session of the Assembly (decision 75/526).

This agenda item will be considered at the seventy-sixth session (2021).

Full texts of reports (A/75/...)

State Original reply Translation
Colombia Spanish English
Cuba Spanish English
El Salvador Spanish English
Italy English  
Japan English  
Turkey English  

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