Sixth Committee (Legal) — 75th session

United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (Agenda item 79)

Documentation

Summary of work

Background (source: A/75/100)

At its twentieth session, under the item entitled “Technical assistance to promote the teaching, study, dissemination and wider appreciation of international law”, the General Assembly established a programme of assistance and exchange in the field of international law as well as an Advisory Committee on Technical Assistance to Promote the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, the members of which are appointed by the Assembly, to assist the Secretary-General in the performance of the functions entrusted to him by the Assembly (resolution 2099 (XX)). The Assembly had the item on its agenda at its twenty-first session, and decided that the programme established under resolution 2099 (XX) would be known as the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, and accordingly the Advisory Committee set up under that resolution would be known as the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (resolution 2204 (XXI)).

The Assembly had the item entitled “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law” on its agenda and authorized the continuation of the Programme annually at its twenty-second to twenty-sixth sessions, biennially until its sixty-fourth session and annually thereafter (resolutions 2313 (XXII), 2464 (XXIII), 2550 (XXIV), 2698 (XXV), 2838 (XXVI), 3106 (XXVIII), 3502 (XXX), 32/146, 34/144, 36/108, 38/129, 40/66, 42/148, 44/28, 46/50, 48/29, 50/43, 52/152, 54/102, 56/77, 58/73, 60/19, 62/62, 64/113, 65/25, 66/97, 67/91, 68/110, 69/117, 70/116, 71/139, 72/115, 73/201 and 74/185).

At its seventy-fourth session, the Assembly allocated the item to the Sixth Committee, where statements were made by the Chair of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance, the Secretary of the Advisory Committee, a representative of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs and 35 delegations (see A/C.6/74/SR.22). The Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to carry out the activities specified in his report on the item in 2020 and requested the Secretary-General to continue to include resources for the activities of the Programme of Assistance in the proposed programme budget for 2021, to report to it at its seventy-fifth session on the implementation of the Programme of Assistance in 2020 and, following consultations with the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance, to submit recommendations regarding the Programme in subsequent years (resolution 74/185).

Consideration at the seventy-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 14th, 18th and 19th meetings, on 6, 13 and 19 November 2020 (A/C.6/75/SR.14, 18 and 19.). For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General (A/75/389). 

During the 14th meeting, both the Chair and the Secretary of the Advisory Committee on the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law made a statement as did a representative of the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs. 

Statements were made by representatives of Guyana (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Eswatini (on behalf of the African Group), Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), the European Union (also on behalf of its member States (the candidate countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia aligned themselves with the statement), Finland (also on behalf of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden (Nordic Countries)), Singapore, Argentina, the Republic of Moldova, the Philippines, the United States of America, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Malaysia, the Sudan, Cuba, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Paraguay, the Russian Federation, Poland, Chile, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mexico, Lebanon, Nigeria, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Egypt and Thailand

Delegations welcomed the Report of the Secretary-General and commended the role of the Programme of Assistance in furthering knowledge of international law and thereby strengthening international peace and security, promoting friendly relations and cooperation among States, and supporting the rule of law. It was noted that the training provided by the Programme of Assistance had enabled generations of government lawyers, judges and diplomats from across the globe to have a better understanding of international law for the benefit of the international community as a whole. Several delegations stressed the importance of the Programme as a critical capacity-building activity to improve the participation of developing countries in multilateral frameworks and instruments as well as to promote development of international law at the national level and ultimately help strengthen the rule of law globally. The contribution of the Programme of Assistance towards the implementation of United Nations programmes and activities worldwide and achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16 was also highlighted. 

Several delegations expressed the view that the Programme in its different components is an integral and indispensable part of the efforts of the United Nations to promote international law and the rule of law. It was also noted that jurists, academics, diplomats and other public officials from developing countries greatly benefit from the in-person training programmes, publications and the Audiovisual Library of International Law.

Delegations expressed appreciation for the work of the Office of Legal Affairs, in particular that of the Codification Division, and commended its efforts to promote international law in an inclusive manner. Many delegations also commended the Office of Legal Affairs for exploring innovative means to continue pursuing the objectives of the Programme of Assistance despite the challenges posed by the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Delegations recognized the Audiovisual Library of International Law as an invaluable research and teaching resource, in particular under the circumstances of COVID-19, offering access to a vast range of materials free of charge, and noted its reach and continued expansion in both content and users. Support was expressed for the further development of the Audiovisual Library, including by conducting off-site recording sessions undertaken by the Codification Division in various locations in order to promote a broader geographical and linguistic representation in the Audiovisual Library. Some delegations also welcomed the launch of the Mini-Series of the Audiovisual Library of International Law, aimed at providing a general overview of the core topics of international law, primarily for users with little or only basic knowledge. 

Delegations expressed their strong appreciation for and support of the Regional Courses in International Law and for the International Law Fellowship Programme. Several delegations noted the training programmes have a multiplier effect as they generate numerous opportunities for further exchanges of ideas and sharing of knowledge as a result of the contacts made during the programmes. Delegations noted that the Regional Course in International Law for Latin America and the Caribbean and the International Law Fellowship Programme, could not be held as a result of the risks associated with COVID-19 and welcomed the efforts of the Office of Legal Affairs to provide  on-line capacity-building measures in the interim. Many delegations emphasized that in-person training should be resumed as soon as it is safe to do so.  Some delegations noted that the use of information and communications technologies, including the United Nations Audiovisual Library, should be explored during the challenging circumstances under COVID-19, however they should not serve as a substitute for in-person training programmes.

Several delegations also underlined the importance of multilingualism to guarantee equal access to activities under this Programme.

With respect to legal publications, delegations expressed support for the efforts of the Codification Division to expedite the issuance of its publications, including in hard copy, and noted their utility. 

Delegations reiterated the importance of maintaining regular budget funding for the Regional Courses and the Audiovisual Library of International Law. Further, appreciation was also expressed for those States which had made voluntary contributions, including in-kind contributions. Continued and enhanced voluntary contributions, including for the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, were encouraged. 

Archived videos and summaries of plenary meetings

Video   14th meeting (6 November 2020, 3:00pm – 6:00pm) | 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 18th meeting, on 13 November, the representative of Ghana, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law” (A/C.6/75/L.10). At the 19th meeting, on 19 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/75/L.10, without a vote.

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would authorize the activities specified in the report of the Secretary-General (A/75/389) for 2021, to be financed from provisions in the regular budget. The General-Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to continue to include resources for the activities of the Programme of Assistance in the proposed programme budget for 2022 and pursuant to operative paragraph 3, would authorize the Secretary-General to further expand such activities using voluntary contributions. The Assembly would reiterate its request to Member States and interested organizations to make voluntary contributions for the Audiovisual Library of International Law and the United Nations Regional Courses in International Law. The Assembly would note with appreciation the efforts of the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs to enhance the accessibility of the Audiovisual Library by making all lectures in the Lecture Series available as podcasts, and note with satisfaction the issuance by the Codification Division of the United Nations Juridical Yearbook 2015

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

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

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