Sixth Committee Debate

Statement by H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, at Sixth Committee Debate

5 October 2016



PGA Thomson adresses sixth committee


Ambassador Danon, Permanent Representative of Israel


Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to address the Sixth Committee today.
Let me begin by congratulating Ambassador Danny Danon on his election as Chair of this Committee, as well as the Bureau members. I wish you all the best in your efforts to support and steer the work of this Committee to a successful conclusion.

In 1633, Grotius said that “If the small society which we call ‘State’ cannot exist without the application of the principles of justice and law, why will not those same principles be necessary to uphold the social structure of the whole human race and to maintain its harmony?”

This observation shows that nearly 400 years ago it was clear that law and justice is fundamental to maintaining international order.
Since the foundation of the United Nations, the promotion of international law has been one of its principle objectives. Indeed, the UN Charter embodies the indispensable relationship between the purposes of the organization, and the upholding of the international law.

Put another way, our work at the United Nations – across all its organs, bodies and committees, and in pursuit of peace and security, development, and human rights – could not be achieved without upholding the international legal system.

The work of the Sixth Committee could therefore not be more critical to the effective functioning of the United Nations, and as delegates to this Committee, you are charged with serving as guardians of our international legal system.

As you embark upon this Session, I therefore encourage you all to reflect on the work that has previously taken place within this Committee, and which has resulted in the agreement of legal instruments that now form fundamental parts of the fabric of our world. I urge you to apply the same determination and resolve that enabled the international community to overcome differences in the past, in order to achieve new outcomes that serve our world.
During this Session, the work of the Sixth Committee will be significant. Twenty-seven items will be considered, up from the 19 items considered last year. Indeed, the breadth and diversity of the topics covered is testament to the importance of your deliberations to the multilateral system.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the International Law Commission (ILC) and its members on their work during this  very successful quinquennium. The increased interaction between the ILC and the Sixth Committee is of mutual benefit to our shared efforts to promote international law, and the richness of your expertise in assisting the General Assembly is deeply appreciated.

I would also like to commend the ILC in particular for its work on the draft articles on the responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts, the prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities, as well as its work on diplomatic protection, law of transboundary aquifers, and many other relevant developments in the codification and strengthening of international law. I encourage delegations to engage in constructive debates on all of these topics.

I also encourage delegates to engage in a meaningful debate on the Administration of justice at the United Nations, and I hope that the report of the ‘Interim Independent Assessment Panel on the system of administration of justice at the United Nations’, will provide an opportunity for further improvements to be made to the system.

On the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, I urge you to resolve outstanding issues and to finalise the work on this instrument during this session. For the last 16 years, while differences have been debated in this Committee, atrocities have been committed, lives lost, and the suffering of countless families and communities continued. It is time to muster the political will to bridge the divides and to finalize this critical instrument.


Distinguished delegates,


Your deliberations are a fundamental part of the international community’s efforts to better our world, and to achieve a safer, more equitable, more equal, and more prosperous, future for all.

Last year, world leaders committed to the ambitious 2030 Agenda in a global push to transform our world. However, this Agenda, and the targets and goals it contains, will remain a catalogue of good intentions if they are not transformed into action.

It is for this reason that we have made the principle objective of the 71st Session of the General Assembly to drive a universal push for meaningful progress in implementing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Your work as legal experts is fundamental to the success of this endeavour, as well as to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda more broadly.

Whether it is your work on specific SDGs – such as those related to the oceans and marine resources, or on cross-cutting issues, such as on peaceful societies, access to justice, and rule of law – your progress and your successes translate directly to promoting dialogue, enhancing international cooperation, and supporting Member States to implement the 2030 Agenda.

I count on you to take this new Agenda forward with purpose as agents of transformative change – the lives of so many are relying on you.


Distinguished delegates,

The Sixth Committee is known in these hallowed halls for its collegiality and the level of expertise that its delegates bring to its deliberations.

I am sure that all of you, together with the Chair and Bureau, and assisted by the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs, will continue this engagement throughout this session.

My Office and I, stand ready to support you to ensure a successful conclusion to your deliberations.

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