Chairman of Ad Hoc Committee Negotiating Comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Convention Describes ‘Good Progress’ Made in Past Few Years, as Current Session Concludes

15 April 2011

Chairman of Ad Hoc Committee Negotiating Comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Convention Describes ‘Good Progress’ Made in Past Few Years, as Current Session Concludes

15 April 2011
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly

Resolution 51/210

48th Meeting (AM)

Chairman of Ad Hoc Committee Negotiating Comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Convention

Describes ‘Good Progress’ Made in Past Few Years, as Current Session Concludes

Says Extremely Encouraged by Delegates Flexibility, Continued Commitment;

Upcoming General Assembly Opportune Moment to Make Final Attempt to Find Solution

While acknowledging the sense of disappointment that the last outstanding issues surrounding a proposed global anti-terrorism convention had yet to be resolved, the Chairman of the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee charged with elaborating that treaty today stressed that “good progress has been made over the past few years,” and various recommendations were beginning to coalesce into solid proposals for reaching a conclusion.

As he closed the Ad Hoc Committee’s session, Chairman Rohan Perera of Sri Lanka said that during the past week several delegates had expressed satisfaction over consolidation in the report of the Working Group of the Sixth Committee (Legal) of the text of the convention’s draft articles and of the various proposals.  “This was certainly a step forward.  It reflects the current state of negotiations and will surely facilitate our work,” he said.

It was also noteworthy that delegations continued to view the 2007 elements as a way out of the current impasse, he said, referring to a package proposal put forward four years ago to spur progress towards resolving persistent disputes related to a definition of terrorism and the proposed convention’s interaction with other international law.  “I am extremely encouraged by the flexibility shown by many delegations in their comments this week and their continued commitment to bringing our work to a conclusion,” he said.

Yet Mr. Perera reminded delegations that the Committee’s current session was it fifteenth and, therefore, the Assembly’s forthcoming sixty-sixth session should be seen as “an opportune moment to make our final attempt to find solutions to our efforts”.

He expressed every confidence that delegations would review the relevant issues so that the Assembly could take the necessary decisions.  He encouraged them to use the coming months to seriously consider elements that could be included in a possible resolution as a way to move the process towards a conclusion.

The Chairman’s words echoed a recommendation, adopted by consensus in the body’s draft report, by which the Ad Hoc Committee — formally known as the Ad Hoc Committee Established by General Assembly resolution 51/201 — recommended that the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) establish a working group with a view to making a concerted effort to finalizing the draft convention and continuing discussions on the question of convening a high-level conference on the matter, under United Nations auspices.

Today’s meeting also featured a briefing by Maria Telalian of Greece, Coordinator of the informal bilateral consultations during the session, which began on 11 May.  She said that, while all members of the Ad Hoc Committee had expressed the willingness to press ahead with their work, many were frustrated that progress had slowed because some delegations had not been flexible enough on the outstanding issues.  Yet, overall, there was a renewed sense of urgency to continue negotiating in the fall, with some delegations pledging to proceed with discussions in regional frameworks “in an attempt to lend political support to the effort”.

Continuing, she said that several delegations had wondered if there was any value added by adopting a new convention; weren’t the core international anti-terrorism accords, taken as a whole, enough?  She had stressed that the value of a new, comprehensive enforcement instrument would not be merely symbolic.  Indeed, once adopted, it would be the first time States had, in an international instrument, a legal definition that would be the basis for counter-terrorism measures.

Moreover, she had urged the Committee members not to underestimate the worth of the incremental progress that had been achieved over the years.  “What we have been doing is not only legally sound, but politically prudent,” she said, adding that the definition of terrorist acts in Article 2 of the draft convention was in line with language in General Assembly decisions.  (The elements of the draft convention are contained in the report of the Sixth Committee Working Group, document A/C.6/65/L.10.)

Following Ms. Telalian’s presentation, 20 members of the Ad Hoc Committee took the floor to briefly comment on the status of the negotiations and suggest recommendations on the way forward.  While a few preferred the former Coordinator’s 2002 package proposal as a way forward, the majority of the speakers backed a 2007 package, without modifications, as “the best compromise”.  That proposal, they felt, would serve as a sound basis to continue discussions, if it would bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion. At the same time, several who supported the 2007 proposal urged that it not be seen as a “take-or-leave-it package;” rather, it should be considered alongside other options.

Other speakers supported an approach that did not seek to alter or create new obligations under international humanitarian and human rights laws and that ensured respect for those rules.  Some speakers considered that progress on the draft convention was predicated on two principles, namely that the proposed treaty exclude from its scope the activities of military forces of a State, which were already covered by other regimes; and that it not include activities undertaken by national liberation movements.

A point raised by Committee members who were frustrated by the halting pace and restrictive format of the current negotiations was that it was time to revisit the body’s working methods.  With very little to show in the way of progress since 2007, one speaker said the Ad Hoc Committee must admit that the current nature of its negotiations “is just not working”.  Another said the Committee had been wasting time over the past week because it was clear that negotiations on outstanding issues — chiefly a concrete definition of terrorism or terrorist acts — had stalled.  It was time to pursue a more open and transparent path, as befit the United Nations, an Organization based on multilateral cooperation.

To a suggestion that yet another working group be created to deal with specific sticking points, such as a definition of terrorism and extradition procedures, one Committee Member said that, while his delegation was not opposed to the recommendation, the gaps to be bridged “are just too vast” and the differences “are not just a matter of semantics”.  As such, he also called urgently for a review of the Committee’s working methods.

He was also among those who suggested that, if and when a high-level conference on international terrorism was convened, it must not merely adopt a convention that had already been elaborated; rather, it should also be devoted to bridging divergent views on language and definitions that had thus far eluded the Ad Hoc Committee and the Sixth Committee (Legal).

Speaking on the Coordinator’s report were the representatives of Japan, Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), Syria (on behalf of Organization of the Islamic Conference), Brazil, Chile, Canada, Guatemala, Ecuador, Turkey, Argentina, Serbia, Egypt, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Colombia, Morocco, Cuba, India, South Africa, Jordan, Iraq, Republic of Moldova and Saudi Arabia.

Taking the floor to discuss the Ad Hoc Committee’s draft report were the representatives of Syria (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Venezuela, Cuba, South Africa, Nicaragua, Ghana, Chile, Ecuador, Kenya, Guatemala, India, Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), Serbia, Norway, United States, Madagascar, Japan, France, Guatemala and Cuba.

The Ad Hoc Committee will meet again at a time and date to be announced.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.