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GA/11876
13 December 2016
Seventy-first Session, 62nd Meeting (AM)

Legal Committee Crucial in Strengthening International Cooperation, General Assembly Affirms, Unanimously Adopting 25 Resolutions

The role of the Sixth Committee (Legal) was crucial to strengthening international cooperation to confront threats to peace and security, the General Assembly affirmed today, as it adopted 25 resolutions and 4 decisions of that Committee without a vote.

Introducing the Sixth Committee reports, Isaías Arturo Medina Mejías (Venezuela), Sixth Committee Rapporteur said that the texts represented the Organization’s priorities, including the promotion of justice and international law, as well as combating international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. 

Among those texts was the resolution “The law of transboundary aquifers”, which urged Governments to consider the draft articles on the law of such aquifers annexed to General Assembly resolution 68/118 as guidance for bilateral or regional agreements and arrangements for the proper management of transboundary aquifers.

Calling the resolution a step forward in the right direction nonetheless, the representative of Paraguay noted that, while she had joined the support for the text and the relevant draft articles, her country’s legislative body had not supported ratification of a 2010 agreement with other countries on transboundary aquifers.

“One size fits all” approaches were not appropriate to the matter of transboundary aquifers, the representative of Turkey stressed.  The multiplicity of interests of riparian countries should be taken into account in a balanced manner and the sovereign right of States had to be respected.

Also unanimously adopted was the resolution on the United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, a core driver in disseminating the tenets of international law.  The text authorized activities for 2016 and 2017 of the International Law Fellowship Programme, the United Nations Regional Courses in International Law for Africa, for Asia‑Pacific and for Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law for 2016 and 2017.

As in past years, the resolution on “Measures to eliminate international terrorism”, also adopted without a vote, strongly condemned all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, and called upon all Member States, the United Nations and other appropriate international, regional and sub‑regional organizations to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. 

The General Assembly also adopted the resolution, “Observer status for the International Chamber of Commerce in the General Assembly”.  It noted that the Chamber provided a forum for businesses and other organizations to examine the nature and significance of the major shifts taking place in the world economy. 

Although he had joined consensus on that resolution in light of the special role the Chamber played and its historic specificities, Argentina’s representative reiterated his endorsement of the criteria established for observer status.  Granting observer status to the Chamber had been done on an exceptional basis and should not set a precedent for the future.

Following the adoptions of the Legal Committee texts, the General Assembly also took up the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and adopted a resolution on the work of that Agency.  Reaffirming its strong support for the indispensable role of IAEA in encouraging and assisting the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses, the resolution, as well, appealed to Member States to continue to support the activities of the Agency. 

Also speaking today were representatives of Lithuania, Iraq, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Cuba.

The representative of Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 15 December, to take up the topics of culture of peace, and global health and foreign policy.

Sixth Committee (Legal)

ISAÍAS ARTURO MEDINA MEJÍAS (Venezuela), Sixth Committee Rapporteur, introduced that body’s reports addressing 25 substantive and one procedural agenda item that had been allocated to the Committee.  With the exception of the election of officers, they represented the Organization’s priorities in the legal sphere, namely the promotion of justice and international law; drug control, crime prevention and combating international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; and organizational matters and administration.  The reports were then introduced in the order under which they fell under those headings.

The draft resolutions and the draft decisions had been approved by the Sixth Committee without a vote, he said, adding that he hoped the General Assembly would do the same.  Noting that there was no report in respect of the agenda item, “Election of officers of the Main Committees”, he said that, consistent with previous practice, elections for the Sixth Committee’s seventy‑second session would be taken up at a later stage in the course of the current session.

The General Assembly then commenced its consideration with the report, “Responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts” (document A/71/505), adopting the resolution contained therein without a vote.  By the text, the General Assembly acknowledged a growing number of decisions of international courts, tribunals and other bodies that refer to the articles on the topic.  Also included in the text was a request that the Secretary-General prepare a technical report listing references to the articles contained in the compilation of decisions of international courts, tribunals and other bodies referring to the articles prepared since 2001, as well as references to the articles made in submissions presented by Member States before international courts, tribunals and other bodies since 2001.

The Assembly took up the report, “Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission” (document A/71/506), adopting the draft resolution contained therein without a vote, which had the Assembly, among other things, welcome the appointment of the Special Coordinator on Improving the United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and request the Secretary-General to regularly update Member States on progress with respect to the implementation of the mandate of the Special Coordinator. 

Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted four draft resolutions contained in the “Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its forty-ninth session”.  The eponymous resolution (document A/71/507) had the General Assembly, among other things, requesting the Secretary-General to continue to operate, through the secretariat of the Commission, the repository of published information in accordance with article 8 of the Rules on Transparency, as a pilot project until the end of 2017, to be funded entirely by voluntary contributions, and to keep the General Assembly informed of developments regarding the funding and budgetary situation of the transparency repository based on its pilot operation.

Also adopted with a vote, the resolution “Model Law on Secured Transactions of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law” had the Assembly recommend that all States give favourable consideration to the Model Law when revising or adopting legislation relevant to secured transactions.  The text further recommended that all States consider becoming parties to the United Nations Convention on the Assignment of Receivables in International Trade, the principles of which were also reflected in the Model Law, and the optional annex which referred to the registration of notices with regard to assignments.

The Assembly continued by adopting without a vote the text “2016 Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law”, which recommended the use of the 2016 Notes, and requested the Secretary-General to publish those Notes, including electronically, in the six official languages of the United Nations.

“The Technical Notes on Online Dispute Resolution of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law”, also adopted without a vote, had the General Assembly recommend that all States and other stakeholders use the Technical Notes in designing and implementing online dispute resolution systems for cross‑border commercial transactions.

The Assembly next adopted without a vote, the resolution contained therein the report, “United Nations Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law” (document A/71/508).  By that text, the Secretary-General was authorized to carry out in 2016 and in 2017 the activities of the International Law Fellowship Programme with a minimum of 20 fellowships, the United Nations Regional Courses in International Law for Africa, for Asia‑Pacific and for Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law.  Those activities were to be financed from the regular budget, as well as from voluntary contributions, when necessary.

Adopting without a vote the resolution, “Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-seventh session” (document A/71/509), the General Assembly, while expressing its appreciation to the International Law Commission for the work accomplished during that session, also drew the attention of Governments to the importance of submitting their views by 31 January 2017 to the Commission on the various aspects of the topics on its agenda, in particular on all the specific issues identified in chapter III of its report, regarding: crimes against humanity; protection of the atmosphere; provisional application of treaties; jus cogens; immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction.  The text also referred to holding the first part of the seventieth session of the Commission in New York. 

The Assembly also adopted without a vote a second text from the Commission’s report, “Protection of persons in the event of disasters”, in which the Assembly expressed its appreciation for the International Law Commission’s continuing contribution to the codification and progressive development of international law, and invited Governments to submit their comments to the Commission concerning its recommendation to elaborate a convention based on the related draft articles.

The General Assembly continued by adopting without a vote the resolution “Diplomatic Protection” (document A/71/510).  By the text, the Assembly invited Governments to submit in writing to the Secretary-General any comments on the matter, including comments concerning the recommendation by the International Law Commission to elaborate a convention on the basis of the articles.

Also before the Assembly was the resolution, “Consideration of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities and allocation of loss in the case of such harm” (document A/71/511), which, among other things, invited Governments to submit comments regarding the form of the respective articles and principles, including in relation to the elaboration of a convention, as well as on any practice in relation to the application of the articles and principles.  The text also requested the Secretary-General to submit a compilation of decisions of international courts, tribunals and other bodies referring to such articles and principles. 

Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolution “Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts” (document A/71/512).  Included in the text was a call to States parties to the Geneva Conventions that had not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the Additional Protocols at the earliest possible date.   As well, all States that were already parties to Protocol I, or those States not parties, were called on becoming parties to Protocol I, to make the declaration provided for under article 90 of that Protocol and to consider making use, where appropriate, of the services of the International Humanitarian Fact‑Finding Commission.  Also noted were the 10 resolutions adopted at the Thirty‑second International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, held in Geneva in 2015, which aim at strengthening international humanitarian law and recommend the continuation of an inclusive, State‑driven intergovernmental process to find agreement on features and functions of a potential forum of States and to find ways to enhance the implementation of international humanitarian law.

The Assembly then took up the text, “Consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives” (document A/71/513), in which States were urged, among other things, to strictly observe, implement and enforce, including during armed conflict, all the applicable principles and rules of international law governing diplomatic and consular relations, including those relating to inviolability.  States were also urged to take all appropriate measures at the national and international levels to prevent any acts of violence against the missions, representatives and officials, including during armed conflict, and to ensure, with the participation of the United Nations where appropriate, that such acts were fully investigated with a view to bringing offenders to justice.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote, the resolution “Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization” (document A/71/514).  By that text, the General Assembly, among other things, requested the Special Committee to continue its consideration of all proposals concerning the question of the maintenance of international peace and security in all its aspects, and to consider other proposals on the matter that might be submitted at its session in 2017, which is to be held 21 February to 1 March 2017.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote, the resolution “Commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the International Court of Justice” contained in the report, “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” (document A/71/519).  By that text, the Assembly encouraged States to continue considering recourse to the Court by means available under its Statute, and called upon States that have not yet done so to consider accepting the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with its Statute.  It also called upon States to consider means of strengthening the Court’s work, including by supporting the Secretary-General’s Trust Fund to Assist States in the Settlement of Disputes through the International Court of Justice on a voluntary basis.

Adopting without a vote the resolution “The rule of law at the national and international levels” (document A/71/515), the Assembly reaffirmed the need for universal adherence to and implementation of the rule of law at both the national and international levels, as well as its commitment to an international order based on the rule of law and international law.  States should also refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the text “The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction” (document A/71/516).  By the text the Assembly would establish a working group of the Sixth Committee to continue to undertake a thorough discussion of the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, and would also invite Member States and relevant observers to submit information and observations on the principle, including information on the relevant applicable international treaties and their national legal rules and judicial practice.

Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolution “The law of transboundary aquifers” (document A/71/517), which encouraged the International Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to continue its contribution by providing further scientific and technical assistance upon the consent of the recipient State and within its mandate.  It also directed the attention of Governments to the draft articles on the law of such aquifers annexed to General Assembly resolution 68/118 as guidance for bilateral or regional agreements and arrangements for the proper management of transboundary aquifers.

The representative of Paraguay, in explanation of position, said that because her country contained many of the freshwater sources on the planet, the discussion of that issue in the Organization was extremely important.  The articles set forth by the ILC were a step in the right direction.  However, in regards to a 2010 agreement with other countries on transboundary aquifers, she pointed out that, although she “went along with the consensus” on the resolution, her country’s legislative body had not supported the 2010 agreement and the instrument had not been ratified by the State.

The representative of Turkey, in explanation of position, stressed the importance of respecting the sovereign right of States, adding that the provisions of the draft articles should have been elaborated in such a way that the multiplicity of interests of the riparian countries could be taken into account in a balanced manner.  “One size fits all” approaches were not appropriate to the matter of transboundary aquifers.  The draft articles should remain a non‑binding document.

The Assembly also adopted without a vote the resolution “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (document A/71/518).  By that text, the Assembly strongly condemned all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, and called upon all Member States, the United Nations and other appropriate international, regional and sub‑regional organizations to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  It also expressed grave concern over the acute and growing threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters and emphasized the need for States to address the issue, including through the implementation of their international obligations.

Turning to the “Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country” (document A/71/522), the General Assembly adopted that resolution without a vote in which it requested the host country to consider removing the remaining travel restrictions imposed on staff of certain missions and Secretariat staff of certain nationalities.  It also noted the Committee’s anticipation that the host country continue enhancing its efforts to ensure the issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States in a timely manner.  

The Assembly turned to the decision, “Observer status for the Cooperation Council of Turkic‑speaking States in the General Assembly” (document A/71/523), which was then adopted.  By that text, the sponsors requested the Committee to defer a decision on the request for observer status for the Cooperation Council of Turkic‑speaking States in the General Assembly until the seventy‑second session of the Assembly.

Also adopted by the Assembly was a draft decision on “Observer status for the Eurasian Economic Union in the General Assembly” (document A/71/524) in which the sponsors requested the Committee to defer a decision on the request for observer status for the Eurasian Economic Union in the General Assembly until the seventy-second session of the Assembly. 

The Assembly then adopted the text, “Observer status for the Community of Democracies in the General Assembly” (document A/71/525) by the terms of which the  decision on the request for observer status for the Community of Democracies in the General Assembly was deferred until the seventy-second session of the Assembly. 

The Assembly also adopted the decision, “Observer status for the International Conference of Asian Political Parties in the General Assembly” (document A/71/526).  By the text, sponsors of the draft resolution had decided not to pursue the request for observer status for the International Conference on Asian Political Parties in the General Assembly at the current session, while reserving the right to present it at a future session.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote “Observer status for the Conference of Ministers of Justice of the Ibero‑American Countries in the General Assembly” (document A/71/527), by which it invited that body to participate in its sessions and work as an observer.  The Conference is an international intergovernmental organization open to all countries of the Ibero-American community.  It encourages coordination and consultation on such matters as modernizing the administration of justice and tackling transnational crimes.  

Also adopted was the resolution, “Observer Status for the International Youth Organization for Ibero-American Countries in the General Assembly” (document A/71/528).  That organization led the elaboration of the first international treaty on the rights of youth, and continues to design and implement public policies that facilitate the contributions of young people to social transformation.

The resolution, “Observer status for the Pacific Island Development Forum in the General Assembly” (document A/71/529) was also adopted by the Assembly without a vote.  The Forum mobilizes action in support of sustainable development through a green economy in the Pacific region.

The General Assembly then adopted without a vote “Observer status for the International Chamber of Commerce in the General Assembly” (document A/71/530).  The Chamber provides a forum for businesses and other organizations to examine the nature and significance of the major shifts taking place in the world economy.

The representative of Argentina, in explanation of position, said that although he had joined consensus on that resolution in light of the special role the Chamber played and its historic specificities, he reiterated his endorsement of the criteria established for Observer status.  Granting observer status to the Chamber had been done on an exceptional basis and should not be seen as a precedent for the future.

The resolution, “Observer Status for Bank of Central America for Economic Integration in the General Assembly” (document A/71/521) was also adopted.  The Bank promotes economic integration and the balanced socio-economic development of the Central American region, and aims to forge multilateral partnerships under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Assembly then adopted the draft decision, “Provisional programme of work of the Sixth Committee for the seventy-second session” contained in the report, “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” (document A/71/519).  By the text, the Assembly took note of the provisional programme for the next session adopted by the Committee.

The Assembly also took note of the report on Programme Planning (document A/71/520), which required no further action by the Assembly.

International Atomic Energy Agency

Mr. FADHIL (Iraq) said that the annual report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) illustrated the achievements of the Agency in the three key areas of nuclear technology, safety, security and verification.  Nuclear security was a matter of national security to be borne by States through national legislation.  The relevant authorities had analysed the situation in areas recovered by Iraqi security forces, especially with regard to radioactive risks in regions previously controlled by terrorist organizations.  The Iraqi Government had adopted principles for radioactive waste management and had established a national committee for that purpose.

TAMARA KHARASHUN (Belarus) said that her country had continued the construction of both nuclear power units of its first nuclear power plant and that several expert missions from the Agency had visited Belarus.  The country was committed to upholding international rules and standards for nuclear safety and security and intended to actively draw upon the Agency’s tools for countries beginning to implement nuclear energy programmes.  The Agency and other international organizations must engage in multilateral efforts to reclaim territories impacted by the Chernobyl disaster.  Recalling the General Assembly’s recent adoption of a resolution on the long‑term consequences of that disaster, she said that it was vital to coordinate efforts to resolve the long‑term consequences.  She called for active participation by the Agency in achieving sustainable development goals in the affected territories.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said that, as the world’s largest producer and supplier of uranium, his country had greatly expanded its fuel fabrication capability for peaceful uses of nuclear energy within the framework of IAEA’s safeguards.  Kazakhstan’s expansive nuclear disarmament vision supported its nuclear‑security‑related politics on many fronts, including support for the process on international negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme.  In coordination with the “P5+1”, Iran, the Agency and relevant structures of the Security Council, Kazakhstan had assisted in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by supplying Iran with natural uranium on commercial terms as compensation for the removal of low‑enriched uranium from that country.

GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina), affirming her country’s commitment to the work of the Agency, said that the Argentine nuclear sector had been in existence for more than 66 years and was guided by a strong and consistent State policy.  The effectiveness of the Agency’s verification system was essential to prevent nuclear proliferation.  Those verification measures must not affect the inalienable right of States to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, she stressed, underscoring the importance of neither limiting nor reinterpreting that right.  Argentina was working with its neighbours to ensure a Latin America free from nuclear weapons, she said, calling upon the Agency to play a more active role in international efforts in the field of nuclear security and safety.

LILIANNE SÁNCHEZ RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), welcoming the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that there should be equal balance between the pillars of the Agency, with a focus on nuclear energy and its application, security, verification and technical cooperation.  The Agency had an important role to play with regard to the 2030 Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  Its technical cooperation programme deserved attention to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Placing great importance on technical cooperation with IAEA, she said that the effective management of nuclear security did not allow for selectivity or exclusions, and norms on those must be adopted within the framework of the Agency. 

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/71/L.35, titled “Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency”.  By the text, the General Assembly reaffirmed its strong support for the indispensable role of the Agency in encouraging and assisting the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses, in technology transfer to developing countries and in nuclear safety, verification and security.  The resolution also appealed to Member States to continue to support the activities of the Agency. 

The representative of Lithuania, speaking in explanation of position, aligned herself with the European Union and said that nuclear energy was a viable solution to challenges arising from climate change.  However, nuclear energy only had a future if developed in the most responsible way and in conformity with the spirit and letter of international safety standards and requirements. Implementation of stress tests and safety standards, and cooperation with the Agency’s missions must be part of all nuclear power programmes, she said, calling on all countries that developed nuclear energy to comprehensively implement the highest international nuclear safety and environment requirements throughout the full nuclear facility cycle.  That should be done within the broader context of transboundary implications, and in full compliance with the rules and requirements of the Agency and other international and regional bodies.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, in exercise of the right of reply, said that yesterday the Republic of Korea’s delegate had referred to unprecedented allegations against his country regarding the existence of nuclear weapons.  He requested that colleague to inform himself if those allegations were corroborated by bilateral channels.

The representative of Belarus, in exercise of the right of reply, underscored her country’s untiring commitment to international norms and standards for nuclear safety.  Belarus would ensure transparency in building its first nuclear power plant and stood open to dialogue with all international partners, including neighbours.

For information media. Not an official record.