Taking up the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the United Nations, the Sixth Committee (Legal) today debated ways to better ensure the peaceful resolution of disputes, highlighting the important knowledge held by regional organizations that might aid the abatement of conflicts.
Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization, introduced the body’s report (document A/73/33) and spotlighted a number of matters as they pertained to the Charter. Those included the introduction and implementation of sanctions, the provision of assistance to third States affected by those sanctions and the peaceful settlement of disputes, among others. The report also included a number of working papers by Belarus, the Russian Federation, Cuba and Ghana.
The Government of Ghana, said that country’s representative, had submitted a proposal identifying gaps in various General Assembly resolutions on the prevention of disputes, as well as on the enhancement of cooperation between the United Nations and regional agencies in the peaceful settlement of such disputes. He underscored that such organizations were much closer to regional disputes and as such often better placed to understand them than the United Nations might be. In these cases, a partnership between the United Nations and those regional organizations would be beneficial, he said.
Speakers also referenced Article 51 of the Charter, with Syria’s delegate cautioning that a large number of Member States were using it to justify acts of aggression against the sovereignty of another country under the pretext of fighting terrorism, as seen with the so-called coalition forces on Syrian soil to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) without authorization of the Syrian Government. The International Court of Justice has been asked to present an advisory opinion on the legal ramifications of the use of force without prior consent from the Security Council, he said, and his Government was banking on the credibility of the Court for clarity on the issue.
The representative of Belarus, while cautiously expressing optimism about the Special Charter Committee’s work, also highlighted a request made to the International Court of Justice, in this case to issue an advisory opinion on the immunity of Heads of State. Acknowledging that the reasons for that request were understandable, he noted that it was all the more reason to work to reach consensus on outstanding issues. The establishment of a website on the peaceful settlement of disputes would be a good first step to help with consensus-building, he suggested.
Morocco’s delegate, noting that his country has always given pride of place to the peaceful settlement of disputes, said that prevention was the best ally for the maintenance of international peace. He also welcomed the ideas that had been put forward with the goal of strengthening the role of the Organization, such as enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and regional groups.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary General’s report on the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council (document A/73/190).
Huw Llewellyn, Director of the Codification Division on the Status of the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, described the backlog of the Repertory and expressed concern over its continued lack of funding. In its seventy-second session, the General Assembly had called for voluntary contributions to the Repertory Trust Fund to eliminate the backlog. In addition, the Codification Division sent a note verbale to all Permanent Missions reminding them of the possibility of making voluntary contributions. However, since the issuance of the 2017 report, the Secretary-General has received no contribution to the Repertory Trust Fund.
Yvette Blanco, Chief of the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch, Security Council Affairs Division, Department of Political Affairs, spoke of the great progress being made in the updating of the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, thanks to contributions to its Trust Fund. Contributions by Member States have enabled the use of efficiency-enhancing initiatives and additional human resources. The twentieth Supplement covering the period from 2016 to 2017 has been completed, and attention is now turning to the preparation of the twenty-first Supplement.
Also speaking today were representatives of Iran (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Gambia (for the African Group), El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), the European Union, Qatar, Gabon, Peru, Nicaragua, Sudan, India, Cuba, Mexico, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, Russian Federation and Libya.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 15 October, to continue its discussion of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the United Nations, consider requests for observer status, and commence debate on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts.
Special Committee on Charter and Strengthening Role of Organization
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Chair, Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization, introduced that body’s report on its 2018 session (document A/73/33), highlighting the holding of the first annual thematic debate on peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter. The discussion focused on the subtopic, exchange of information on State practices regarding the use of negotiation and enquiry. Turning to the report, he said that it contains five chapters and an annex, the first chapter being entirely procedural.
Outlining chapter 2, he said that section A of the chapter deals with implementation of the provisions of the Charter relating to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions. Section B addresses the question of introduction and implementation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations. The Special Charter Committee was briefed by the Secretariat on this matter and a summary on that is also included in the report. Sections D, E and F are considerations of working papers submitted by Belarus and the Russian Federation, Cuba, and Ghana respectively. Chapter 3 focuses on peaceful settlement of disputes, he said, adding that it contains a proposal by the Russian Federation recommending that the Secretariat be requested to establish a website on that matter.
HUW LLEWELLYN, Director of the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs, presented the report of the Secretary-General on the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council (document A/73/190). Concerning the backlog of the Repertory, he said that the Codification Division, acting as coordinator for the preparation of the publication, sought to significantly reduce the backlog in volume III of Supplements 7 to 9. Progress has also been made in the preparation of studies for volumes III and IV of Supplement 10. Supplement 11, covering the period 2010 to 2015, was also making progress. Of the 57 volumes that the publication should consist of, 44 volumes have been completed, 31 of these have been published and 13 have been finalized and submitted for translation and publication. Work remains to be completed on 13 volumes.
Since the issuance of this year’s report, there had been a meeting of the Inderdepartmental Committee on Charter Repertory to discuss the current status of the publication and call for contributions, he said. With regard to the availability of Repertory studies on the internet, studies from 44 complete volumes, including the 13 volumes being processed for publication, are available on the United Nations website for the Repertory.
In terms of funding, he said that in paragraph 15 of the General Assembly resolution 72/118 that organ had reiterated its call for voluntary contributions to the Repertory Trust Fund in order to eliminate the backlog in the Repertory. The Codification Division sent a note verbale to all Permanent Missions in December 2017, reminding them of the possibility of making voluntary contributions to the Fund and inviting them to bring the question of funding to the attention of private institutions and individuals that might wish to assist. Since the issuance of the 2017 report, the Secretary-General has received no contribution to the Repertory Trust Fund.
YVETTE BLANCO, Chief of the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch, Security Council Affairs Division, Department of Political Affairs, gave an overview of the significant progress made in the updating of the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council. In the past year, the twentieth Supplement covering the period from 2016 to 2017 has been completed. Supplements are already being made available on the Security Council’s Repertoire website and the focus is now on the preparation of the twenty-first Supplement covering 2018.
That significant progress has been made possible in large part by the contributions of Member States, she said, which have enabled the use of efficiency-enhancing initiatives and the availability of additional human resources. Progress has also been achieved through collaboration with the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, Department of Public Information and the Department of Management’s Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT).
In addition to the Supplements of the Repertoire, she invited delegates to explore the Security Council’s Repertoire website, which is available in all six official languages. Efforts to ensure the site is a more reliable and accurate platform is also ongoing. The website also offers a broad range of other information resources including tables, graphs, statistical data on the practice of the Council and the mandates of peacekeeping operations and special political missions.
Also included are relevant provisions of decisions of the Council in relation to cross-cutting agenda items, such as children and armed conflict, women and peace and security, and the protection of civilians, she noted. The progress made in the preparation and publication of the Repertoire as well as the updating of the Repertoire section of the Council website would not have been possible without the contributions received to the Trust Fund for the Updating of the Repertoire. It continues to be highly dependent on voluntary contributions.
ALI NASIMFAR (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said his bloc should play a key role in the reform process of the United Nations — reforms that aim to democratize its principal organs and ensure respect for the General Assembly’s role and authority. The Special Charter Committee has the potential to enlighten international law and the relevancy of the Charter provisions. In addition, Security Council-imposed sanctions also remain an issue of serious concern. Targeted sanctions may be imposed only when there is a threat to international peace or an act of aggression, in accordance with the Charter. The objectives of sanctions are not to punish the populace, he emphasized, calling for clearly defined objectives based on tenable legal grounds.
He had expected to hear more about perceived objective assessments and the methodology for assessment in the Department of Political Affair’s “Introduction and implementation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations”, as well as information on the humanitarian consequences of sanctions, he continued. Suggesting a subtopic for the next annual Special Charter Committee debate on dispute settlement, he encouraged Member States to take part and share best practices in using mediation in the settlement of their disputes. However, he also expressed concern that some Member States were reluctant to engage in meaningful discussion on proposals.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), speaking for the African Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the importance of the work of the Special Charter Committee. However, while it has the potential to play an important role in the Organization, it has not lived up to its full potential because of the “tendency to allow ideological battles to prevent us from performing our function, namely legal analysis”, he pointed out. Its work should ensure that the Organization cannot demand of its members to adhere to the rule of law while it makes no attempt to demonstrate that important principle. The work of the Special Charter Committee should contribute to preventing the Organization from being labelled hypocritical.
As the premier organ concerned with maintenance of peace and security, the Security Council needs to become more representative and it must also address the problems in its working methods, he added. Maintaining its status quo would only lead to the further erosion of its credibility. Expressing the Group’s support for the revised working paper submitted by Ghana on strengthening the relationship between the United Nations and regional agencies, he called for in-depth discussion and analysis on this topic. Also thanking delegations that supported that topic, he stressed that it was a timely discussion.
HÉCTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that to duly fulfil the mandate of the Special Charter Committee, the political will of Member States was needed. Given the important functions of that Committee, it was imperative that Member States make genuine efforts thorough the configuration of a solid thematic agenda based on the new identified subjects and in the study of its current subjects. He reiterated the importance of the obligation to settle disputes by peaceful means and recalled that the United Nations Charter provides the basic framework for such an obligation. In this regard, it is important that the Special Charter Committee continue with its work, contributing to strengthening the role of the United Nations and its mission of maintaining international peace and security.
He also welcomed the recommendation by the Special Charter Committee to undertake a thematic discussion under the item “Peaceful Settlement of Disputes”. The issue of United Nations-imposed sanctions is also in the interest of the Community. To be effective and contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, sanctions should be enforced in accordance with the Charter and other relevant rules of international law, particularly those relating to human rights. He also recognized the notable contribution of the Repertory of Practice of the United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council to international law and to the international system.
ERIC CHABOUREAU, (European Union), thanked Ghana for introducing the revised working paper on strengthening the relationship and cooperation between the United Nations and regional arrangements or agencies in the peaceful settlement of disputes, during the Special Charter Committee’s session in February. The Union will keep contributing to the discussion while querying the legal basis of the framework defining the responsibilities of the United Nations and relevant regional organizations. However, other proposals, including the one on strengthening the role of the Organization and enhancing its effectiveness, are duplicative of revitalizing efforts taking place within other forums of the Organization.
The relationship between the different organs within the United Nations system is adequately defined in the Charter and does not need further clarification by the Special Charter Committee, he added. Expressing appreciation for the debate on the subtopic of peaceful settlement of disputes, he added that delegations offered practical examples of negotiations which made the discussion very concrete. He also took note of the status of preparation of the Repertory of Practice of the United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council and expressed gratitude to those States which have made voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for the elimination of the backlog in the Repertory as well as the Trust Fund for updating the Repertoire.
MOHAMED HAMAD S. J. AL-THANI (Qatar), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that there is a consensus that the aims of the United Nations can only be achieved through international cooperation. It is deplorable that the world today bears witness to some trends that try to ignore the United Nations Charter and there have been attempts to interfere in the affairs of other States under pretexts that have nothing to do with reality. This is a flagrant violation of the Charter and of international law. It aggravates conflicts and makes situations more unstable, helping terrorists to act in great liberty. The international community has affirmed in numerous resolutions its rejection of unilateral measures being taken as they are violation of the Charter. Unilateral policies have no legal basis, are a challenge to international and regional peace and security and a threat to the world’s collective security system.
ANNETTE ANDRÉE ONANGA (Gabon), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the Special Charter Committee plays a crucial role in establishing and promoting international law. Highlighting the multifaceted contributions made by Member States to its work, she commended the outgoing bureau and welcomed the new bureau. Stressing the need for balance between the main organs of the United Nations, she said it is vital to focus on the interpretation of Article V of the Charter and avoid all unilateral interpretation of the principles governing the use of force. In addition, an uncontrolled application of sanctions could have a negative impact on third parties and the general public. It is necessary to limit sanctions to a specific time frame and provide a road map that identifies progressive conditions towards the lifting of the sanctions.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), stressing that the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes is a concrete achievement of the Special Charter Committee, said that one of the cornerstones of the international order is the prohibition of use of force in any manner incompatible with the United Nations Charter. Expressing concern that some countries are moving away from that principle, he added that the Security Council’s sanctions regime is an important instrument provided for in the Charter. Welcoming the appointment of an Ombudsperson for the Council, he reaffirmed the central role played by the International Court of Justice in the promotion of rule of law and noted that in addition to settling disputes, the Court may also issue advisory opinions.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, expressed his country’s commitment to the Special Charter Committee’s work. The General Assembly is the democratic and universal organ par excellence where any topic can be discussed within the confines of the Charter, he said, noting with concern that the Security Council is taking up topics that do not fall within its purview. The annual debates on peaceful settlement of disputes help promote a culture of peace among Member States. The subtopic for its next meeting could be mediation, he suggested, encouraging Member States to share their best practices and calling on the international community to pursue the path of dialogue and negotiation in resolving conflicts.
ELSADIG ALI SAYED AHMED (Sudan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the Special Charter Committee should play a key role in the reform process of the United Nations. The role of the General Assembly in policymaking and norm setting should be recognized, in addition to its role regarding international peace and security. The democratic nature of the General Assembly makes it better able to address items on the agenda of the Organization. The Charter defines the clear responsibilities of the main organs of the United Nations. However, the Security Council is encroaching on the functions of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council as it discusses questions that fall in their purview. A balance should be struck between the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council. The reform of the Organization should take place according to the principles and provisions of the Charter, he said.
SOLOMON KORBIEH (Ghana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that following discussions during the recent session of the Special Charter Committee, he sought further consultations with other interested delegations, as well as relevant agencies in Ghana, to create a proposal that would find consensus among all delegations. However, some delegations were of the view that the proposal would be duplicative. A revised paper has been submitted which identifies some gaps in various General Assembly resolutions, including the Declaration on the Prevention and Removal of Disputes and Situations Which May Threaten International Peace and Security (resolution 43/51) and the Declaration on the Enhancement of Cooperation between the United Nations and Regional Arrangements or Agencies in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security (resolution 49/57). Gaps that exist in light of current developments in the cooperation between the United Nations and regional agencies in the peaceful settlement of disputes need to be identified. Regional arrangements and agencies are closer to regional conflicts and understand the dynamics of such conflicts. The United Nations may lack the required expertise or understanding of regional conflict dynamics, hence the need for partnership.
UMASANKAR YEDLA (India), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Security Council — having the primary responsibility to act on behalf of Member States in maintaining international peace and security — is able to authorize sanctions under Chapter VII of the Charter in certain circumstances. Those measures must be issued in line with the Charter’s provisions and must not violate the principles of international law. Furthermore, Article 50 confers the right on third States confronted with special economic problems arising from those sanctions to consult the Council for assistance. “This obliges the Security Council to find a definitive solution to the problems of affected third States,” he said. While sanctions can serve as an important tool, their imposition should be the last resort. Meanwhile, States have the responsibility to settle disputes by peaceful means. The International Court of Justice has played an important role in adjudicating disputes between States, he said, urging the Security Council to make more frequent use of the Court under Chapter VI of the Charter.
INDIRA GUARDIA GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, said that some countries were endeavouring to reinterpret the Charter to promote interventionist policies. The Special Charter Committee is the appropriate framework to negotiate any amendment to the Charter, including those related to the proposed reform of the United Nations. That Committee should promote and be open to full debate of any proposed resolution, decision or action by United Nations bodies when such actions have implications for compliance with the Charter. Despite efforts by some to stand in the way of its work, it has shown concrete results, such as having a midterm session to discuss the peaceful settlement of disputes. Her Government is opposed to any attempt to reduce the work of the Special Charter Committee or change the periodicity of meetings, she stressed.
PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico), said that his delegation had submitted a proposal to the Special Charter Committee to consider substantive and procedural matters related to reports submitted to the Security Council under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. In the seventy-second session of the General Assembly, it was noted that there had been an increase in letters to the Security Council invoking Article 51 as a justification for armed force by Member States in the territory of others in the case of armed attacks carried out by terrorist groups. While recognizing the threat to international peace and security, Mexico’s initiative seeks to clarify the legal scope of the obligations contained in Article 51. He emphasized the need to undertake a more in-depth and transparent study of these communications. The Special Charter Committee should investigate whether mere notification to the Security Council is sufficient to render legal an armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter and also look into the scope of the right to self-defence. Article 51 cannot be invoked to justify a response to an armed attack that is carried out by a non-State actor that has no relationship with the State and should not undermine the territorial integrity of a Member State. The text of Article 51 states that the exercise of the right to self-defence is provisional, he said.
IN CHOL KIM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite the passage of seventy years since its adoption, the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter are being openly disregarded. The Security Council should act strictly in line with the principles enshrined in the Charter. It is abnormal that the Council, which was so eager to express its concern about the tense situation in the Korean Peninsula, keeps silence over the current, positive trend for peace occurring in the region right now. Further, the United Nations Command should be dismantled at the earliest possible date, he said, calling it a monster-like organization that misuses the name of the United Nations.
CHI XU (China) recalled that the recent Special Charter Committee session focused on the means of negotiation and enquiry. The choice and application of a dispute settlement method should be in line with the principle of State consent and fully respect the right of countries to choose. No means should be imposed on a country. Recalling that his delegation properly resolved the issues of Hong Kong and Macao as well as the delimitation of land and maritime boundary lines through negotiation and consultation, he said China will continue to resolve other disputes through those methods. Parties to a dispute should conduct negotiations in good faith; other countries should create an enabling environment for that without disturbing the process or intervening in it. He also emphasized that the Security Council should adopt a prudent and responsible approach on sanctions, which should not be imposed until other peaceful means are exhausted. At the session, some countries raised the issue of the interpretation and application of Article 51 of the Charter on the right to self-defence. “China believes it is imperative to avoid the arbitrary interpretation and abuse of the right to self-defence,” he said.
ELENA A. MELIKBEKYAN (Russian Federation), reaffirming his country’s consistent support for the work of the Special Charter Committee, said that its mandate is important for upholding rule of law. Stressing that its work should continue on a permanent basis, he noted that its agenda contains proposals by his country to update the Handbook on peaceful settlement of disputes and establish a website on that topic with links to relevant United Nations documents. Recalling an interesting exchange of opinions at the meeting in February, he said that these discussions show that the Committee is a useful forum for productive discussion. Turning to the Secretariat’s efforts to prepare the Repertory of Practice of the United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, she said it must stick to clear standards and rules.
MOHAMED A. M. NFATI (Libya), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the vital role of the Special Charter Committee is crucial to strengthening the work of the United Nations. His country will continue to participate in its activities, he said, spotlighting the amended working document concerning sanctions. Welcoming progress made by the Secretariat in dealing with delays in updating the Repertory of Practice of the United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, he stressed that these important reference documents must appear in all United Nations languages. Stressing that the General Assembly is the most representative body of the United Nations, he said the implementation of the mandate of the Special Charter Committee depended on the political resolve of the Member States.
AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that a request had been made to the International Court of Justice to present an advisory opinion on the legal effects of the use of force by States without prior authorization by the Security Council when it is not a case of legitimate defence. Syria is banking on the credibility of the Court in its capacity as the main and unique judicial body of the United Nations system. At the same time, he expressed his support for delegations who voiced concerns that a great number of Member States are using Article 51 of the Charter to justify their acts of aggression against the sovereignty of country under the pretext of combating terrorism or of legitimate defence. The actions of the so-called coalition forces against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) on Syrian territory and in its airspace are without the authorization of the Syrian Government and are practices of occupation and aggression. They are conducted without the consent of Syria and without authorization from the Security Council. On the matter of sanctions, his Government called for the work of experts to be bolstered as well as mechanisms to evaluate the repercussions of sanctions. Experience shows that such sanctions do not achieve their aims, namely to change behaviour or processes. Rather, it is ordinary citizens who suffer.
RUSLAN VARANKOV (Belarus), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation was cautiously optimistic of the new trend in the work of the Special Charter Committee. Highlighting the resolutions adopted by it — “even though ceremonial in nature” — he said these gradual steps can restore a climate of trust. Expressing concern about actions aiming to chip away at the relevance of the Special Charter Committee and the Sixth Committee, he highlighted the request to the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on immunity of Heads of States. While the reasons for that initiative are understandable, he said, it is all the more reason to redouble efforts to find consensus on outstanding issues. A first step would be to set up a website on the peaceful settlement of disputes, he added, noting that the establishment of a single portal would not require significant financial or human resources.
Mr. HILALE (Morocco), noting that his country has always given pride of place to peaceful settlement of disputes, stressed that prevention is the greatest ally for the maintenance of international peace. Welcoming the various proposals that seek to strengthen the role of the Organization, specifically that on cooperation between United Nations and regional groups, he said that the thematic debates will expand the exchange of information between States. The Special Charter Committee has much to gain from introducing new topics, he said, adding that targeted sanctions remain the appropriate means to spare third parties and civilian populations or at least reduce the negative impact of global sanctions. Sanctions imposed by the Security Council should remain of a subsidiary nature and should be used only as a last resort, he stressed.