Amid growing concerns over unilateral coercive measures and their unintended humanitarian consequences, several delegations stressed today that sanctions remain a relevant tool for the maintenance of international peace and security, as the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization opened its 2021 session.
Throughout the opening of the session — set to run until 24 February — delegates agreed that the Special Committee plays a central role in the promotion of international stability. However, a number of proposals brought to a head concerns over duplication of work within the United Nations, most notably as speakers addressed discussions on the use of force against terrorist groups.
Iran’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Special Committee remains a forum for clarifying and promoting general international law and the Charter’s provisions. The Movement attaches great importance to strengthening the capacity of the United Nations to implement consensus-based approaches in addressing matters related to international cooperation, development, peace, security and human rights, he emphasized. To that end, there is growing concern over the Security Council’s encroachment on the functions and powers of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.
Further, he called upon the Secretariat to provide the Special Committee with a comprehensive presentation on the humanitarian effects of sanctions imposed by the Council’s various sanctions committees, stressing: “The capacity of the Secretariat has not been sufficiently developed in the past to fully assess the short-term and long-term socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences of United Nations sanctions.” He added: “Sanctions regimes should avoid unintended consequences in the target State or third States which may lead to violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The observer for the European Union delegation, describing the Charter as the “constitution of nations”, said that sanctions are part of a toolbox used to maintain international peace and security. They must be implemented in full compliance with international law, she emphasized, urging the Security Council to strengthen due process in its implementation of such measures. The European Union remains committed to developing best practices and mitigating measures to ensure that sanctions can remain part of comprehensive policy approaches that promote respect for international law and reduce unintended consequences for persons not targeted by such measures. She said recent targeted sanctions are minimizing consequences for individuals not involved in policies that resulted in the need for sanctions. She went on to note that the relationship between various United Nations organs is clearly defined and does not require the Special Committee’s attention.
Ukraine’s representative, also speaking for the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, said that, 75 years since the Charter’s inception, and against all odds, it remains the primary legal instrument for the maintenance of international peace and security. Underlining the importance of the toolkit for the peaceful settlement of disputes, she urged the Russian Federation to assume its international responsibilities in relation to its aggression against Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia. Sanctions remain a powerful tool to promote stability, and targeted sanctions are helping to prevent unintended humanitarian effects, she said. States must unwaveringly respect the Charter as a means to ending protracted conflicts.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, declared: “International peace and security are at serious risk due to high-handedness and unilateralism.” The Security Council is openly curtailing the rights of sovereign States, including to the peaceful use of outer space and through the United Nations Command located on the Korean Peninsula, he said. As such, the Council is flagrantly violating the Charter, he noted, adding that encroachment on sovereignty and interference in internal affairs negates any discussions on strengthening international order.
Mexico’s representative recalled that his delegation proposed a discussion of the Charter Articles 4 and 51 to allow all Member States to express their view on, among other matters, the use of force against terrorist groups. “The interpretation and scope of these provisions are not being discussed in any United Nations forum,” he emphasized, setting aside concerns over duplication of work and noting that the Security Council has failed to respond to communications regarding Article 51. In commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, States have before them the opportunity to strengthen the role of the Special Committee, he stated.
Syria’s representative, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of strengthening the role of the United Nations on the basis of constructive self-criticism that addresses issues that erode trust. Concerns remain around cases in which States use Article 51 to violate the sovereign rights of other States, he noted. “The Security Council must ward off aggressors and have them withdraw troops,” he added, referring to the situation in his own country. Further, sanctions against Damascus are not targeted and adversely impact the day-to-day lives of common Syrians, he pointed out. “We are missing collective will to avoid politicization,” he concluded, calling for positive deliberations throughout the session.
The representative of the United States said Member States must dedicate themselves to preventive diplomacy, and the sessions of the Special Committee provide a key opportunity to advance such efforts. Emphasizing that the Special Committee must not pursue activities in the area of peace and security that duplicates efforts under way in other United Nations organs, she welcomed efforts to streamline the Special Committee’s work as part of broader initiatives to make better use of scarce resources. She stressed that the Special Committee must not be used as a forum for discussing bilateral matters and expressed opposition to deliberations on matters related to host country affairs and to Article 51 of the Charter, describing such deliberations as redundant.
Cuba’s representative, however, declared: “The Special Committee is the correct forum to interpret or negotiate any amendments to the Charter.” Associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, she said the Special Committee is also the appropriate framework for proposing recommendations on implementation of all the provisions contained in the Charter and to ensure that all Member States and United Nations organs act in accordance with its principles and purposes. However, certain States continue to hamper the Special Committee’s work by blocking the approval of important documents proposed by the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ghana and Libya that would ultimately strengthen the work of the United Nations, she noted. “We emphasize that all the actions carried out by the [Special] Committee are evidence of its remarkable role in the Organization, despite the continuous attempts by some Member States to hamper its work.”
China’s representative, pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic is compounding international security concerns, urged the international community to uphold multilateralism with the United Nations at its core. Emphasizing that the Special Committee is the only forum devoted to discussing the Charter, he pointed out that the maintenance of international peace and security lies at its very centre. “Sanctions are a means rather than an end,” he noted, calling upon the Security Council to take a prudent approach towards such measures, in keeping with international law. All parties must oppose the imposition of sanctions that contrive those being implemented by the United Nations, he stressed. Turning to the peaceful settlement of disputes, he said China will continue to play a positive role in responding to regional issues. He went on to note that, as a means of settling disputes, arbitration is widely used and depends on good political will on the part of the relevant parties.
The representative of the Republic of Korea declared: “United Nations sanctions are important tools to ensure international peace and security,” further noting with concern that several proposals before the Special Committee duplicate efforts under way within the Organization and could only undermine that work. “The Special Committee must be more efficient,” he said, adding that the upcoming fortieth anniversary of the Manila Declaration presents a timely opportunity for Member States to reflect on the Special Committee’s work. Responding to comments about his country, he said the Special Committee is not the appropriate forum in which to discuss the United Nations Command.
Guatemala’s representative called upon Member States to reflect on the Charter as a means to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security and respect among States. “All States are compelled to solve their international disputes through peaceful means,” he said, citing the Manila Declaration and reaffirming the Security Council’s indispensable role in the maintenance of international peace and security.
Burkina Faso’s representative, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the United Nations must tailor its working methods to address present crises. Welcoming ongoing debates on matters related to the peaceful settlement of disputes, he emphasized: “Peaceful settlement of disputes is the bedrock of the United Nations.” He added that such efforts rely on cooperation. “There can be no peaceful settlement of disputes without upholding the principle of non-intervention.” He called upon the international community to respect common values and place its trust in the International Court of Justice. For sanctions to be effective, they must be proportionate and time-bound, he stressed.
The Russian Federation’s representative said the Special Committee’s work is central to addressing legal matters and advancing international peace and security. To that end, it must consider proposals to strengthen the role of the United Nations, she said. Recalling her country’s initiative to strengthen the core principle of non-use of force, she described questions of legitimate use of force against terrorists as a complicated matter. She went on to stress that the Special Committee is the adequate forum to address Mexico’s proposal on Charter Articles 2 and 51. Expressing concern over unilateral coercive measures imposed outside Security Council auspices, she warned that such measures affect the most vulnerable people in targeted countries, and in light of the pandemic’s consequences, Member States must refrain from imposing them. Turning to the peaceful resolution of disputes, she stressed that States are duty-bound to resolve such issues by leveraging means and mechanisms determined amongst the relevant parties.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea described the United Nations presence on the Korean Peninsula as anachronistic, and the United Nations Command as a tool of the United States. He urged the Special Committee to take urgent measures to implement relevant General Assembly decisions on the matter.
At the meeting’s outset, the Special Committee elected Edgar Daniel Leal Matta (Guatemala) as Chair of the 2021 session; Mamadou Racine Ly (Senegal), Mohd Hafiz Othman (Malaysia) and Mladen Bručić-Matic (Croatia) as Vice-Chairs; and Sarah Weiss Ma’udi (Israel) as Rapporteur. Members also adopted the session’s provisional agenda (document A/AC.182/L.156).
Also speaking today were representatives of the Philippines, Bangladesh, Iran, Egypt, Armenia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Côte d’Ivoire, Turkey, Algeria, Honduras, Zimbabwe, India, Nepal, Azerbaijan, Peru, Morocco, Haiti, Venezuela and Sudan.
The Special Committee will convene its various working groups at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 February.