16 February 2016
281st Meeting* (AM)

Economic Sanctions, Working Methods Focus as Special Committee on Charter Opens Week-Long Session

The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization opened its 2016 session today with delegations debating questions related to economic sanctions, reform and working methods.

The United Nations Charter was a living document, said Janine Elizabeth Coye-Felson (Belize), who was elected Committee Chair at the outset of the meeting.  As such, she urged the Committee to aim the session’s focus on enhancing the ability of the United Nations to do its job.

Discussing a range of ways to accomplish that, delegates also raised concerns about the Security Council’s encroaching reach, a lingering lack of political will within the Committee and the need to take concrete action.  Summing up a common view, South Africa’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, said the Committee had not lived up to its potential, largely because of its working methods and a “tendency to allow ideological battles to prevent us from performing our function, which is legal analysis”.

Continuing, he said the Security Council must become more representative before reviewing its own working methods.  “Maintaining the status quo will only contribute to the further erosion of its credibility and legitimacy and will lead to the weakening of the Organization, the precise opposite of the purpose of this Committee,” he said.  Echoing a view voiced by several delegates, he expressed hope that the Committee would “break free from ideological chains” and meaningfully discuss Ghana’s proposal on strengthening the relationship and cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations.

Similarly, speakers urged progress on reaching an agreement on other proposals, including one from the Russian Federation and Belarus that would request an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice as to the legal consequences of the resort to the use of force by States without prior authorization by the Security Council, except in the exercise of the right to self-defence.  Emphasizing a general desire voiced today for action over rhetoric, Cuba’s delegate said the Committee must end its “heel dragging” on the issues before it.

Delegates also addressed sanctions and the Security Council’s role.  Iran’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concerns about the 15-member body’s “encroachment” on issues that fell under the purview of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  Reform should be carried out based on Charter principles, he said, noting that the Committee should continue to study elements that included the implications of Chapter IV of the Charter, which pertained to the General Assembly’s functions.

Security Council-imposed sanctions were another concern, he continued.  The imposition of sanctions should be a last resort, imposed only when there was a threat to international security or the crime of aggression, he said.  They should be for a specified time frame, lifted when the goals were achieved and subjected to periodic review.  Unilateral sanctions against developing countries violated the principles of the Charter, not to mention World Trade Organization regulations, he stressed.

In a related thread of the discussion, delegates debated the issue of the Special Committee’s role in providing assistance to third States affected by economic sanctions.  To that end, the representative of the European Union said, given the findings of the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, it was no longer relevant for the Committee to take it up annually.  Recognizing the Committee’s divergent views in that regard, she expressed hope that it would make progress in the direction of a proposal for the issue to be taken up every three years.

Representing another perspective, the delegate from the Dominican Republic, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that although no country had required such assistance and that the nature of the matter was primarily preventive in that regard, “this does not imply that the item should be eliminated”.

Some States raised the issue of Charter violations that had been identified using double standards and selectivity.  Syria’s representative said his country had been a victim of Charter violations by groups and Governments.  That included arming international foreign terrorists operating within Syrian borders and recent actions by Turkey, such as supporting mercenaries and attacking Kurdish Syrians.

Those and related actions were violations of international law and the Charter, he continued.  Further, attempts by some Member States to justify military action in Syria without coordinating with the Syrian Government represented a manipulation of the Charter principles and would lead to a promotion of terrorism.  The only means that would combat terrorism would be within the Charter and the participation of relevant countries.

Also today, the Committee approved its programme of work and elected the following Vice-Chairs:  Mehdi Remaoun (Algeria) of the African Group and Nicolae Comănescu (Romania) of the Eastern European Group.  Nadia Kalb (Austria) was elected as Rapporteur.  The Asia-Pacific Group was encouraged to nominate a candidate for the third Vice-Chair position.

Delivering statements were representatives of Colombia, Sudan, Algeria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United States, Nicaragua, Republic of Korea, Morocco and Thailand.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Turkey.

The session, which will continue through 24 February, will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 17 February to continue its consideration of topics related to the maintenance of international peace and security.


*     The 280th Meeting was covered in Press Release L/3245 of 25 February 2015.

For information media. Not an official record.