21 February 2017
284th Meeting (AM)

Speakers Debate Working Methods, United Nations Reform, as Special Committee on Charter Opens 2017 Session

The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization opened its 2017 session today with delegates debating questions related to sanctions, working methods and United Nations reform.

Throughout the half-day meeting, delegates hailed the United Nations Charter as the cornerstone of contemporary international relations and the Special Committee as instrumental to fostering adherence to it.  Success depended on political will, speakers said, and the body’s ability to update its work methods.

In that context, many expressed hope that the “constructive” and “dynamic” spirit of both the 2016 session and a recent intersessional meeting would again prevail, especially in discussions on proposals for strengthening the United Nations.  Many recalled examples of the Special Committee’s role in the creation of the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes between States and publication of the related handbook.  “The United Nations Charter is the most important document when it comes to the rule of law at the international level,” said the representative of Mauritius, making the Committee’s responsibilities all the more essential.

Delegates also commended the Committee’s efforts to update the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs — a legal publication containing studies of decisions taken under each of the Charter’s articles — and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council, which covers that body’s interpretation and application of the Charter since 1946.  Morocco’s delegate called it meticulous work that would benefit future generations, while a few speakers expressed regret over discrepancies in the Repertory’s volume 3 and urged that it be updated.

Differences emerged over the use of sanctions, with many speakers cautioning that their imposition should be considered only as a last resort and for a specific time frame.  A priority, said El Salvador’s representative for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), was consideration of Charter provisions on assistance to third States affected by sanctions implemented under Chapter VII.  Simply because no country required assistance did not mean they should disappear from the agenda.  He cited a report by the Secretary-General outlining that no State had addressed the Council’s sanctions committees on the economic problems derived from sanctions implementation.

The Security Council’s encroachment on issues that fell outside its remit was another recurrent theme.  Iran’s delegate, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressing such concerns, said reform of the United Nations should be carried out in accordance with the Charter’s principles and procedures.  He pressed the Special Committee to examine the legal aspects of that process and continue to study Articles 10-14 of the Charter’s Chapter IV.  The group’s proposal on pacific dispute settlement and its impacts on the maintenance of peace (document A/70/33), which encouraged States to share their best practices, had been revised to include the concerns of some delegations.  The main elements were outlined in a non-paper which would be distributed in the Working Group of the Whole.

Mohammed Bessedik (Algeria), on behalf of the African Group, said the Special Committee had allowed ideological battles to prevent it from performing its main task of legal analysis.  It should ensure the United Nations lived up to its goals of the rule of law and justice.  “The Organization cannot demand of its members to adhere to the rule of law while it makes no attempt to demonstrate or reflect this important principle,” he said.  The Group supported Ghana’s proposal on strengthening the relationship and cooperation between the United Nations and regional arrangements or agencies in the peaceful settlement of disputes.

“Our main focus should be kept on constructive and meaningful work to the benefit of the entire membership,” said the European Union’s representative.  Sanctions had been targeted to increase their efficiency and attain agreed objectives, while minimizing their impacts on civilians and third parties.  He looked forward to the briefing by the Secretary-General on issues covered by Assembly resolution 64/115 titled “introduction and implementation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations”.

Cuba’s delegate objected to attempts to hinder the Special Committee’s approval of important documents that would strengthen the United Nations, including a proposal by the Russian Federation.  Common ground must be found to achieve results that strengthened the Organization.  She opposed any reduction in the Committee’s work, instead expressing support for its current agenda.  Indeed, added Nicaragua’s delegate, the Committee’s large workload did not merit calls to biennialize its sessions.

On that point, the United States delegate said the Committee must continue to rationalize its work.  It made “good practical sense” that, during the 2016 session, it had agreed to biennialize consideration of its item on third country effects of sanctions.  While imperfect, biennialization reflected a better balance between the views of those who believed the issue was no longer appropriate for Committee consideration and those who believed otherwise.

Belarus’ representative said that, in finalizing its joint proposal with the Russian Federation, which would request an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legal consequences of States use of sanctions without Security Council authorization, her country would consider any productive proposals so that the Committee could present a consensus document to the General Assembly.

Others drew attention to the important role of partnership.  Sudan’s delegate said the United Nations should encourage regional mechanisms to play their role in ensuring peace and security, in line with the Charter’s Chapter VIII, while Bangladesh’s representative said the United Nations tended to invite expertise and resources into the “firefighting” only after armed conflict had broken out.  “We should reflect on how to use the Committee to enhance our understanding,” he said, and use tools such as mediation, arbitration and international judicial opinion to peacefully settle disputes.  Partnerships with regional organizations deserved to be accommodated within the Charter’s framework.

The Committee elected Ruslan Varankov (Belarus) as Chair of the Special Committee, while Elsadig Ali Sayed Ahmed (Sudan), Christian Karstensen (Denmark) and Shaharussin Onn (Malaysia) were elected as Vice-Chairs.  Isais Medina (Venezuela) was elected as Rapporteur.  The Committee also adopted the provisional agenda (document A/AC.182/L.145).

Also speaking today were representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Peru, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Venezuela and China.

The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 March, to continue its session.

For information media. Not an official record.