The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization concluded its annual session today, adopting its 2020 draft report and forwarding a series of recommendations to the General Assembly.
Mine Özgul (Turkey), Vice-Chair of the Special Committee, introduced the draft report on behalf of Rapporteur Alis Lungu (Romania). In keeping with past practice, she led members through a paragraph-by-paragraph overview of its contents.
The five-chapter report (documents A/AC.182/2020/L.1 to L.11) begins with an introduction describing deliberations during the Special Committee’s current session, which began in New York on 18 February.
Adopted as orally amended, the document outlines proposals submitted by delegations related to the items on the Special Committee’s agenda: maintenance of international peace and security; peaceful settlement of disputes; Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council; and working methods and identification of new subjects.
The Repertory is a legal publication that analyses the decisions of the Organization’s principal organs under each of the Articles of the Charter of the United Nations. The Repertoire has been a constitutional and procedural guide to the proceedings of the Security Council since 1946.
Chapter II of the draft report, on the maintenance of international peace and security, is divided into six sections. Those tackle a range of topics, including the introduction and implementation of sanctions by the United Nations and the implementation of the Charter relating to assistance to third States affected by the imposition of sanctions.
The representative of the Russian Federation proposed the addition of a new paragraph in Chapter II, by which the General Assembly would commemorate the tenth anniversary of the drafting of the Annex titled “Introduction and Implementation of Sanctions Imposed by the United Nations”. The proposal was supported by the representatives of Iran, Cuba and Belarus, while the representatives of the United States, European Union and United Kingdom disagreed with its wording and described the proposed paragraph as too proscriptive.
Following that discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation retracted the proposed amendment and instead suggested an altered version of the existing paragraph — which would have the Assembly “mark the tenth anniversary” of the Annex. Members agreed to that oral amendment and it was approved.
Also considered in Chapter II are a revised proposal by the delegation of Libya, aimed at strengthening the United Nations role in the maintenance of international peace and security; a revised working paper submitted by Cuba, titled “Strengthening the role of the Organization and enhancing its effectiveness: adoption of recommendations”; a revised working paper submitted by Ghana on “Strengthening the relationship and cooperation between the United Nations and regional arrangements or agencies in the peaceful settlement of disputes”; and a revised working paper submitted by Belarus and the Russian Federation proposing that an advisory opinion be sought from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the use of force by States without prior authorization by the Security Council, except in self-defence.
Chapter III on the peaceful settlement of disputes reflects the various views expressed on that topic during the Special Committee’s general debate, as well as a summary of its annual thematic debate on the subtopic “Exchange of information on State practices regarding the use of conciliation”. Among other things, the Chapter outlines discussions on a proposal by the Russian Federation to recommend that the Secretariat be requested to establish a website on the peaceful settlement of disputes, and to update the Handbook on Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States. It also reflects a proposal to focus on the subtopic “Exchange of information on State practices regarding the use of arbitration” during the Special Committee’s next thematic debate, in 2021.
A discussion emerged on the contents of paragraph 4 of Section A of Chapter III. The representative of Ukraine drew attention to the Special Committee’s discussions on that item, which he said touched on the dispute between Ukraine and the Russian Federation “as a practical example” and proposed that those discussions be reflected in Chapter III. Such an amendment would be both factual and based on existing consensual language, he said. While the proposal was supported by the delegates of the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, the Russian Federation’s delegate — echoed by those of China, Syria, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — pointed out that no other specific dispute is referenced in Chapter III. As such, the proposed amendment would alter the draft report’s neutral and impartial character.
The Special Committee suspended its session several times for further consultation on that item. A first attempt at compromise language, proposed by the delegate of Mexico, was deemed acceptable by Ukraine but rejected by the Russian Federation. The representative of Ukraine put forward a revised amendment, proposing language that would refer to a dispute before the International Court of Justice, but which would not mention specific States. That version was supported by the representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, Georgia and the European Union. However, the Russian Federation’s delegate rejected it, and instead proposed language — supported by the representatives of Iran, Syria and Cuba — which she described as more neutral.
As consensus could not be reached, the amendment proposed by Ukraine was ultimately not approved and the original language in paragraph 4 was retained. The representative of Ukraine expressed regret over the Russian Federation’s unwillingness to compromise and voiced alarm over its shift away from previously accepted consensus language, warning that such a move is a clear demonstration of the way Moscow intends to behave in the future.
Meanwhile, the representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan took divergent views of paragraph 2 of the same section. The former voiced concern over references to specific principles of international law — namely, State sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs — and asked that they be deleted from the draft report in favour of more generic language. He proposed amended language that would be more politically neutral and better capture what was said during the Special Committee’s discussions. The representative of Azerbaijan rejected the proposal, requesting that the section’s current wording be retained. The representative of Algeria voiced support for the proposed amendment, while the representative of Morocco called for the retention of the original text.
The Special Committee ultimately approved paragraph 2 with compromise language proposed by the Bureau. It noted that, during the Special Committee’s discussions, some delegations spotlighted “all the purposes and principles” of international law, while others underlined the particular importance of State sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.
Chapter IV of the draft report reflects Special Committee’s consideration of the Repertory and the Repertoire. By the terms of several draft recommendations — approved by the Special Committee, and to be included in Chapter IV of the report if adopted — members would have the General Assembly note with appreciation Member States’ contributions to trust funds for eliminating the backlog in the Repertory and for updating the Repertoire, as well as financial support for a launch of a revamped website for the latter. The Assembly would encourage Member States to identify academic institutions capable of contributing to the preparation of studies for the Repertory and welcome the initiative to invite members of the International Law Commission to recommend academic institutions for that purpose. It would call on the Secretary-General to continue efforts towards updating the two publications and making them available electronically in their respective language versions and encourage the continued updating of the Repertory website. The Assembly would also note with concern that the backlog in preparing volume III of the Repertory — while slightly reduced — has not been eliminated and call on the Secretary-General to address that matter on a priority basis.
Chapter V of the Special Committee’s draft report, on its working methods and identification of new subjects, contains summaries of deliberations on those items during the present session. Several discussions emerged on Chapter V, with some delegates proposing specific wording changes which were agreed to as oral revisions. The representative of Iran said his delegation’s views on the identification of new subjects are not adequately reflected in the Chapter — especially as relates to the Security Council’s work — and proposed the insertion of additional language, to which members agreed.
Annexes I to III of the final report, if adopted by the General Assembly, will reproduce texts of the various proposals submitted at the present session by the delegations of Mexico, Iran and Syria.