Sixth Committee Approves Three Requests for Observer Status, as Working Groups Report Progress, ongoing Challenges

After receiving oral reports of four different Working Groups, the Sixth committee today approved without a vote three resolutions recommending to the General Assembly requests for Observer status.

By the terms of the resolution on Observer status for the Conference of Ministers of Justice of the Ibero?American Countries, the General Assembly would invite that organization to participate in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly in the capacity of observers. The Conference encouraged coordination and consultation between countries of the Ibero?American community on international and transnational matters.

The request for Observer status by the International Youth Organization for Ibero?America in the General Assembly was also approved without a vote by the Sixth Committee. That organization, which had led the elaboration of the first international treaty on the rights of youth, was focused on designing and implementing public policies that facilitated the contributions of young people to social transformation.

In addition, the resolution on Observer status for the Pacific Islands Development Forum in the General Assembly was approved without a vote. The Forum aimed to improve the connection between the United Nations and work carried out in that region.

The Sixth Committee also had before it the draft resolution on Observer status for the International Conference of Asian Political Parties in the General Assembly. However, the sponsors of that draft had informed the Committee that, while reserving the right to present it at a future session, they did not wish to pursue the request for Observer status at the current session.

Presenting his report as Chair of the Working Group on measures to eliminate international terrorism, the representative of Sri Lanka said that while delegations generally reaffirmed their commitment to the negotiating process, there were outstanding issues that remain unresolved.

Among those issues was that the definition of terrorism to be clear and comprehensive as possible, he said. Some delegations had noted such a definition must be broad enough to encompass acts of all terrorist groups, while others underscored that the pre?eminence of international humanitarian law must be respected at all times, including in situations of foreign occupation, so as not to render unlawful acts that were lawful and governed by that law.

Some delegations had affirmed that the 2007 proposal contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on its sixteenth session still constituted a valid departing point that had not been rejected outright by any delegations, he said. As well, despite preferring the text that arose from negotiations in 2002, there were delegations ready to consider the 2007 text as a possible way forward.

Mr. Perera also underscored that delegations had discussed the possibility of convening a high?level conference on the matter. However, the representative of Egypt, the sponsor delegation, had reminded the Working Group that the proposal to hold a conference had been made a decade earlier, and had stressed that differences in opinion on the subject of a convention were of a political nature and could only be resolved at that level. Still, he said, it was observed that during the current session a fresh interest to engage had appeared among delegations.

Brazil's delegate, presenting the Working Group's report on responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts, which he chaired, said that a number of delegations had spoken in favour of moving towards a convention on the basis of the articles, emphasizing that it would strengthen the rule of law and enhance legal certainty.

Others, however, argued that there was no need for a convention as the articles were already widely accepted, he said. Some of those delegations suggested instead that the articles be adopted an annex to a General Assembly resolution or as a General Assembly declaration. Delegations also discussed either annualizing the meetings of the Group, while others noted the value of the passage of time and suggested decreasing the periodicity of the consideration of the agenda item.

South Africa's representative, Chair of the Working Group on diplomatic protection, reported that several delegations had spoken in favour of an eventual adoption of the draft articles as a convention, emphasizing the important role of those texts in developing rules of customary international law. Nonetheless, others had opposed such an outcome. He noted the Working Group was focused on reaching agreement on a draft resolution deferring a decision on the fate of the draft articles to a future session.

The representative of Costa Rica, Chair of the Working Group on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction said delegations had focused their discussions on the pillar of application. Revisions had been made that focused on the manner in which normative pointers were presented. As well, points had been revised which discussed sources of potentially applicable crimes subject to the exercise of universal jurisdiction as treaty or customary international law.

The Sixth Committee also heard introductions to draft resolutions on diplomatic protection; consideration of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities and allocation of loss in the case of such harm; the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction; and a request for Observer status for the Central American Bank for Economic Integration in the General Assembly.

Participating today were representatives of South Africa, Czech Republic, Honduras and Kenya.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 November, to consider revitalization of the work of the General Assembly and to take action on further draft resolutions.

Reports of Working Groups

PATRICK LUNA (Brazil), Chair of the Working Group on responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts, noted the documents before the Group, including the written comments submitted by Governments in the report of the Secretary?General (document A/71/79) as well as another update of the compilation of decisions in which the articles and the accompanying commentaries were referenced by international courts, tribunal and other bodies, now related to the period between 2013 and 2016 (document A/71/80).

Recalling the divergence of opinion on the relevant articles during the plenary, he said that at the Group's first meeting, delegations were asked to elaborate on their positions and underlying concerns in order to identify areas of convergence and divergence. An increased number of delegations had spoken in favour of moving towards a convention on the basis of the articles, pointing to the extensive reliance on the articles by international courts and tribunals. They emphasized that a convention would strengthen the rule of law and enhance legal certainty, while also lessening the currently inconsistent application of the articles.

Other delegations argued that there would be no need of a convention, stating that the articles were already widely accepted and had gained sufficient authority, he continued. It was also argued that the secondary norms might not be suitable for codification and the articles would be more valuable in their current form. Furthermore, a negotiating exercise could undermine the coherence of the articles and result in a watered?down text.

He went on to say that among those delegations opposing a convention, some suggested adopting the articles as an annex to a General Assembly resolution or in the form of a General Assembly declaration. At the second meeting of the Group, he had outlined the different points of view on any possible action in a non?paper entitled "Informal Working Notes from the Chair".

Delegations had used the second and third meetings to exchange views on the suggestions contained in that paper. One of them was annualizing the meetings of the Working Group, he continued. Other delegations noted the value of the passage of time and suggested decreasing the periodicity of the consideration of the agenda item. The exchange of views in the Working Group had formed the basis of informal consultations on a draft resolution, which then continued outside the framework of the Group. A draft resolution would be introduced on the matter.

THEMBILE JOYINI (South Africa), Chair of the Working Group on Diplomatic Protection, said that in light of differences of opinion expressed during the debate in the plenary, the Working Group's primary task had been to solicit the views of Governments on a feasible way forward. Several States had spoken in favour of the eventual adoption of the draft articles as a convention and stressed, inter alia, the important role the articles were playing in clarifying and developing rules of customary international law.

Other delegations, however, had continued to oppose such an outcome, he continued. Some had suggested that a road map be made for the Working Group, but at the present stage, delegations were not in a position to suggest more specific elements. More time was needed to consult and further develop and articulate their respective positions on a process to move the work forward.

Given that, he said that the focus of the Working Group at the present session was on reaching agreement on a draft resolution deferring a decision on the fate of the draft articles to a future session. He would introduce a draft resolution on the matter in due course. He urged delegations to "keep the matter" under consideration during the intersessional period, with a view of making concrete proposals on how to proceed the next time the topic was to be discussed.

He also suggested that thought might be given to developing a "dual?track" approach, whereby delegations could exchange views on both the content and possible final form of the draft articles. Those texts included elements of both codification and progressive development of international law. Such reflection, he underscored, would be preliminary in nature and without prejudice to the other focus on State responsibility. In fact, an examination of the nature and linkage between the two sets of articles could be initiated in the future

GEORGINA GUILLA�N-GRILLO (Costa Rica) said that the Working Group held three informal consultations, on 13, 14 and 21 October 2016. At the first meeting, she had presented an overview of past proceedings, including the discussions that had led to the establishment and refinement of an informal working paper. She had underscored that issues raised in the paper were illustrative and without prejudice to future proposals made by delegations. Furthermore, the document did not reflect consensus among delegations and was expected to be subject to further deliberation.

The Working Group focused on the third column of the informal working paper on the pillar of application, she continued. A number of revisions were made to the third column that focused primarily on the manner in which normative pointers were presented; those changes were reflected in the updated informal working paper. At the end of the second meeting, she had proposed that such pointers be included in the first two pillars identified in the roadmap, namely on definition of the principle of universal jurisdiction and on the scope of the principle.

Based on discussions on the third column for those two pillars, she said, the first two bullet points had been revised in order to achieve greater clarity. Those points focused on the sources of potentially applicable crimes subject to the exercise of universal jurisdiction as treaty or customary international law. Absent a specific obligation making the application of universal jurisdiction mandatory, its exercise was subject to the decision of individual States.

Looking back, she noted that the Working Group had certainly achieved progress over its six years of work, moving from a very concise roadmap outlining areas on which to focus, through individual discussion papers, to a combined set of elements on each of the three pillars, to the current full set of normative pointers covering all three pillars. In that vein, she commended all delegations for their fruitful contribution to the advancement of the Working Group.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), Chair of the Working Group on Measures to eliminate international terrorism, said that the Group had before it the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on its sixteenth session, which contained the preamble and articles 1, 2 and 4 to 27 of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, prepared by the Bureau. The Group also had before it letters from the representative of Egypt to the Secretary?General, dated 1 September 2005, to the Chair of the Sixth Committee.

Giving an informal summary of the exchange of views of the Working Group, he said that during the consultations, delegations generally reaffirmed their commitment to the negotiating process and mentioned the outstanding issues that remain unresolved. Some delegations reiterated the need for all proposals to be fully taken into account so that the definition of terrorism was as clear and comprehensive as possible. Others affirmed that there was a need for political will to overcome the remaining differences. In addition, it was noted that changing the name of the draft comprehensive convention might help in managing expectations as to the scope of the convention. That change might facilitate the process to move forward, although some doubts were expressed in that regard.

He stated that some delegations had affirmed that the 2007 proposal contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on its sixteenth session still constituted a valid departing point that had not been rejected outright by any delegations. As well, despite preferring the text that arose from negotiations in 2002, there were delegations ready to consider the 2007 text as a possible way forward.

It was noted by some that the definition of terrorism must be broad enough to encompass acts of all terrorist groups, he said. Some speakers underscored that the pre?eminence of international humanitarian law must be respected at all times, including in situations of foreign occupation, so as not to render unlawful acts that were lawful and governed by that law. Delegations also exchanged views in relation to draft article 3(18), and a proposal was advanced to refer to the definition of national liberation movements. The question was also raised as to whether the reference to "armed forces" would include State and non?State actors.

In addition, several delegations expressed the view that the timing of discussions might be reassessed and that perhaps having consultations biennially was now called for, he continued. However, other delegations said that, in the absence of political agreement, the time had come to perhaps acknowledge that consensus was unattainable and consultations should be suspended.

He went on to say that the Coordinator of the Working Group had given an account of efforts to advance the consultations concerning completion of the draft comprehensive convention. There was a willingness that had emerged to continue redoubling efforts during the intersessional period. The Coordinator had also said that although some delegations had proposed to have a formal intersessional meeting, the predominant view was that an informal setting would be more conducive to advancing the negotiations. Outstanding issues included the scope of the convention, the reference to "armed forces" and the question of what conduct was "not unlawful".

He underscored that delegations had commented on the question of convening a high?level conference to formulate an organized response by the international community. The representative of Egypt, which was the sponsor delegation, had reminded the Working Group that the proposal to hold a conference had been made a decade earlier. The representative had also reiterated that differences inopinion concerning the draft comprehensive convention were of a political nature and could only be resolved at that level. The Friends of the Chair, the Coordinator, and the Chair, himself, were all heartened to note a fresh interest to engage that had appeared among delegations. Issues of concern revolved around draft article 3(18) and the scope of the exception reflected by the "choice of law" clause.

Draft resolutions

The representative of South Africa introduced the draft on diplomatic protection (document A/C.6/71/L.14).

Following that, the representative of Czech Republic introduced the draft on consideration of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities and allocation of loss in the case of such harm (document A/C.6/71/L.20).

The draft resolution on Observer status for the Central American Bank for Economic Integration in the General Assembly (documents A/C.6/71/L.19 and A/71/141/Rev.1) was then introduced by the representative of Honduras. The Bank promoted economic integration and the balanced socio-economic development of the Central American region and aimed to forge multilateral partnerships under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The representative of Kenya then introduced the draft resolution on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (document A/C.6/71/L.23).

The Sixth Committee then approved without a vote the resolution on Observer status for the Conference of Ministers of Justice of the Ibero?American Countries in the General Assembly (document A/C.6/71/L.5).

Also approved without a vote was the resolution on Observer status for the International Youth Organization for Ibero?America in the General Assembly (document A/C.6/71/L.6).

The Sixth Committee also approved without a vote the resolution on Observer status for the Pacific Islands Development Forum in the General Assembly (document A/C.6/71/L.8).

Regarding the draft resolution on Observer status for the International Conference of Asian Political Parties in the General Assembly, the Chair informed the Committee that the sponsors of that draft had informed him that they did not wish to pursue the request for Observer status for that organization at the current session, while reserving the right to present it at a future session.

Source: United Nations.

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