Taking Up International Trade Commission Report, Sixth Committee Speakers Applaud Adoption of Texts on Electronic Commerce, Secure Transactions

Delegates Defer 4 Requests for Observer Status until Seventy-third Session

While deferring action on four observer requests, the Sixth Committee took up the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) fiftieth session that included possibilities of reform, as well as the finalization and adoption of two legislative texts in the areas of electronic commerce and secured transactions.

Considering eight requests for observer status in the work of the General Assembly, the Committee also decided to defer action on the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Community of Democracies and the Global Environment Facility until the seventy-third session of the General Assembly.

Janos Martonyi (Hungary), Chair of UNCITRAL introduced the Commission’s report (document A/72/17), which he said was the result of a comprehensive session that covered a wide-ranging variety of issues.  Spotlighting the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and Explanatory Notes, he said that text should bring a number of benefits to commerce due to speed and security of transmission.  The second text, Guide to Enactment of the Secured Transactions Model Law, would provide key assistance to legislators.

Turning to the Working Groups, he noted that the Commission had given its Working Group III a mandate to work on the possible reform of investor-State dispute settlement.  Broad discretion in that mandate would be left to the Working Group.  Recommended solutions should also allow States to choose to what extent they wished to adopt relevant resolutions.

Contractual issues related to cloud computing had been the focus of Working Group IV on Electronic Commerce, he said.  The Group had begun to compile a checklist of contractual issues on that matter.  Working Group V, meanwhile, had continued to work on a model law on the recognition and enforcement of insolvency-related judgements.

Working Group I on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises had focused on the initial stages of those organizations, looking for measures to support both their establishment and their ongoing viability, he said.  Working Group II on Dispute Settlement had made progress on a range of issues, from the legal effect of agreements to the treatment of settlement agreements concluded in the course of judicial or arbitral proceeding.

Also noteworthy was the work of the UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific based in Incheon, Republic of Korea, which had continued to provide capacity building and technical assistance to States and international and regional organizations.  The Centre had taken part in many regionally-based international trade law alliances, including other appropriate United Nations bodies.

Speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), El Salvador’s delegate hailed UNCITRAL for ensuring the representation of various geographical regions and the major economic and legal systems of the world.  However, challenges in codifying international trade law were increasing.  The nature of commerce at the global level was undergoing modification due to incessant technological development and the diversification of commercial activities.  The Commission must adapt, as much as possible, to the dynamics of trade activities. 

In that vein, the representative of Bahrain noted that a proposal by his Government to establish an UNCITRAL regional centre for the Middle East and North Africa had been approved by the Commission.  Among other things, the centre would aim to increase familiarity with UNCITRAL texts in the region, give technical assistance to States in the region on the adoption and use of those texts and enable coordination with international and regional organizations on trade law reform projects in the region.

Because electronic identity continued to be a significant concern internationally, the United Kingdom’s representative expressed his support for the progress made by Working Group IV on Electronic Commerce, which included in its work the inclusion of verified electronic identity and strong authentication for online digital transactions supporting international trade.  The issue was a key element being the creation of interoperability and trust frameworks, he stressed.

The Committee also considered the matter of the Administration of Justice at the United Nations, with representatives taking up reports addressing the United Nations Offices that fulfilled aspects of that duty, including the Internal Justice Council, the United Nations Ombudsman and the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, among others.

Speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Jamaica said that certain trends should be looked at, particularly in the light of United Nations reform efforts.  For example, while the Secretariat had made considerable investments to improve relations between the Organization and its staff, there had been a relatively high rate of overturn by the Appeals Tribunal in cases coming from the Dispute Tribunal.

Also voicing concern, the representative of the United States pointed out that the Internal Justice Council’s report showed that a substantial fear of retaliation existed among staff, and, during the reporting period of the report, there were no findings on the accountability of managers, she said.

However, the European Union delegate highlighted the work of the Management Evaluation Unit, noting that the high quality of its work could be seen in the low proportion of cases challenged by staff members before the Dispute Tribunal.  The Office of Staff Legal Assistance was also instrumental in avoiding unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings, he noted.

Speaking today on UNCITRAL were representatives of Austria, Philippines, Singapore, Peru, India, Japan, Russian Federation, Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, Belarus, Italy, Chile, Indonesia, Honduras, United States, Israel, Cameroon, and Morocco, as well as the European Union and the International Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking on the granting of observer status were representatives of Cuba, Venezuela, China, Togo, Viet Nam, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru, Ecuador, Singapore, Philippines, Japan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uruguay, United States, and Colombia.

Speaking today on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations were representatives of El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Canada (also speaking for Australia and New Zealand), Switzerland, Mexico, and Guatemala.

The Sixth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 10 October, to take up its consideration of the Report on the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization and to commence the debate on the Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction.

United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)

JANOS MARTONYI (Hungary), Chair of the fiftieth session of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), introduced the Commission’s report (document A/72/17), describing the session as comprehensive and touching upon a wide range of issues.

The Commission had finalized and adopted two legislative texts in the areas of electronic commerce and shared transactions, he said.  The UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and Explanatory Notes should bring a number of benefits to commerce due to speed and security of transmission.  It also built on existing texts on electronic commerce and on the principles of functional equivalence and technological neutrality.  The second text, Guide to Enactment of the Secured Transactions Model Law, would provide useful assistance to legislators.

Working Group I on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises had made progress in addressing its mandates to reduce the legal obstacles faced by such businesses throughout their life cycle, he said.  Efforts in that Working Group focused on the first stage of the life cycle of such enterprises, on measures to facilitate the establishment of such businesses and to support their viability once they were in existence.

Meanwhile, Working Group II on Dispute Settlement had continued its work on the preparation of an instrument to deal with the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from conciliation, he continued.  It had made progress related to the compromise reached at its sixty-sixth session regarding the legal effect of agreements, the treatment of settlement agreements concluded in the course of judicial or arbitral proceeding and possible opt-in declaration by parties, among other matters.

Working Group IV on Electronic Commerce had worked on legal aspects of identity management and trust services, as well as contractual issues related to cloud computing, he noted.  It had begun its preparation of a checklist of contractual issues of cloud computing by identifying the content and structure of that checklist.  Work in the area of identity management and trust services would require more brainstorming to crystalize the issues to be addressed.

Turning to Working Group V on insolvency, he said that it had continued to make progress with its work on a model law on the recognition and enforcement of insolvency-related judgements, as well as on legislative provisions on facilitating the cross-border insolvency of multinational enterprise groups.  The model law was nearing completion and a draft text, together with a guide to enactment, would likely be submitted for consideration by the Commission in 2018.  Once those texts had been finalized, the Working Group would consider the treatment of micro, small and medium-sized businesses in insolvency, with regard to which preliminary work had already begun.

He also noted that the Commission had given its Working Group III a mandate to work on the possible reform of investor-State dispute settlement.  The Working Group would identify concerns on that matter and consider whether reform was desirable.  The Commission also agreed that broad discretion in that mandate should be left to the Working Group and any recommended solutions should take into account the ongoing work of relevant international organizations and should allow each State the choice of whether and to what extent it wished to adopt the relevant resolutions.

The Committee had made progress carrying out the various legislative projects on technical assistance and coordination, he said, adding that it was aware that the development of those legislative texts was only the first step in the process of trade law harmonization.  Dissemination of information and the conduct of promotion activities as well as technical cooperation and assistance projects were vital to the further use, adoption and interpretation of UNCITRAL texts.  In that respect, he commended the efforts by the Secretariat to provide information and to share practical experience in the enactment of those texts.

The UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific based in Incheon, Republic of Korea, had continued to provide capacity building and technical assistance to States, as well as international and regional organizations.  The Centre had promoted certainty in international commercial transactions through the dissemination of international trade norms and standards.  There was now a tangible increase of accessions, ratifications and enactments of UNCITRAL texts in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Regional Centre had actively participated in regionally-based international trade law partnerships and alliances, including with other appropriate United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies.

He stressed that it was of the utmost importance for the Commission to promote the uniform interpretation and application of its texts.  One of the ways that was pursued was through the Case Law on UNICTRAL Texts system (CLOUT).  As a result of collaboration between the UNICTRAL Secretariat and a network of national correspondents appointed by Member States, information on court decisions and arbitral awards interpreting UNICITRAL legislative texts were being published in the

In response to the General Assembly’s invitation, the Commission had been transmitting comments on its role in promoting the rule of law, he said, adding that its comments focused on the ways and means to further disseminate international commercial law to strengthen the principle.  In those comments, the Commission had referred to its traditional and innovative dissemination activities and their importance for strengthening the rule of law.  He also underscored that a number of UNICITRAL’s projects relied heavily or entirely on extra-budgetary resources, and he reiterated the Commission’s appeal to the States to provide funding for such activities and to assist the Secretariat in identifying additional resources.

Statements

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), hailed UNCITRAL for ensuring the representation of various geographical regions and the major economic and legal systems of the world.  For developing countries the Commission represented the possibility of participating in the harmonization, unification and modernization of international trade law.  Commending the progress achieved in the six Working Groups, he highlighted the work of Working Groups IV and VI, by approving the “Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and Explanatory Notes” and a “Guide to Enactment of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Secured Transactions.”

However, he added, challenges in codifying international trade law were increasing.  Volume and the nature of commerce at the global level were undergoing modification without pause due to incessant technological development and the diversification of commercial activities.  The Commission must adapt, as much as possible, to the dynamics of trade activities.  Noting that participation in the sessions of the Commission was significant for the members of the Community, he added that alternating the meetings between New York and Vienna was enabling those States that did not have diplomatic representation in Austria to participate.  He called on the Organization to continue the current system, thereby facilitating broad membership participation.

ANCA CRISTINA MEZDREA, European Union delegation, said that the traditional Investor–State Dispute Settlement presented various challenges and should be reformed.  Those challenges had sparked off an international debate, with many countries already thinking about how to reform the Settlement.  In other areas of law where dispute resolution involved public matters, a multilateral approach was better suited to effectively address all the issues at stake.

She noted that, as a first step, the Commission had agreed to work on identifying underlying issues and concerns in order to provide the rationale for any proposed reforms and to proceed with the development of possible solutions.  The Commission presented many advantages in terms of transparency and accessibility.  Encouraging countries, international organizations and observers to actively participate in the discussions, she expressed hope for a satisfactory outcome. 

NADIA ALEXANDRA KALB (Austria), aligning herself with the European Union, said that it was a source of pride for her country to host the Commission and its Secretariat in Vienna.  Noting that the Commission had finalized and adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, with an explanatory note, she added that Austria supported the work of the Commission concerned with technical cooperation and assistance in the field of international trade law reform and development. Austria was serving as the coordinator for the UNCITRAL resolution, she said encouraging delegates to co-sponsor the draft text.

IGOR GARLIT BAILEN (Philippines), expressing support for fair, stable, and predictable legal frameworks for generating inclusive, sustainable and equitable development, added that the past year had been another productive year for the Commission.  His country paid close attention to the development of standards on transparency, including the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration (Transparency Rules).  The related Convention, which provided a mechanism for the application of the Transparency Rules, would be entered into force on 18 October.  Also commending the progress made by Working Group I on Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, he reaffirmed support for UNCITRAL’s Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific.

SERAPHINA FONG (Singapore) said the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, an important instrument, would remove uncertainty in many jurisdictions on the use and effect of such records.  She commended the Commission and its Working Group IV for their practical approach, which did not affect existing substantive law governing such documents and instruments.  That would facilitate States in the adoption of the Model Law and would bring clear benefits to commercial parties without having to review or create any substantive law on negotiable instruments.  While many interesting ideas had been raised at the fiftieth session concerning the Commission’s future work, some of those suggestions needed to be carefully examined to determine if they were within that body’s mandate, or if they could be better undertaken by some other entities within or outside the United Nations system.  Even for work that clearly fell within UNCITRAL’s remit, there would be increasing demands made on its resources and those of Member States, she noted, adding it would become critically important for the Commission to prioritise its work.

ANGEL HORNA (Peru) cited his country’s President’s address to Congress that stressed the importance of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.  A plan had been designed for accessing credit, as well as a favourable tax regime for those enterprises in the short term.  Furthermore, reduction of obstacles for those enterprises was much appreciated, he said, underscoring that it was now a globalized world of electronic commerce.  The Working Group in charge of that subject was critically important.  He welcomed the adoption in July on the Model Law on that subject and reiterated Peru’s willingness to share expertise on digital identity.

YEDLA UMASANKAR (India) said that the legal texts and model laws developed by the Commission were directly relevant to the commercial transactions of individuals, corporations and States.  The UNCITRAL Model Law on Secured Transactions would increase the availability of secured credit across national borders and would contribute to the development of international trade.  The Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and its explanatory notes would contribute to the development of systems to enable progress in the field of paperless trade.

HARUKA SAWADA (Japan), commending the substantive deliberations taking place in the Working Group I, expressed the hope that, during the next session of the Commission, its Working Group II, which was handling the challenging topic of Dispute Settlement, would be able to complete its work leading to the adoption of the instrument.  Congratulating UNCITRAL on finalizing and adopting the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, he added that Working Group IV must continue to pay attention to technological neutrality.  The Model Law would promote legislation on electronic commerce, he said.

MAXIM MUSIKHIN (Russian Federation) said that his country was a party to a number of international agreements that had been developed within the Commission. Furthermore, texts developed by UNCITRAL were enhancing his country’s legislation. Spotlighting Working Group II’s work drafting a document on the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from conciliation proceedings, as well as its work on a convention on the issue, he noted that his country was an active participant in those matters.  On Working Group V, he said he hoped that solutions would be found which took into account the interests of all UNCITRAL members on the enforcement of insolvency related judgements.

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador), aligning himself with CELAC, commended the worthwhile efforts of each working group.  Praising the Commission’s decision to entrust to Working Group III on Investor-State Dispute Settlement, he added that it would be an invaluable contribution to the codification of international law.  Also congratulating Working Groups IV and VI on their adoption of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and the Guide to Enactment of the Model Law on Secured Transactions respectively, he said that the work carried out by Working Group IV in particular was of great value to his country’s development.

SUN THATHONG (Thailand) noted that his country had benefited from the Legislative Guide on Secure Transactions in drafting Thailand’s national secured transactions legislation.  He also commended the Commission for providing valuable technical assistance in reading and applying its various texts.  Thailand, along with various reginal stakeholders, continued to collaborate closely with the Commission’s regional centre for Asia and the Pacific.  Adoption of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records with Explanatory Notes and the Guide to Enactment of the Model law on Secured Transitions continued to play a vital role in modernizing trade law regimes.  Entrusting Working Group III with the mandate to work on the possible reform of investor-State dispute settlement would help facilitate consideration of concerns and allow States to deliberate on ways forward.  In that context, he stressed that the Working Group must conduct its work in a transparent and inclusive manner.  UNCITRAL must steer the wheels of international trade law towards human-centred goals which prioritized more than just profit. 

SABONGA MPONGOSHA (South Africa) said that the work on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises could make valuable contributions towards streamlining the process of establishing Limited Liability Organizations in many States.  UNCITRAL’s work on electronic commerce also did important work, harmonizing the rules in an increasingly important area of trade law that affected consumers in the developed and developing world.  He also noted with interest the change of topic of Working Group III, and welcomed the increased focus on investor-state dispute settlement.  UNCITRAL had been one of the few international fora that consistently focused on concerns related to that issue by a number of States, including South Africa.

JOSÉ LUIS FERNANDEZ VALONI (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC, said that UNICTRAL had helped create an enabling environment for trade, adding that his country had ratified several of its instruments.  The progress of Working Group VI’s efforts on developing model law on security interests as well as its guide to interpret that model law in States was appreciated.  Several States had taken steps to modernize their security systems to reduce risks and to ensure lower interest rates in order to attract greater investments for their infrastructure.  Spotlighting the aims of Working Group I preparing a body of legal standards for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to simplify standards, he stressed that those endeavours were useful for the development of such enterprises; it reduced the requirements for incorporation.

RUSLAN VARANKOV (Belarus) highlighted how Working Group IV supported the development of a document outlining the contractual issues of cloud computing.  On addressing that issue it was important to focus on risk distribution mechanisms.  He also underscored the importance of the expansion of the Model Law on Transporter Insolvency.  Voicing support for work to enhance the existing mechanism for the settlement of commercial and investment disputes, he also commended UNICTRAL on maintaining the online cloud database that helped share best practices and knowledge.

SALVATORE ZAPPALÁ (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said he attached great importance to the work of the Commission and its working groups, and had been pleased with the way they had worked in producing seminal legal texts.  The Commission was an effective forum for deliberations on tools to improve rules and regulations in the area of international trade law and in assisting Member States to adapt legislation to a changing landscape.  He acknowledged the quality of the working group discussions and the effective way in which meetings had been held in Vienna and New York.  Notwithstanding differing legal systems and domestic agendas, the Commission had been able to demonstrate that Member States could sit together and genuinely work to reach common solutions, he said.

STEPHEN H. SMITH (United Kingdom), noting that his country was a founding member of UNCITRAL, thanked the Experts Group of Working Group I for their hard work in arriving at a text for the Group to consider for adoption by the Commission next year.  Turning to Working Group IV, he expressed support for the inclusion of verified electronic identity and strong authentication in regards to online digital transactions supporting international trade.  Electronic identity continued to be a significant concern internationally, a key element being the creation of interoperability and trust frameworks, he said. 

JAVIER GOROSTEGUI OBANOZ (Chile), aligning himself with CELAC, said that the Commission’s work promoted greater coherence in the harmonization of international trade law, while taking into account the realities and contexts of different States.  Tackling corruption was necessary for the development of trade, he said, also noting recent proposals geared towards reforming the investor-State dispute settlement process. “We are opening up a new front for legal academic discussion,” he said, encouraging UNCITRAL to take on a higher profile.  He also encouraged delegates to work constructively and enable inclusive dialogue, adding that the model laws adopted by the Working Groups would help codify international laws.

AHMAD SHALEH BAWAZIR (Indonesia) commended Working Group I’s aims to reduce the legal obstacles encountered by micro, small and medium enterprises, especially in developing countries.  The legislative guide should be a flexible text that would enable States to simplify the work of those enterprises so to allow them to grow and compete.  He also voiced support for the “prudent approach” taken by the Commission concerning the Investors-State Dispute Settlement.  In particular, he urged that deliberation always be based on the balance between protecting the investors in the host State, while providing policy spaces for the host State to assert its national interest.  Major attention should be paid to the importance of technical cooperation and assistance to developing countries in matters related to the adaptation and use of texts adopted by the Commission.  In that sense, the Secretariat should continue providing assistance and improve its outreach to those countries.

FAHAD AHMED ALDOSERI (Bahrain) noted that the Commission had approved the proposal by his Government to establish an UNCITRAL regional centre for the Middle East and North Africa in his country and increase familiarity with UNCITRAL texts and their level of adoption and use in the region.  The objectives of the proposed regional centre would be providing technical assistance to States on the adoption, use and understanding of UNCITRAL text; coordination with international and regional organizations on trade law reform projects in the region; coordination of the communication between States in the region and UNCITRAL; and building and participating in regional partnerships and alliances including other United Nations bodies.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras), associating herself with CELAC, said that she welcomed the approval of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and the Guide to Enactment of the Model Law on Secured Transactions.  That was a tremendous contribution to the strengthening of the framework for international trade law.  Her Government had enacted a law on electronic signatures and a law on electronic commerce without prejudice to other legal instruments.  With regard to the Commission’s work in seeking to achieve the transparent settlement of disputes at national and international levels, she also said Honduras hoped to include in its legal system the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and the technical notes on online dispute resolution.

MARK A. SIMONOFF (United States) welcomed the adoption of the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records and encouraged States to consider implementing it should their domestic law not already provide an adequate framework.  The Commission’s work on a Guide to Enactment for the Model Law on Secured Transactions would assist States in reforming their domestic legal regime in ways that would facilitate access to credit.  With respect to ongoing work on conciliation, he praised UNCITRAL’s plan to develop a related convention, which should help promote its use internationally in the same way the New York Convention had helped promote the use of arbitration.  His Government had taken steps toward becoming a party to the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-Based Investor-State Arbitration, which had been transmitted to the United States Senate in December 2016 for approval.

AMIT HEUMANN (Israel), highlighting some of the progress UNCITAL had made over the past year, said that he looked forward to participating in Working Group I’s upcoming deliberations on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.  Turning to Working Group II’s work on international commercial settlement agreements resulting from conciliation, he said that the instrument being developed would provide Member States with the guidance needed to deal with such agreements.  He looked forward to participating in the Working Group on Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform, but noted that Israel’s participation did not imply support for a permanent mechanism or that it would join a convention on that issue, if one were ever finalized.

VICTOR TCHATCHOUWO (Cameroon), commending the Commission for adopting the Model Law on Electronic Secured Transactions and the note on arbitration proceedings, said that the use of texts developed by the Commission would facilitate the harmonization of international trade law.  Encouraging Member States to improve the implementation of those texts, he expressed support for the Commission’s initiatives to coordinate the legal activities of regional trade organizations.  That not only strengthened cooperation between them, but also promoted rule of law.  Developing countries benefited enormously from the Commission’s work on technical assistance, he said, recalling his country’s proposal to establish a regional centre for the Commission in Africa. 

MOHAMED BENTAJA (Morocco) said that he welcomed the work on the insolvency of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and the reform underway to create an investor-State dispute mechanism that would protect investors when carrying out activities in various States.  For instance, investment and investors should be protected from expropriation, he said, adding he welcomed the reforms, as they protected investors in the process of carrying out their activities.

HIROKO MURAKI GOTTLIEB, International Chamber of Commerce, said that UNCITRAL was a vital partner of the Chamber and its work was critically important.  Historically, the Chamber had contributed to the work of UNCITRAL through numerous international trade law-related instruments that it had drafted.  She said she was grateful that the Commission and its members had adopted a decision endorsing the Chamber’s Uniform Rules for Forfaiting.  UNCITRAL’s endorsement of those rules would facilitate financing of receivables arising from international trade transactions by providing a new set of rules applicable to forfaiting transactions.  Those Rules also complemented a number of international trade law instruments.

Requests for Observer Status

The representative of Cuba, making a general statement, said that only intergovernmental organizations should be granted observer status.  That stance was not merely a procedural issue or “red tape”, she said, adding that in-depth information was required on each individual organization.

The representative of Venezuela said that only organizations addressing topics of interest to the General Assembly should be granted observer status.  It was vital the Sixth Committee had before it a summary of the make-up and membership of each organization.

The Committee then decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States.  The Council, an international intergovernmental organization, promoted cooperation among Turkic-speaking States and aimed to serve as a new regional instrument for advancing international cooperation in Eurasian continent, particularly in Central Asia and Caucasus.

The Committee also decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Eurasian Economic Union, an economic union of states located primarily in northern Eurasia.

The Committee then decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Community of Democracies, an intergovernmental coalition of States that was bringing together Governments, civil society and private sector in the pursuit of supporting democratic rules.

The Committee then turned to a request for observer status for the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan in the General Assembly.

The representative of China introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.8, noting that the Network was the only intergovernmental organization that specialized in the conservation and development of bamboo and rattan, the two most important non-timber forest products.  Its membership had grown from the original nine founding member States and six observer States to the current 43 member States and more than 10 observer States, with regional offices or focal points in Ecuador, Ghana and Ethiopia.

The representative of Togo said that observer status would be an asset to the Network so it could continue to promote environmentally friendly socio-economic development.  Since its founding, the Network had had a tangible impact on people’s lives, training tens of thousands working in bamboo and rattan production.

Viet Nam’s representative said that the Network worked to improve the wellbeing of producers and users of bamboo and rattan by coordinating and supporting research and development into those resources.  Because bamboo and rattan were non-timber forest products in Asia as well as other regions, the Network was directly contributing to sustainable development.

The representative of Sri Lanka said that the work of the Network helped to implement a range of the Sustainable Development Goals which targeted poverty alleviation, sustainable energy and climate change.  It also played a vital role in South-South cooperation, and supported countries in using bamboo and rattan to improve environmental security.

The representative of Cuba said that the Network was an intergovernmental, autonomous and non-profit organization that enabled South-South cooperation. Granting it observer status would be a major contribution to improving the work of the General Assembly.

The representative of Venezuela said she was certain that the participation of the Network would promote South-South cooperation.  Granting it observer status would leave the United Nations in a better position to meet and respond to global challenges

The representative of Timor-Leste said that the Network played a unique role in supporting its members to find and demonstrate innovative ways of using bamboo and rattan to protect environments and biodiversity, while alleviating poverty.

The representative of Bangladesh said that the mission of the Network had provided training to tens of thousands of bamboo practitioners, helping them enter new markets and use new technologies.

The representative of Nepal said that his country was an active member of the Network.  Granting observer status to the Network would enable it to achieve its full potential, thereby contributing to sustainable development.

The representative of Peru said that the Network had been engaged in projects in his country to prevent and mitigate natural disasters.  Its priorities also dovetailed fully with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The representative of Ecuador said that the Network provided environmental security in Ecuador and other countries, and provided support to his country as it strove to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Committee then took up request for observer status for the “ASEAN+3” Macroeconomic Research Office in the General Assembly.

The Representative of Singapore introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.9,  “Observer status for the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office in the General Assembly”, saying that the organization was a platform consisting of the 10 Member States plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.  The Research Office, which functioned as the regional macroeconomic surveillance unit, met the criteria of General Assembly decision 49/426 of 9 December 1994.  Granting observer status would help cooperation between the Office and the United Nations and would contribute to a stable global macro-economic environment, as well as deepen interactions with other countries and regional and international organizations.

The representative of China said that the purpose of the Research Office was the promotion of regional economic and financial stability, monitoring the situation of regional economies, and supporting the implementation of the arrangement for multilateral liquidity.  Granting observer status to the organization would help enhance the exchanges and cooperation between this organization and the United Nations.

The representative of the Philippines, recalling the 1997 Asian financial crisis which had threated a global economic meltdown, said the Research Office’s purpose was to avert any financial crisis in that region.  The Research Office sought to prevent a repeat of that by deepening regional cooperation with stronger safety nets, particularly by decreasing balance of payment difficulties in times of crises.  Furthermore, it had the full legal capacity to enter into contracts and to deal with ASEAN+3 Governments in conducting surveillance activities and with other international and development institutions for better coordination and collaborative activities. 

The representative of Japan said that in the aftermath of the 1997 crash, the States of the region had established the Research Office in order to encourage regional financial integration and cooperation.  The Office’s activities not only benefited the region but were broadly aligned with the aims of the United Nations, such as promoting economic progress and solutions to international economic problems. 

The Committee took up the request for observer status for the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism in the General Assembly.

The representative of Belarus introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.4, saying that the Group’s work was based on an agreement between his country, India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, to cooperate in combating the financing of terrorism.  All its member States were fine-tuning their national financial systems into alignment with international standards.  Granting the Group observer status would promote effective cooperation between them and the United Nations.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that the Group was an intergovernmental organization with the goal of cooperation at the regional level to focus on money laundering and the financing of terrorism.  

The representative of China said that the Group fully met the criteria for observer status. Its activities covered matters of interest to the General Assembly and its main purpose was to conduct effective regional interaction to ensure the compliance of its member States with the international standard set by the Financial Action Task Force.

The representative of Tajikistan said that the Group was a regional intergovernmental organization that conducted joint activities aimed at combating money laundering and combating terrorism.  

The Committee then took up the request for observer status for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Secretariat.

The representative of Uruguay introduced draft resolution A/C.6/72/L.6, noting that the Convention was drawn up in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971.  It was an intergovernmental Convention aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands through national, regional and international cooperation.  The Convention entered into force in 1975, with amendments in 1982 and 1987.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was the depository of the Convention.  The Preamble of the Convention reaffirmed the key ecological role played by wetlands as a habitat for unique flora and fauna, particularly in aquatic environments.

The representative of the United States said it was a State party of the Convention and supported the work of its Secretariat.  She voiced appreciation for its positive contributions on conversations relevant to its mandate.  Nevertheless, she had studied the application and her country had questions on its status as an intergovernmental organization.

The representative of Venezuela, noting that her country was home to five internationally important wetlands, said that the Secretariat of the Convention met all the requirements for observers set out by the General Assembly.

The representative of Colombia said that wetlands were vital and provided fresh water, food and building materials.  The Secretariat met all the criteria for observer status in the General Assembly and pursued activities of interest for that body.

The representative of Peru said that his country was a contracting party to the Convention, and his country had also adopted guidelines for the designation of Ramsar sites in order to identify wetlands of international importance.  The Convention’s Secretariat met all the requirements for observer status.

The Committee then decided to recommend the deferral of observer status for the Global Environment Facility, a partnership of 183 countries with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector to address global environmental issues.

Statements on Administration of Justice

The Sixth Committee took up consideration two reports of the Secretary-General on the Administration of Justice, including “Activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services” (document A/72/138) and “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (document A/72/204), as well as the Report of the Internal Justice Council on the Administration of Justice (document A/72/210).

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador), speaking for CELAC, noted that the United Nations Office of Staff Legal Assistance had been performing a vital task through representation, advice and other legal services and that the Internal Justice Council continued to play an important role in the system to help ensure independence, professionalism and accountability.  The Dispute Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal had shown firm commitment to contribute to justice at the Organization.  New ways should be explored to improve the use of the informal system like the Mediation Division, he said, encouraging proper geographical and gender distribution among judges and staff, and stressing the importance of the Management Evaluation Unit in preventing unnecessary litigation.

Turning to the work of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services, he emphasized that informal resolution of conflict was crucial to the administration of justice.  He called for incentives to encourage more recourse to informal resolution.  The Office should, among other things, ensure accountability and transparency in the decision-making process by holding managers accountable for their actions and providing institutional capacity to resolve workplace conflicts.  The Sixth Committee should continue to coordinate and cooperate closely with the Fifth Committee to ensure an appropriate division of labour and avoid overlaps or encroachment of mandates.

GILLES MARHIC, European Union delegation, said the informal resolution of disputes was one of the most crucial elements of the Organization’s justice administration system.  It enabled faster and more flexible means of facilitation, problem-solving, shuttle diplomacy, mediation and conflict coaching, while also avoiding time-consuming and stressful litigation processes.  Voicing concern over the results of a 2016 survey finding that 60 per cent of staff had experienced a recent workplace conflict and a similar proportion felt stress levels to be above what they considered acceptable, he welcomed the expanded use of strategic data and multilingual surveys to help identify systemic issues.  Organizing thematic informational sessions and workshops, skill-building initiatives and individual coaching were also useful tools.

He also commended the work of the Management Evaluation Unit — including its systematic efforts to identify requests with a good potential for settlement through informal resolution.  The quality of the Unit’s work was demonstrated by the relatively low proportion of cases challenged by staff members before the Dispute Tribunal.  That body, along with the Appeals Tribunal, formed an equally important part of the justice administration.  The Office of Staff Legal Assistance was also instrumental in avoiding unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings.  Regarding Panel recommendation 58 — in which the Chair of the Sixth Committee had recommended that the Secretary-General be requested to provide further information on the improvement of investigations into misconduct and harassment to staff members — he noted that the joint planning between the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Administrative Law Section was intended to facilitate the development and delivery of relevant training across the Secretariat in the last months of 2017.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with CELAC and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed support for any measures intended to strengthen the administration of justice and improve its effectiveness at the managerial and operational levels.  In particular, he voiced his support for efforts to ensure that well-established principles of law, such as separation of powers and judicial independence, governed the management of the justice system.  While those fundamental principles were critical, fidelity to them must be matched by a commitment to ensuring the highest standards of accountability if the administration of the internal justice system. 

Considerable investments had been made by the Secretariat to implement systems aimed at improving relations between the Organization and its staff, he said.  Nevertheless, there was a relatively high rate of overturn by the Appeals Tribunal in cases coming from the Dispute Tribunal.  Further analysis of the factors leading to that outcome would be appreciated.  In addition, staff in peacekeeping missions represented a disproportionate percentage of clients being served by the Office of Staff Legal Assistance.  There was a need to obtain an in-depth understanding of those trends, as well as their significance to the United Nations operations and reform efforts.  Finally, he noted with concern the Internal Justice Council’s identification of friction in the relationship between some judges and some Registry staff, which had affected productivity and morale.  The Council’s recommendation that the two entities’ responsibilities should be clearly delineated merit support, he said, also urging that the durational period between filing cases and resolving them be expedited.

CATHERINE BOUCHER (Canada), also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, commended the inclusion of a Code of Conduct for Legal Representatives and Litigants in Person in the Annex to General Assembly resolution 71/266.  That inclusion would help ensure that all individuals acting as legal representatives for the United Nations were held to the same high standards of professional conduct.  In 2016, the majority of staff members filing cases with the United Nations Dispute Tribunal had been self-represented, and no matter how intelligent or hard-working they were, navigating a complex labour dispute with a large organization could be daunting and overwhelming. 

She also underscored the importance of ensuring the United Nations had a system that allowed its human resources professionals to effectively manage employees who were not meeting the Organization’s high standards.  Only 1 per cent of staff had received ratings suggesting they were underperforming, in part because managers feared employees lodging complaints.  The International Justice Council’s report included references to concerns relating to the reality and appearance of the independence of the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal.  Such impressions could compromise the trust of litigants.  The independence of judges was therefore critical. 

DAMARIS CARNAL (Switzerland) said that the system of administration of justice must be provided with the necessary resources to be able to function effectively and fairly.  Expressing concern that certain key functions were under-resourced, she added that effective protection against retaliation was an indispensable attribute of a fair and effective system of internal justice.  Almost half of the workforce consisted of non-staff personnel.  Many of those persons were engaged, not in short-time consultancy-type work, but in performing the same or similar functions as staff over prolonged periods of time.  In the absence of a remedy before domestic courts, which were generally unavailable due to the Organization’s immunity, those persons must be granted access to an alternative remedy to settle work-related disputes.

ANA FIERRO (Mexico), while praising the hard work of the organs and agencies that made up the internal justice system at the Organization, said that clear improvements were needed in accessibility and operationalization.  Drawing attention to the plight of non-staff personnel, she pointed out that often local staff was hired as consultants and individual contractors to perform the same functions as staff.  When it came to access to means of resolving workplace disputes, staff and non-staff personnel were treated differently.  Furthermore, staff members were often unaware of the tools to uphold their rights; that held particularly true for non-staff.

CARLOS GARCÍA REYES (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, said that the administration of justice system was intended to be transparent.  Its actions were supposed to be compatible with international law and due process.  Against that background, he said he was delighted by the headway achieved since that system had rolled out, adding that it had had a positive impact on workplace performance.  He expressed his support for the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, which had played a key role through the provision of legal services and advice to staff.  Legal assistance was a tool that provided representation and ensured that everyone was treated equally.

EMILY PIERCE (United States) said that the Internal Justice Council’s report made it clear that there still existed a substantial fear of retaliation among staff.   During the reporting period, there were no findings on the accountability of managers.  The Management Evaluation Unit’s work in conducting management reviews of administration decisions appeared to have resulted in a decrease in the amount of litigation pursued at the Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal.  Acknowledging the contributions of the Office of the Ombudsman and Mediation Services, she added that early and informal resolution of disputes should be encouraged.

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