4 April 2006

Assistance to Third States Affected by Sanctions, Improved Working Methods among Issues, as Charter Committee Opens Headquarters Session

NEW YORK, 3 April (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly-mandated committee weighing proposals to enhance the United Nations Charter opened its 2006 session today, hearing general views of its members on key issues, including implementing the Charter provisions related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions, legal aspects of the world body's peacekeeping missions and improving the Committee's working methods.

The Committee, formally known as the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization, was established in 1974 to examine proposals to strengthen the Organization's role in maintaining peace and security, develop cooperation among nations and promote the rules of international law.

Under Assembly resolution 60/23, adopted last November, the Committee will, now also consider, "on a priority basis and in an appropriate substantive manner and framework", the question of the implementation of the Charter's provisions related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions; keep on its agenda the question of the "peaceful settlement of disputes between States"; and, among other things, consider, as appropriate, any Charter-related proposals referred to it by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit.

Most of the speakers at today's meeting focused on the impact of sanctions on civilians and third States, with the representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, among those who believed that, while sanctions could be, and had been, effectively employed against States, entities and groups of individuals that threatened international peace and security, such measures might have unintended negative effects on civilians or even on third States.

The European Union was also among the delegations welcoming the World Summits' recognition that sanctions remained an important tool under the Charter to maintain international peace and security without recourse to the use of force, and the resolve to ensure that sanctions were carefully targeted in support of clear objectives and implemented in ways that balance effectiveness against the possible adverse consequences, including socio-economic and humanitarian consequences for populations in third States.

And, while delegations agreed that sanctions should be implemented and monitored effectively and with clear benchmarks, Algeria's representative cautioned that such measures should be used as a last resort, only after all peaceful means of conflict resolution had been exhausted and after the Security Council had identified a threat to international peace and security.  Sanctions should also be targeted and their impacts should be reviewed in a timely manner, he added, joining those that had stressed the need to assist third States negatively impacted by sanctions.

India's representative suggested that, since the Security Council was charged with the maintenance of international peace and security, it should take the lead in monitoring the impact, negative or otherwise, of sanctions.  She also called for the establishment of a working group in the Sixth Committee to examine the impact of sanctions on third States.  Like other delegations, India also believed that the Special Committee's ongoing discussions on matters related to peacekeeping could contribute -- from a legal angle -- to discussions under way in other forums within the Organization.

On the Committee's working methods, Japan's representative said that, while the United Nations was carrying out system-wide reform, the Special Committee must also make needed adjustments.  He reminded the Committee that, along with Australia, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Uganda, Japan had submitted a revised working paper during last year's session, incorporating comments received from delegations on measures to streamline and advance the Committee's work.  He hoped that, after a year's reflection, delegations would now be ready to finalize the working paper and its recommendations.  He stressed that the Organization's overall reform agenda included a review of the mandates of various organs.  Adopting the working paper would show that the Special Committee "had the flexibility to improve and revitalize its own functioning".

Likewise, the representative of the Russian Federation said he believed decisions could also be taken during this session on the working paper prepared by his delegation and Belarus, on the recommendation that an advisory opinion be requested from the International Court of Justice regarding 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.

At the opening of the meeting, the Committee adopted its work programme for the session, which is expected to conclude on 13 April.  It also elected Eduardo J. Sevilla Samoza (Nicaragua) as it's Chairman and Karim Medrek (Morocco), Ilga Mammadov (Azerbaijan) and Emma Romano Sarne (Philippines) as its Vice-Chairpersons.  Thomas Fitschen (Germany) was elected as the Special Committee's Rapporteur.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Guyana (on behalf of the Rio Group), Venezuela, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Belarus and the Republic of Korea.

The Special Committee will meet in open session at a time and date to be announced.

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