Press Releases

    GA/L/3216
    18 October 2002

    LEGAL COMMITTEE IS TOLD OF EFFORTS TO REACH
    CONSENSUS IN FORMULATING CONVENTION
    AGAINST HUMAN CLONING

    NEW YORK, 17 October (UN Headquarters) -- Delegates called for consensus on elaboration of a convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings as the Sixth Committee (Legal) this afternoon began its consideration of the question.

    Peter Tomka (Slovakia), Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee and of the Working Group established to consider the elaboration of the convention, introduced their reports. He said there was firm opposition to the reproductive cloning of human beings and general agreement that it should be banned. However, views differed on the scope of the ban. Some progress had been made in bridging the gap. Hopefully, the Sixth Committee would resolve the differences during the present session so the Ad Hoc Committee could begin elaborating the instrument next year.

    France and Germany had first proposed the elaboration of a convention to ban the reproductive cloning of human beings. They had asserted that, while only a small number of researchers of scientific institutions had the technical capacity to perform such operations, there was no doubt that they would have an impact on the entire human family.

    Today, Germany’s representative said a revised draft resolution was circulating in the Committee which addressed the concerns that had been raised. Amendments had been made that should speed consensus. A competing initiative by the United States and others to elaborate an instrument calling for a comprehensive ban of cloning held the risk of missing the opportunity to ban reproductive cloning now.

    The representative of the United States said a ban on reproductive cloning only would be difficult to enforce in an environment that permitted therapeutic cloning in laboratories. The proposal he was co-sponsoring provided a programme of action that would include negotiation of a convention prohibiting all cloning that produced human embryos. It would also call for a moratorium on cloning human embryos pending adoption of a comprehensive convention.

    Statements were also made by the representatives of Spain, Costa Rica, Cameroon, Mexico, Switzerland, Sudan, Brazil, Senegal, Liechtenstein, Gabon, Cyprus, Norway, Chile, Cuba and Greece. The observer of the Holy See also spoke.

    Also today, Marcello Vazquez (Ecuador), Coordinator of the informal consultations on the scope of legal protection under the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, gave the Committee an oral report on the outcome of consultations held on 8, 9 and 11 October.

    A draft resolution on the scope of legal protection under the Convention on Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel was introduced by Bulgaria’s representative. A draft concerning the omnibus resolution on the report of its thirty-fifth session by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law was introduced by the representative of Austria.

    The Sixth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow Friday, 18 October, to continue and complete its consideration of the international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings.

    Background

    The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this afternoon to begin considering the report of its working group on an international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings. A number of resolutions were expected to be introduced this afternoon.

    The General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee on the international convention by its resolution 56/93 of 12 December 2001, and said the Committee’s work should be continued within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee. The report of the Ad Hoc Committee, which held its first meeting from 25 February to 1 March this year, is contained in document A/57/51.

    For its consideration of the item on cloning, the Sixth Committee has before it the Working Group’s report (document A/C.6/57/L.4), which summarizes the group’s deliberations on the question of elaborating a mandate for negotiating an international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings. The report concludes that the Ad Hoc Committee should continue work on the subject, taking into account the working group’s discussions and proposals. The working group held seven meetings at Headquarters between 23 to 27 September under its Chairman, Peter Tomka (Slovakia), who is also Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee.

    Annex I to the working group’s report contains those proposals in the form of written amendments and submissions presented by delegations. Included are a revised proposal for a draft resolution submitted by France and Germany as well as an aide-memoire to it; a memorandum outlining the Spanish position on the cloning convention; and proposals submitted by Mexico, the Holy See, Brazil, United Kingdom and China.

    Annex II contains the Chairman’s informal summary of the working group’s discussions. In brief, he states that all speakers expressed their firm opposition to the reproductive cloning of human beings. Some said it raised ethical, moral, religious, scientific and other concerns, and also had far-reaching implications for human dignity. Some were equally opposed to both therapeutic and experimental cloning. Regarding an approach, views differed.

    Some delegations favoured the elaboration of a convention banning reproductive cloning, he continues. That would send a clear message that the reproductive cloning of humans was unethical, intolerable and illegal. A pragmatic and principled step-by-step approach was favoured first to address reproductive cloning, and then to address therapeutic cloning later. It was held that this approach recognized the concerns, complex issues and conflicting views about both therapeutic and experimental cloning while still reflecting the consensus that reproductive cloning was morally unacceptable. Since work on human cloning was already taking place, it was considered important to elaborate a convention against it as soon as possible.

    Other delegations, the Chairman says, favoured the elaboration of a convention calling for a comprehensive ban on both reproductive human cloning and on human cloning for therapeutic and experimental purposes. Since the technology for both was the same, it was held that a partial ban on reproductive cloning would be ineffective and would send the wrong signal by implicitly authorizing the creation and destruction of human embryos for experimentation. Further, a partial ban on cloning would create legal uncertainty. The distinction between reproductive and other cloning masked the reality that a human being was being created for the purpose of destroying it to produce embryonic stem cell lines or to carry out other experiments -- techniques that were highly controversial and raised profound ethical and moral questions.

    Regardless of purpose, the Chairman says, it was pointed out that human embryonic cloning conflicted with international legal norms protecting human dignity. Other cloning techniques such as adult stem cell research did not pose a problem and would not be covered by a comprehensive ban. It was suggested that no avenues of medical benefit should hastily be cut off before there was a proper understanding of it, and it was unclear whether adult stem cell research yielded the same benefits for medical science as embryonic cells.

    Alternative approaches included a moratorium pending entry into force of a convention against reproductive human cloning, the Chairman says. Also proposed were: a permanent ban on reproductive cloning and a temporary one on therapeutic cloning to buy time for study; a fast-track approach to reproductive cloning and a slower-track one for therapeutic; and a two-tiered approach focusing on reproductive cloning and containing provisions on other cloning activities that Contracting Parties to the convention could opt in and out of. References were made to efforts at regulating or banning human embryonic cloning at the national level. Suggestions for the working group's future work included the defining of basic terms, the consideration of establishing an international cloning commission and the promotion of international cooperation geared towards alternative technologies for developing countries. The convention should refer to fostering alternative technologies, capacity-building and setting up of international research networks.

    Two draft resolutions related to the item were expected to be introduced later.

    Also, two draft resolutions, related to subjects previously discussed in the Sixth Committee, were expected to be introduced this afternoon.

    The first is on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (Implementation of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions contained in document A/C.6/57/L.11.

    The second is entitled Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on work of its thirty-fifth session (document A/C.6/57/L.12) sponsored by 74 States.

    Introduction of Reports

    PETER TOMKA (Slovakia), Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee and of the Working Group on an International Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings, introduced the reports of those two bodies. He said the Ad Hoc Committee met at Headquarters from 25 February to 1 March this year to consider the elaboration of a mandate for the negotiation of an international convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings, as stipulated in General Assembly resolution 56/93 which established the Committee. Five experts provided the Ad Hoc Committee with scientific, technical, ethical, philosophical and legal information relevant to the topic.

    The Ad Hoc Committee also considered the issue of a list of international instruments to be taken into consideration, and had before it an information paper prepared by the Secretariat. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 56/93, the Ad Hoc Committee continued within the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee.

    During consideration of the topic, all speakers expressed their firm opposition to the reproductive cloning of human beings. He said there was general agreement that it should be banned, and that it raised ethical, moral, religious, scientific and other concerns, and that it had far-reaching implications for human dignity. However, different views were expressed as regards the scope of the ban.

    He said both the expert-level segment as well as the discussions held both in the Ad Hoc Committee and in the working group helped all delegations to enrich their understanding of the issue of human cloning. Some progress was made, although there remained a divergence of views on the core issues. It was his hope that a solution to those difficulties would be found during the present session of the Sixth Committee, so that the Ad Hoc Committee could meet again next year to begin the elaboration of an international convention.

    Statements

    CHRISTIAN MUCH (Germany) said two doctors had now credibly announced that the first cloned baby could be born within a year or two. Amendments had been made to the Franco-German draft resolution on an international convention on reproductive cloning, which was contained in the working group’s report. The new version addressed concerns and would hopefully speed consensus. It now had 50 co-sponsors.

    He said there was a competing initiative, led in particular by the United States, which proposed the mixing of consensual and non-consensual issues in one negotiating process. That approach held the risk of missing the opportunity to ban reproductive cloning now. An all-out approach that led to nothing benefited the wrong side, that of irresponsible researchers, of fraudulent doctors and obscure religious sects. Nor should the need to clarify terminology be an impediment to banning reproductive cloning. It had to be universally banned immediately for a number of reasons.

    First, he said, even with national legislation against cloning unscrupulous researchers could perform their experiments in unregulated countries. Secondly, a signal needed to be sent out to the global community that the supply of money for human reproductive cloning should be eroded. Most of it was private. The danger of reproductive cloning would be significantly reduced if its financiers were told: You’re not heading for a Nobel Prize but for a solid reputation as an enemy of humanity. Finally, the all-or-nothing approach was all the more dangerous as there were countries with cloning research that had reached a high degree of sophistication but where no national laws were in place.

    The Committee and the United Nations must live up to their responsibilities to take immediate action against human reproductive cloning, he said. They must not be seen as impotent to take preventive action in the face of a generally recognized and repudiated imminent danger. The disagreement over defining the most efficient approach would be construed as a disagreement on the repulsiveness of reproductive cloning.

    JORGE ROMEU (Spain) said a draft resolution L.3 would be formally introduced with the co-sponsors and said he wished, in the meantime, to draw attention to an error in the heading of the Spanish version of the text. He described in detail the consequences of human cloning, explaining that that was why Spain and the co-sponsors were presenting the draft text. They were moved by the desire to achieve a broad consensus for negotiations on a convention to begin in a constructive atmosphere.

    His delegation would work with the Secretariat to ensure that their draft entailed no financial implications. He trusted that the draft would earn support and that it would eventually be adopted by consensus.

    CARLOS DIAZ PANIAGUA (Costa Rica) said human dignity was irreversible and irreplaceable, and it was unfortunate that it was threatened by technology. His delegation believed that it was indispensable for a ban to be placed on all forms of human cloning. It considered that human life began at conception, and that it must have full respect of human rights.

    He noted the range of different views heard during the session of the Ad Hoc Committee and the working group. He said that in the draft text L.8 some delegations urged cloning for medical purposes. It seemed certain that pharmaceutical companies saw economic gains in that, but the medical value of the research had not been proved at present, he said. His delegation supported draft resolution L.3

    IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said new technology often brought humanity face to face with new moral issues. Bio-research was one of the fastest changing areas of science to present such challenges. "Science without a conscience could destroy the soul", he said. Human reproductive cloning was morally incompatible with the essence of humanity. It was a violation of humanity’s deepest roots. It was clear that the entire human community opposed the activity that would change the vision of human relations by subjecting the person created to be the property of the creator. Would a child become nothing more than an assembly-line production?

    It was urgent for the international community to go beyond divergences, and agree on an approach to banning cloning. A consensus message should be sent to those questioning the sacred nature of life.

    SOCCORO FLORES (Mexico) said she would not repeat her country’s well-known position. Human reproductive cloning violated the most sacrosanct essence of the human being. New information was emerging daily with regard to cloning that made human cloning a virtual reality. The United Nations must ban reproductive cloning of human beings as a starting point for international action on all types of cloning that violated human dignity. A moratorium should be enforced until the international instrument was in effect. The drafts circulating in the Committee showed substantial differences in views on approaches. All approaches must be considered but the ethical and moral dimensions of the question demanded prudence and immediate action.

    MONIKA MATTI (Switzerland) said her delegation had co-sponsored draft resolution A/C.6/57/L.8 which called for the urgent drafting of an international convention by the Ad Hoc Committee. It also called for an immediate moratorium on experiments in human cloning. There was need to preserve human dignity whatever the circumstances. She said measures should be taken now. Draft resolution L.8 responded to an urgent need, set realistic goals and specific action. She hoped international consensus would be achieved on a text and invited all delegations to help achieve it.

    ELFATIH ERWA (Sudan), speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the inconclusive nature of scientific research into cloning techniques raised serious concerns whether those techniques could be carried out successfully on a human being. Opposition to human cloning also stemmed from the underlying fears that the technique could fall into the hands of some unscrupulous elements who could abuse it for their nefarious purposes.

    The group of Islamic States felt that the Ad Hoc Committee should be requested to proceed, as a matter of urgency, with the preparation of a draft text on the subject. It believed that with the completion of the draft, negotiations should continue to address the issues relating to therapeutic cloning. The group strongly encouraged other cloning techniques to produce DNA molecules, organs, plant tissues and cells other than human embryos. It believed that such techniques should be permitted.

    MARCEL FORTUNA BIATO (Brazil) said he favoured the step-by-step approach of the French-German draft resolution his country would co-sponsor. The proposal was pragmatic and principled. The conflicting moral issues raised by the subject of human cloning would not disappear soon, but cloning for human reproduction was simply unacceptable. The international community must put aside its differences and give an immediate message. Such an action on human reproductive cloning would not be sending any kind of message about other forms of cloning. The French-German text was a balanced document to accomplish the necessary action for repressing the intolerable activity.

    CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal) said the serious impact for human dignity of human reproductive cloning made immediate action imperative. All cloning involving human embryos was condemned. Cloning technologies could be used for other medical purposes such as for cloning of cells and organs, but the cloning of human embryos must not be allowed. The cloning methods used for those other purposes should be in the strictest conformity with international legal standards. As a nation that honoured and respected human life, his country had ratified all instruments on human rights and would endorse no activities that destroyed human dignity.

    JONATHAN HUSTON (Liechtenstein) said he supported the French-German proposal for a convention against reproductive cloning. The approach represented a net benefit to all States, including those that believed that all forms of cloning should be prohibited. A convention elaborated according to the mandate spelled out in that document would encourage States to crack down on the cloning practices they deemed unethical. At the very minimum, it would also bring about an absolute ban on the cloning of humans for reproductive purposes. Beyond all complexities of the question, one fact was certain. The proposal would discourage unethical behaviour in all States and would encourage unethical behaviour in no State.

    He said the counter-proposal was tempting in its comprehensive prohibition of all forms of cloning. If ever a convention resulted from it, its sweeping scope would make it impossible for many countries to sign. The French-German proposal was adequate when strengthened with national legislation. If the Committee could not agree, unethical researchers would exploit the disunity.

    RUSSEL MEZEMEMBA (Gabon) associated his delegation with the statement made by the Sudan on behalf of the Islamic States. He said it supported the rapid drafting of an instrument prohibiting the reproductive cloning of human beings. He noted the general agreement on the urgency of such a measure. He also noted the lack of consensus on other aspects of the question, and added that a compromise or short-term solution should be found. His delegation supported the French-German proposal embodied in draft resolution A/C.6/57/L.8.

    A.J. JACOVIDES (Cyprus) said his country was firmly opposed to reproductive cloning of human beings. At the national level, the Government had adopted binding legislation endorsing the 1998 First Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Biomedicine, which prohibited such cloning. At the international level, Cyprus had taken into full consideration the relevant existing international instruments and the contributions of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

    His delegation supported the step-by-step approach that would address, as a matter of priority, the elaboration of the international convention. He expressed appreciation to the German and French delegations for their initiative in proposing the topic, and for submitting a relevant draft resolution on it. He also commended them for their flexibility to accommodate the concerns of other delegations.

    ASMUND ERIKSEN (Norway) said his country respected the inviolability of life and the equal value of all humans. His Government opposed not only the reproductive cloning of human beings, but also the therapeutic cloning of human beings. The former was banned under Norwegian law, while a bill had been presented to the Norwegian Parliament to ban the latter. Norway supported the French and German approach and hoped agreement would be reached for the adoption of a ban on reproductive cloning.

    It would support the text on therapeutic cloning following action on the first convention. If that approach was not followed, his delegation feared that the process would be held up with detrimental consequences for the common aim of achieving a ban on cloning.

    SICHAN SIV (United States) said many were only vaguely familiar with the concept of cloning. Reports of Dolly the sheep had been the first many had heard of it. Many delegations favoured a comprehensive ban on all cloning that would result in the creation of a human embryo, whether to bring the embryo to term or to destroy it in the course of experimentation. Others preferred a ban limited to prohibiting production of those embryos earmarked to produce cloned children. The Ad Hoc Committee had reached no agreement, produced no recommendations and had adjourned still pondering the issue.

    During the working group discussion, he continued, many had called for a total ban on cloning. The resolution his country was co-sponsoring responded to that call. Proponents of a limited ban on human cloning asserted that everyone was agreed on the position that reproductive cloning was wrong and should be prohibited. Everyone was not agreed, however, on the position that banning only reproductive cloning was acceptable or would be effective. That was a crucial difference between the two proposals circulating in the Committee.

    The United States agreed that cloning to produce human beings was wrong. But it also believed that creating and destroying human embryos for experimentation was equally wrong. A ban on reproductive cloning only would be difficult to enforce in an environment that permitted therapeutic cloning in laboratories. Once cloned human embryos were available, it would be virtually impossible to control what was done with them, including bringing one to term.

    The proposals set out in the draft he was sponsoring provided a programme of action for the international community that would include negotiation of a convention prohibiting all cloning that produced human embryos. Cloning of animals and other techniques, including experimentation using adult stem cells, would not be affected. To address the situation quickly, a moratorium on cloning human embryos would be declared pending adoption of a comprehensive convention.

    PEDRO ORTUZAR (Chile) said the supposed differences between reproductive cloning of human beings and the therapeutic cloning of human beings were artificial because both constituted the cloning of humans. The second method was nothing more than a deviation of a possible use of the first. Both methods in themselves violated human dignity. In the argument that therapeutic cloning should not be prohibited, he said account should be taken of the fact that the process presupposed imposing an identical genetic make-up on another human being. In addition, the latter was deprived of the possibility of completing its development.

    It was not acceptable to have an arbitrary division between human cloning for reproductive purposes and therapeutic human cloning for other purposes. Chile’s constitution recognized the right to life as a fundamental right of every Chilean citizen. That was also enshrined as a principle in various international instruments.

    SORAYA ALVAREZ NUÑEZ (Cuba) said her delegation was among States that had supported consideration of the item in the Sixth Committee. Cuba was a co-sponsor of draft resolution A/C.6/57/L.8. The text dealt with the question of reproductive cloning of human beings, and maintained a balance between the different positions expressed by delegations. It in no way violated human dignity. Cuba hoped that the Sixth Committee would adopt the text.

    MARIA TELALIAN (Greece) said her delegation supported the rapid conclusion of an international convention to prohibit the reproductive cloning of human beings. It was imperative that the international community adopt standards to regulate such practice. Greece had already adopted such measures at the regional level, becoming a party to the 1998 Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Biomedicine and an instrument adopted by UNESCO. Greece had also adopted domestic legislation on the subject.

    She said there was an international consensus to ban the reproductive cloning of human beings. That had been clear during the work of the Ad Hoc Committee and the working group, although some delegations had expressed opposing views. The draft resolution presented by France and Germany met all concerns and struck a balance between opposing views. Her delegation supported a step-by-step approach, and thus favoured draft resolution L.8. She hoped the Sixth Committee would reach a consensus to enable it adopt a text for the General Assembly.

    ROBERT ARAUJO, observer of the Holy See, said his position was clear on the question. Human embryonic cloning was unacceptable, regardless of whether it was done for reproductive or other purposes. Cloning an embryo with the purpose of destroying it was unacceptable. Human life must not be seen as an object to do with as we would. It was, rather, the most sacred aspect of life itself. A civilization based on peace must not condone any part of the practice. The document sponsored by Spain and other delegations calling for a comprehensive ban on cloning was the correct approach.

    Legal Protection for Personnel

    MARCELLO VAZQUEZ (Ecuador), Coordinator of the informal consultations on the scope of legal protection under the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel reported on the outcome of talks held on 8, 9 and 11 October. He said the talks had been fruitful and had addressed the main points raised in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the matter. Consensus had been reached on a number of points for a General Assembly resolution, including key provisions of the 1994 Safety Convention in status-of-forces and status-of-missions agreements, and in host country agreements. Consensus had also been reached on a "Declaration of exceptional risk".

    He said there had been debate on extending the scope of the Convention to include all United Nations and associated personnel, including those of humanitarian non-governmental organizations, and to all United Nations operations. Consensus had been reached on recommending in an Assembly resolution that the Secretary-General draw up draft model or standard provisions to make evident a "contractual" link between the United Nations and a particular humanitarian non-governmental organization to clarify the Convention’s application to those personnel. Consensus was also reached on recommending that the Secretary-General provide States with a list of humanitarian non-governmental organizations that had concluded agreements with the United Nations. It was decided that discussions on extending the scope of the Convention to all United Nations operations should continue.

    Introduction of Drafts

    The representative of Bulgaria introduced the draft resolution on the scope of legal protection under the Convention on Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel (document A/C.6/57/L.11).

    Austria’s representative introduced the omnibus draft resolution on the report of the United Nation Commission on International Trade Law on the work of its thirty-fifth session (document A/C.6/57/L.12).

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