Press Releases

    L/3079
    15 March 2005

    Opening Current Session, Charter Committee Discusses Questions Related to Imposition of Sanctions Including Impact on Third States, Unintended Consequences

    NEW YORK, 14 March (UN Headquarters) -- Opening its 2005 session today, the United Nations Charter Committee heard general views of its members on the priority issues of the session, including implementing the Charter provisions related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions and improving the Committee’s working methods.

    The Committee, formally known as the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations, 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.

    Noting that out of 16 instances in which sanctions had been imposed in the last 15 years, 12 were in Africa, Madagascar’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, was concerned that none of the reports and seminars on the relevance of sanctions had focused on Africa.  Calling for increased interaction between the various sanctions committees and the General Assembly, she said the United Nations needed to define the objectives and guidelines for imposing sanctions.

    The emphasis on a very strict regime for the application of sanctions was not far-fetched, as sanctions often afflicted enormous, though unintended, adverse humanitarian impacts, particularly on the most vulnerable, she added. Known to cripple vital national and regional infrastructure, sanctions had led to severe socio-economic downturns with resultant widespread deterioration of the living standards of the less privileged.

    China’s representative urged caution in applying sanctions, given their deep impact and wide implications. Sanctions should be applied in accordance with strict criteria and only when all peaceful means of dispute settlement had been exhausted. He was in favour of devising a system that would assess the impact of preventive or enforcement measures on third States and explore practical ways to provide international assistance to those States, including by setting up a fund or a permanent consultative mechanism. Under the current circumstances, multi-channel financial arrangements or economic assistance should be used to minimize the loss incurred by third States. In that connection, the revised working paper proposed by the Russian Federation on the basic conditions and standard criteria for applying sanctions had practical significance.

    Outlining his country’s initiative, the representative of the Russian Federation reminded the Committee that it had, for several years, been considering the document on the main conditions and criteria for introducing sanctions and other coercive measures. Agreement had been reached on many elements of Russia’s paper. With the Security Council increasingly reverting to sanctions to enforce its decisions, it was important to elaborate universal basic criteria and conditions for implementing sanctions.

    A revised working paper, submitted following last year’s session, defined sanctions as an extreme measure which could be used only after the Council had determined the existence of a threat to international peace and security. He hoped members would adopt a constructive attitude when considering the working paper, so that a decision could be taken during the Committee’s current session.

    At the opening of the meeting, the Committee adopted its work programme for the session, which is expected to conclude on 24 March. It also elected Andreas D. Mavroyiannis (Cyprus) as its Chairman, and Ruddy Flores Monterrey (Bolivia), Emine Gökçen Tugral (Turkey) and Ali Hafrad (Algeria) as its three Vice-Chairpersons. Tamara Rastovac (Serbia and Montenegro) was elected as the Special Committee’s Rapporteur.

    Commenting on the programme of work, the representative of Trinidad and Tobago said that the United Nations was now at a crossroads.  Important decisions must be taken, for instance, in response to the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. Some of the Panel’s recommendations were of direct relevance to the Special Committee, and it would be remiss for it to pass on those without comment.  While it was not necessary for the Committee to enter into a political debate, in the context of its discussion of new items, the Charter Committee should consider its future role in the implementation of any decisions that would be taken that concerned the Charter.

    Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Japan, Thailand, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Ukraine, Turkey, Libya, Syria and Mexico.

    The Special Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced in The Journal.

    Background

    The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization met this morning to open its 2005 session, elect its Bureau and adopt a programme of work.

    The General Assembly, in its resolution 59/44 of December 2004, provided the mandate for the Committee’s two-week session, including to consider, on a priority basis, the question of implementing provisions of the United Nations Charter related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions under Chapter VII of the Charter. Other priorities included proposals concerning the Trusteeship Council and ways and means of improving the Committee’s working methods. 

    Among the documents before the Special Committee was its report to the fifty-ninth General Assembly session (document A/59/33), which includes proposals on the implementation of provisions of the United Nations Charter related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions (Russian Federation); the revised paper (Russian Federation) on the basic conditions and standard criteria for the introduction and implementation of sanctions and other coercive measures; strengthening of principles concerning the impact and application of sanctions (Libya), the legal basis for United Nations peacekeeping (Russian Federation) and even the proposal to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice as to the legal consequences of the use of force by States without prior authorization by the Security Council (Belarus and the Russian Federation); and ways and means to improve the Committee’s working methods (Japan).

    Statements

    LYDIA RANDRIANARIVONY (Madagascar), speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted an increased trend in the application of sanctions by the Organization, especially on African countries, said the Security Council’s power to impose sanctions should be exercised in accordance with the Charter and international law.  Sanctions should be considered only after all means of peaceful settlement of disputes under Chapter VI of the Charter had been exhausted and a thorough consideration of the effects of sanctions undertaken. Sanctions should be imposed for a precise time frame, be based on tenable legal grounds and be lifted as soon as the objectives were achieved.  Sanctions should also be non-selective, smart and targeted to mitigate their humanitarian effects. In that regard, the United Nations needed to define the objectives and guidelines for imposing sanctions. 

    The emphasis on a very strict regime for the application of sanctions was not far-fetched, she said, as sanctions often afflicted enormous, though unintended, adverse humanitarian impacts, particularly on the most vulnerable. Sanctions regimes had been known to cripple vital national and/or regional infrastructure, and had led to severe socio-economic downturns with resultant widespread deterioration of the living standards of the less privileged.  Most targeted sanctions failed and had to be bailed out with some coercive measures, including military operations, to make them comply or move them out of the scene. The African Group was concerned that none of the reports and seminars to establish the relevance of sanctions had focused on Africa. In that respect, the Group encouraged greater interaction between the various sanctions committees and the Assembly, as well as the conduct of comprehensive studies of the unintended impacts of sanctions regimes.

    Regarding the various proposals before the Committee, she said the Group saw some merit in the Russian Federation’s proposal, entitled “Declaration on the Basic Conditions and Standard Criteria for the Introduction and Implementation of Sanctions and other Coercive Measures”. The discussion should take on board, however, the salient points raised in Libya’s proposal, particularly the provision for possible payment of compensation to target and/or third States for damage done by sanctions found to have been unlawfully imposed. Also of merit was the joint proposal by the Russian Federation and Belarus which called for, among other things, the request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice as to the legal consequences of the resort to the use of force by States without prior consideration by the Security Council, except in self-defence.

    On the peaceful settlement of disputes, she reaffirmed the important role played by judicial mechanisms, particularly the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. The Group urged States to make the most effective use of existing procedures and methods for the prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes. The Group commended the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council for the increasing number of fact-finding missions undertaken in recent years.  The Group fully supported Assembly resolution 59/44 which, among other things, endorsed the Secretary-General’s efforts to eliminate the backlog in the Repertory of the Practice of the Security Council and requested him to establish a Trust Fund to eliminate the backlog.

    Concerning proposals regarding the Trusteeship Council, she noted that the views of States whose territories or neighbouring territories had been under trusteeship in the past would be an important element in any examination of the issue. In that regard, she suggested that governments of such States be invited to subsequent Committee sessions. She also called on the Committee to explore how the review of the Trusteeship Council’s status could be taken on board in the Organization’s current reform efforts.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that, given their deep impact and wide implications, as well as their likely negative consequences for third States, sanctions must be applied with caution.  Their use must be kept to the minimum or restricted. He was in favour of devising a system to assess the impact of preventive or enforcement measures on third States and exploring practical ways to provide international assistance to those States, including setting up a fund or a permanent consultative mechanism.  Under the current circumstances, multi-channel financial arrangements or economic assistance should be used to minimize the loss incurred by third States.

    A revised working paper proposed by the Russian Federation on the basic conditions and standard criteria for applying sanctions had practical significance, he said.  Sanctions should be applied in accordance with strict criteria, in particular the relevant provisions of the Charter and the rules of international law, and only upon exhaustion of all peaceful means of dispute settlement.  They must have a time frame, and the target State must be given notice in advance.

    On the preparation of a set of guidelines for peacekeeping operations, he also agreed with the basic ideas of Russia’s working paper entitled “fundamentals of the legal basis for United Nations peacekeeping operations in the context of Chapter VI of the Charter”.  Discussion of peacekeeping in other forums of the United Nations did not preclude the Committee’s consideration of the aspects of the issue with direct bearing on the Charter.

    Concerning efforts to enhance the role and status of the Special Committee and raise its efficiency, he said that all parties concerned, in the general context of United Nations reform, should explore ways and means of improving the Committee’s working methods and enhancing its efficiency in a pragmatic and consensus-seeking spirit.  The question of the status and the future of the Trusteeship Council should be dealt with in an integrated manner within the overall framework of the strengthening of the role of the Organization and its reforms.

    HIROSHI TAJIMA (Japan) stressed the importance of following the mandate of the Committee, which was revised each year by the Assembly.  In resolution 59/44, the Assembly had given priority to the issues of the implementation of the Charter provisions related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions, and ways and means of improving the working methods of the Committee and enhancing its efficiency.  His delegation was in favour of having a discussion on the sanctions in the Committee.  At the same time, it was important to pay attention to the discussions in other forums of the United Nations, such as the Working Group on Sanctions of the Security Council.  Regarding the revised working paper submitted by Russia, he said that his delegation appreciated the efforts made by the Russian Federation during last year’s session to reflect the views and opinions of other countries, including those expressed in informal consultations.

    For the last five years, Japan, along with others, had strongly advocated a review of the working methods of the Committee, and had proposed a set of concrete measures to increase its efficiency, he continued.  He appreciated the support that the working paper had gained from many delegations.  Together with other sponsors -- Australia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Uganda -- Japan had submitted a revised working paper at the end of the session last year to incorporate the comments and opinions from many delegations.  He hoped that revised proposals would receive favourable consideration, and progress would thus be made towards its adoption.

    He added that, as discussed in the High-Level Panel Report, it was necessary to renew the efforts to enable the Assembly to better fulfil its function as the main deliberative organ of the United Nations.  As one of the prominent committees of the General Assembly, the Special Committee also had the obligation to improve its performance.  It was not the working paper’s intent to discourage Member States from submitting new proposals or to attempt to curtail the right of equal sovereignty of States, but his delegation had proposed some ideas that, he believed, would enable the Committee to make its working methods more efficient and effective.

    TULL TRAISORAT (Thailand) welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a trust fund to eliminate the backlog in the Repertory Practice of United Nations organs.  He called on Member States, institutions and individuals to contribute to the fund, once established.  He reiterated the significance of the publication as a unique tool for preserving the United Nations’ institutional memory.  Regarding the Committee’s working methods, Thailand hoped that members would give favourable consideration to the revised working paper before the Committee, which was aimed at improving the Special Committee’s efficiency and was not meant to create an obstacle for other Member States wishing to submit new proposals.

    Mandatory sanctions were a useful mechanism for dealing with threats to international peace and security, he said.  But, they should only be applied in accordance with strict criteria, and their adverse effects should be minimized to the fullest extent possible.  He supported the Committee’s efforts in the elaboration of basic criteria for imposing sanctions. 

    DMITRY LOBACH (Russian Federation) said that the Committee’s portfolio included a number of issues of high priority to the Organization, including the issue of the use of sanctions -- a powerful means for containing and preventing conflicts.  The Security Council was increasingly reverting to sanctions to enforce implementation of its decisions.  However, any enforcement could be effective only if it was based on a wide consensus and taken in strict compliance with applicable legal norms.  Thus, it was important to elaborate universal basic criteria and conditions for the implementation of sanctions.  Based on his country’s initiative, for a few years now, the Committee was considering the document on the main conditions and criteria for the introduction of sanctions and other coercive measures.  On the whole, agreement had been reached on many elements of that paper.

    Following last year’s session, Russia had prepared a revised working paper, he continued.  The fundamental provisions of that document defined sanctions as an extreme measure which could be used only after the Council had determined the existence of a threat to international peace and security.  Required in such cases was clarity of goals and clear conditions for the withdrawal of sanctions.  Sanctions could not be used as a means of punishment of States.  It was also important to evaluate possible short- and long-term impact of sanctions both for the target of sanctions and third States.  Periodic reviews should be conducted to adjust or recall sanctions.  He was convinced that the validity of those principles could hardly be called into doubt. He hoped that all delegations would adopt a constructive attitude when considering the working paper, so that a decision could be taken during the current session.

    His country was interested in continuing the dialogue on the assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions, he said.  Some aspects of that issue had already been reflected in the Russian document on the basic conditions and standard criteria for the introduction and implementation of sanctions and other coercive measures.  Further consideration of that issue should be conducted, in the light of the recommendations of the High-Level Panel.  He proposed that the Secretary-General should prepare a report on the new ways and means of the implementation of the Charter provisions related to assistance to third States affected by sanctions.

    There was still some relevance to formulating a legal basis of peacekeeping operations in the context of Chapter VI of the Charter, he continued.  The main purpose of Russia’s working paper on that issue was to improve the United Nations peacekeeping practice on the basis of internationally accepted legal parameters.  Without imposing any ready-made prescriptions on the issue, Russia’s working paper proposed to establish their basic elements, including clear peacekeeping mandates, establishment of limits on peacekeepers’ self-defence rights, and mechanisms for determining the responsibilities of the United Nations and troop-contributing countries for the damage they imposed.  It was also necessary to reconfirm such principles as neutrality and non-interference in the internal affairs of the parties to conflict.  Interim justice in conflict and post-conflict situations was now under consideration by the Security Council.  In that connection, many delegations had pointed out the need to improve the mandates of peacekeeping missions.  The Special Committee should take those views into consideration and continue to work on the legal aspects of peacekeeping.

    As for the proposals to disband the Trusteeship Council, he said that the issue should be resolved together with other matters relating to the reform of the United Nations.  On dealing with the backlog in the publication of the Repertory of the United Nations, he associated himself with the request to the Secretariat to inform the Committee on the implementation of the Assembly decision to create a voluntary trust fund for the publication of the Repertory.  Russia also believed it was important to continue improving the methods of work of the Special Committee.

    CARL PEERSMAN (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said sanctions could be and had been effectively employed against States, entities and groups of individuals that threatened international peace and security.  Sanctions could, however, entail unintended negative effects on civilian populations and third States.  He welcomed, therefore, the Council’s continuing recourse to targeted sanctions and supported continuing the debate on how to further reduce unintended negative effects.  The Secretary-General had presented his report on the implementation of the Charter provisions relating to assistance to third States affected by sanctions.  The Council had also taken action, including the establishment of the informal working group on general sanctions issues and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team established by Council resolution 1526 of 2004. 

    Concerning the Russian Federation working paper, he said the paper aimed at a declaration on the baseline conditions and standard criteria for the introduction and implementation of sanctions and coercive measures.  The paper provided food for thought for considering sanctions, while respecting the Special Committee’s mandate.  The Special Committee should, however, avoid dealing with issues that had been assigned and were examined elsewhere.  Regarding the peaceful settlement of disputes, the Union reiterated its support for emphasizing the existing means of peaceful settlement, the need to have recourse to them at an early stage and the principle of free choice of means. 

    On the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the practice of the Security Council, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s conclusion in his report on those publications.  Taking note of the current status of the publications, he welcomed the progress made towards making the Repertory available on the internet without costs for the United Nations.  Concerning the Committee’s working methods, he supported the suggestions made in the revised working paper introduced by Japan, and co-sponsored by the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Uganda and Australia.  He regretted that until now only minimal reforms in the Committee’s working methods had been achieved. 

    DINA MARTINA (Ukraine) said she was pleased that the Committee had been able to make visible progress on a number of important issues regarding the revitalization and reform of the United Nations.  At its last session, the Committee had continued to pay particular attention to the question of its working methods.  In that regard, Ukraine appreciated Japan’s efforts to facilitate the discussion on streamlining the Committee’s working methods.  The very consideration of that question would result in the eventual improvement of the Committee’s work. 

    She said it was of utmost importance that the Council applied a clear and coherent methodology for the imposition, application and lifting of measures under Chapter VII.  In that regard, she underlined the Council’s Working Group on Sanctions and the importance of early agreement on its outcome.  Ukraine supported work on the Russian Federation paper regarding the basic conditions and criteria for imposing sanctions.  The issue of implementation of the Charter’s provisions regarding assistance to affected third States remained a priority item on the Committee’s agenda.  Practical and timely assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions would contribute to an effective and comprehensive approach by the international community to sanctions imposed by the Council.  The Committee should continue its work on the item.

    Mr. TEKNEU (Turkey), aligning himself with the position of the European Union, said that as a third State that had suffered considerably from the consequences of sanctions, Turkey attached great importance to the consideration of that issue in the Committee.  The Special Committee had been given the mandate to consider, on a priority basis, the issue of the implementation of the provisions of the Charter related to the assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions under Chapter VII of the Charter, taking into account all related reports, including the report on the work of an ad hoc expert group, which had been convened in 1998 to consider a methodology for assessing the impact of preventive or enforcement measures on third States, as well as the proposals submitted on the question.  The findings of the expert group were summarized in document A/53/312, which provided a solid basis for attaining concrete results.  Important information was also contained in several subsequent reports, including documents A/54/383 and Add.1 and A/57/165 and Add.1.  However, several years after the publication of the experts’ report, the issue had not been systematically elaborated on in the Special Committee.

    A number of views had already been laid down in the Special Committee, he continued, and practical ideas to address the problems of third States had been considered, including commercial exemptions or concessions to the mostly affected third States, direct consultations with those countries, establishment of compensation mechanisms and giving priority to contractors from affected third States for the investments in the target State.  An in-depth discussion of the matter would add to such measures and would allow the Committee to find ways to ensure their effective application.  The establishment of a working group might be useful to advance the consideration of the matter.

    A related topic on sanctions discussed in the Special Committee was a revised working paper submitted by the Russian Federation entitled “Declaration  on the Basic Conditions and Standard Criteria for the Introduction and Implementation of Sanctions and Other Coercive Measures”.  He took note of the point that the text made reference to non-permissibility of the situation in which the consequences of the introduction of sanctions would inflict considerable harm on third States.

    The High-Level Panel recommendations failed to address the situation of third States affected by sanctions, he said.  The States incurring an unintended impact of sanctions could not easily invoke Article 50 of the Charter for having consultations with the Security Council to mitigate the adverse effects.  Turkey’s example was proof in that respect.  The cardinal aim should be to minimize all sorts of possible “fallout” of sanctions.  Therefore, additional mechanisms should be devised for third States, which would be possibly confronted with severe economic difficulties.  The Security Council should consult such countries before it imposed sanctions.

    Turning to the Repertory of the United Nations Practice and the Repertoire of the Security Council, he said that both were important sources of information and commended the efforts to reduce the backlog in their publication.  As for the peaceful settlement of disputes, he said that consent of the parties to a certain dispute should be required for referring their disagreement to the

    dispute-resolving body.  And finally, on the Committee’s working methods, he said that Japan’s revised working paper contained useful elements.  It was important to begin meetings on time and ensure better utilization of conference services.  The duration of the Committee’s sessions should be in accordance with the importance of its work, which could not be overemphasized.

    Mr. GEBREEL (Libya) said his delegation was following the Committee’s work closely and hoped to be able to improve the Committee’s effectiveness so as to achieve a just world order.  Regarding ongoing work on the United Nations Charter, he said that not respecting the Charter provisions would mean that the Organization would be unable to meet the goal of global peace and security and the creation of a just world order.  Libya had always participated in the Committee’s work as reflected in its documentation.  He asked the Committee to study the proposals before it, including the proposal submitted by the Russian Federation on the imposition of sanctions.  If the Committee adopted that proposal, the only proposal remaining would be the Libyan proposal on strengthening certain principles concerning the impact and application of sanctions.  He did not wish to withdraw that proposal.  If the Committee adopted the proposal submitted by the Russian Federation, however, it would be necessary to ensure that Libya’s proposal, also be considered. 

    He also supported the document submitted by the European Union on sanctions and other measures, as well as the proposals submitted by Cuba in 1998 and 1999 on strengthening the United Nations role.  He congratulated the Secretary-General for his work regarding the Repertory of Practice and welcomed the provision of documents on line and electronically.  In that regard, he supported the establishment of a special fund.  All of the proposals before the Committee should be considered on an equal basis.

    MOHAMMED HAJ IBRAHIM (Syria) said that the issue of sanctions had become very important as the Council increasingly reverted to their use.  However, in some cases, sanctions were undertaken without approval of the Council.  That was a dangerous precedent.  Sanctions should be imposed in keeping with Chapter VII of the Charter, when all other mechanisms stipulated in Chapter VI had been exhausted.  They should not have a negative effect, particularly on third countries.  The Council must be fair when imposing sanctions, taking into account their long-term effect.  The purpose of sanctions should not be to punish a people.  They should be discussed in great detail before they were imposed.  Information should be presented to the target country; there should be specific time frames; and sanctions should be lifted once the target country had complied with the conditions.  It was also necessary to mitigate the effects of sanctions on the peoples of the countries involved.

    The working paper by Russia on the basic conditions and standard criteria was an important document, which needed to be studied, he continued.  He also supported valuable points contained in Cuba’s paper, including the need to democratize and provide complete transparency in the work of the Council.  It was also necessary to ensure an enhanced role of the General Assembly, which should shoulder its responsibilities under the Charter.  The Special Committee was the best place to consider such issues.  Other bodies should not consider issues in the purview of the Committee.

    In conclusion, he supported a proposal by Belarus and the Russian Federation that an advisory opinion be requested from the International Court of Justice as to the legal consequences of the resort to the use of force by States without proper authorization by the Security Council, except in the exercise of the right to self-defence.  As for the proposal to abolish the Trusteeship Council, he believed that it was not appropriate.  The Council should be given additional responsibilities, even if the Charter were to be amended towards that end.  All the items on the Committee’s agenda should be discussed on an equal footing.  Japan’ proposal should be studied with all due attention.

    ALFONSO ASCENCIO (Mexico) supported the measures to provide assistance to third States affected by sanctions, including measures to mitigate the effects of sanctions.  In turn, it was also necessary to explore other measures, including providing trade concession or preferential treatment to affected States and allocating resources to target third States.  It was also necessary to pay specific attention to the effects of sanctions on third States to prevent the undermining of the sanctions regime established in accordance with the Charter. 

    Regarding basic conditions and standards for imposing sanctions, Article 10 of the Charter stated that the General Assembly could issue recommendations regarding the necessary conditions for implementing Security Council resolutions.  While such issues were not the sole competence of this body, it was necessary to work closely with the Security Council working group on the general aspects of sanctions, he said. 

    On the maintenance of international peace and security, he said that while the possibility of laying down principles for peacekeeping operations had to be discussed, it was also important to ensure flexibility.  The Committee should avoid duplicating the work of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, while ensuring also that its contributions were taken on board.  On strengthening the Organization’s role, he supported measures to enhance and revitalize the General Assembly, which was the Organization’s main deliberative body. 

    Regarding reform proposals for the Trusteeship Council, he noted that in light of the ongoing reform process, the Committee should consider the possibility of a proposal to the Assembly to kick-start the reform process.  The Council had fulfilled its mandate and could be disbanded, as it had discharged its mandate.  On the Committee’s working methods, he was grateful for Japan’s contributions in that respect.  It was important to improve the Committee’s working methodology and to ensure that none of the reforms being suggested would preclude the right of delegations to submit proposals.  All parties who wished to submit an item should do so in a way that did not duplicate the work being done by other United Nations bodies.  Assigning clear priorities on the manner in which agenda items were discussed would facilitate the Commission’s discussions.  Mexico looked forward to steps to address the issue of the Repertory of Practice.

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