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290th & 291st Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Discuss Sanctions, Role of Regional Organizations in Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, as Special Charter Committee Opens 2019 Session

The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization opened its 2019 session today with delegates debating questions related to sanctions, working methods and the role of both the Committee and regional organizations in the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Speakers emphasized the importance of the Committee’s work, with Kenya’s delegate underscoring that the body’s mandate is well placed to play a critical role in interpreting the provisions of the United Nations Charter.  It is especially pertinent “now when the need for making the United Nations fit for purpose has become even more pressing owing to the unique and dynamic challenges the world faces”, he added.

The representative of the Gambia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that while the Group trusts and believes in the Committee, it has not lived up to its full potential mainly because of the tendency to allow ideologies to stifle “true legal work”.  The Committee’s work should focus on ensuring adherence to the Organization’s goals concerning the rule of law and justice, and the Security Council must become more representative.  “Maintaining the status quo will only contribute to the further erosion of its credibility and legitimacy,” he stressed.

Iran’s representative, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said an important element of the United Nations reform process is the democratization of all its organs.  He reiterated concern about the continued encroachment of the Security Council on the functions of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council on issues that fall within the purview of the latter entities.  Turning to sanctions, he said their use raises fundamental moral questions.  As sanctions regimes can have unintended consequences which may lead to violations of human rights, the objectives of such regimes should be clearly outlined and demands on the State subjected to the sanctions must be clearly defined.  He urged the Secretariat to fully assess the short- and long-term socioeconomic impact of sanctions on civilian populations.

Venezuela’s delegate said his country’s economy has been “savagely” devastated by United States sanctions.  “In their desire to get their hands on the largest oil reserves on the planet, Trump and his cronies have been calling on the civil servants and civilians to support a puppet president” that would guarantee the plundering of Venezuela’s wealth, he said, calling for the immediate cessation of all violations by the United States and its coalition against Venezuela.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that unilateral sanctions are incompatible with the Charter principles of cooperation, sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of States.  Unilateral sanctions also make it clear that certain States want to impose their desires and beliefs on other States.

The representative of the European Union said that sanctions can be an important tool for international peace and security; when imposed in a targeted way, they increase the probability of reaching objectives.  He underscored the important role of the Ombudsperson to the Security Council’s ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.  Turning to the pacific settlement of disputes, he welcomed Ghana’s proposal to strengthen the role of regional organizations.  However, the European Union “is still not convinced” about some aspects of the proposal, particularly the legal basis of the framework defining the responsibilities of the United Nations and regional organizations, he said.

The representative of Ghana said that it is indeed not possible to establish a universal guideline defining the ideal relationship between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations for several reasons.  But it is possible to identify certain general principles on which cooperation could be based.  Regional organizations have a responsibility under the Charter to address regional conflicts, he noted.  The peaceful settlement of disputes by regional organizations would command greater consensus if authorized by the Security Council before they are established.

“Ghana’s revised proposal is worth exploring,” said India’s representative, adding that regional organizations like the African Union are already playing a very important role in contributing to the maintenance of peace and security.

Several States stressed the need to address tensions and resolve disputes through mediation.  Cuba’s delegate said that the founding principles of the Charter are often discarded by Member States and the Organization’s senior staff, who back policies that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations.  “Today what is at stake in Venezuela is the sovereignty and dignity of the people of the Caribbean and Latin America,” she stressed.  It is crucial to ensure that the guiding role of the General Assembly is maintained.

The representative of China said mediation can accommodate the comfort level of all parties and thus help reduce tensions.  As a means of settling disputes through third-party intervention, mediation should be applied in strict observance of the Charter and with State consent as a pre-condition.  “Important elements including the mediators and mediation methods and procedures must be selected based on the consent of the States concerned,” he stressed.

Azerbaijan’s delegate said that an injured State is entitled to react by exercising its inherent right to self-defence.  To prevent an escalation of hostility, special attention should be given to the implementation of resolutions adopted by the United Nations main organs.  It is unacceptable that the territories of Member States remain under unlawful occupation and subjected to deliberate actions aimed at changing their demographic and cultural character.

On working methods, the representative of the United States said the Committee should take additional steps to streamline its work, and improve its efficiency and productivity, including by seriously considering biennial meetings or shortened sessions.  In the current reform-minded environment, with tighter budgets, the Committee needs to do its job by recognizing that these steps are reasonable and long overdue.

In other business, the Committee elected Maria Theofili (Greece) as its Chair,  George Mikeladze (Georgia) as Vice-Chair and Die Millogo (Burkina Faso) as Rapporteur.  The Committee also adopted the session’s provisional agenda (document A/AC.182/L.149).  It postponed the election of the members of the Bureau from the Asia-Pacific States Group and the Latin American and Caribbean States Group to a later meeting.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Philippines, Afghanistan, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Honduras, Nigeria, Iran (in its national capacity), Morocco, Belarus, Turkey, El Salvador, Guatemala, Algeria and Bangladesh.

The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 27 February, to continue its session.

For information media. Not an official record.