Speakers Tackle Matters on Sanctions, Working Methods, Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, as Special Committee on Charter Opens 2023 Session
Opening its 2023 session today, the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization heard from speakers debating the propriety of sanctions, the Committee’s working methods and consideration of proposals, as well as its role of supporting Member States in the peaceful settlement of disputes.
Established as a platform to exchange views on the Charter’s implementation, the Special Committee holds annual sessions, with Member States gathering to consider proposals and hold substantive discussions. Since its founding, the United Nations’ mission and work have been guided by the purposes and principles contained in its Charter, adopted in 1945 and amended three times — in 1963, 1965 and 1973.
Much of the discussion — which spanned sanctions, the division of work between United Nations entities, alleged violations of the Organization’s Charter and efforts to peacefully resolve disputes — centred on which specific proposals the Special Committee should consider when it meets.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking for the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, spotlighted the growing resort to unilateralism and the attempts to replace the principles of the Charter with a new set of so-called “rules” that have never been discussed in an inclusive or transparent manner. He also expressed concern about some Member States’ lack of willingness to consider proposals before the Special Committee, calling on such States to demonstrate political will to fully implement the Committee’s mandate.
On that point, the representative of Syria recalled that his country proposed, in 2020, a document concerning the privileges and immunities enjoyed by Member State representatives and United Nations officials, asking that the document be included on the Committee’s agenda under “peaceful settlement of disputes”.
Mexico’s representative noted that his country, since 2018, has put forward a proposal to analyse the applications of certain provisions of the Charter relating to the use of force and to self-defence. However, it has taken some States six years to consider this proposal, which is still not included in the Special Committee’s work programme. Responding to arguments that the Special Committee is not the competent body to consider such issues or that such consideration would be duplicative, he said that there is no other forum in the Organization — including the Security Council — that provides for a discussion of the Charter provisions in question.
The representative of Argentina, stressing that the Special Committee must continue its discussion on the maintenance of international peace and security, supported including Mexico’s proposal in its substantive agenda. Further, he underscored that discussing Charter provisions relating to the use of force and to self-defence is relevant to the Committee’s work.
The representative of Iran, meanwhile, expressed support for, among other things, the joint proposal by the Russian Federation and Belarus to seek the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the resort to the use of force without authorization by the Security Council, except in the exercise of the right to self-defence. He added that, given recent developments and the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights, Iran will reintroduce a revised proposal on this issue, first advanced by his delegation in 2020.
The representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, welcomed any new proposals that are practical, non-duplicative and appropriate for the Special Committee. However, she expressed her lack of support for new subjects that do not meet this threshold, including those resubmitted this year on unilateral coercive measures, the application of Article 51 of the Charter, and privileges and immunities. Further, she called for the Committee to consider streamlining and prioritizing its work, including through postponing consideration of proposals that have been discussed at length for many years without meaningful progress.
The representative of the United States also opposed the proposal concerning unilateral coercive measures, adding that discussions on such politically charged topics are unlikely to generate consensus in the Committee. Further, she reiterated her disappointment that a report of the deliberations of last year’s Special Committee could not be adopted due to Russia’s demand to omit any description of numerous condemnations of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of the Charter.
Zimbabwe’s representative, however, joined others in supporting Iran’s proposal relating to unilateral coercive measures, which concerns the need to subject the same to legal analysis. Stressing that sanctions procedures should be transparent and clear, he also said that, in cases where sanctions are imposed, assistance should be provided to affected third States to minimize any adverse effects.
In his intervention for the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran’s representative called for sanctions objectives to be clearly defined and delineated for a specific time frame and, as soon as they are achieved, for the corresponding sanctions to be lifted.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed that sanctions are important in restoring international peace and security when fundamental tenets of the Charter — such as the principle of non-use of threat and force — are breached. She also said that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine violated such tenets, giving rise to State responsibility on Moscow’s part.
On that point, the representative of Ukraine, also speaking for Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, echoed that stance, stressing that the Russian Federation’s clear aggression violates the purposes and principles of the Charter. Ukraine continues to exercise its right to self-defence in accordance with Article 51. What the world is witnessing in Ukraine today is a continuation of the aggressive pattern started in Georgia in the early 1990s. Detailing Moscow’s destructive actions across the region, he underscored that the international community holds a collective responsibility to act when violations of international law are committed.
The representative of the Russian Federation, meanwhile, underscored that the Special Committee must not be a platform for specific international disputes that are in the purview of other bodies. Regarding speakers’ statements made about Ukraine, he reiterated the legal and political rationale behind his country’s special military operation, as a part of its inalienable right to self-defence. Further, sanctions were increasingly being wielded by States without restraint, despite the Security Council’s increasingly smart use of such measures. Iran’s proposal explores minimizing the damage wrought by such measures, particularly with respect to third countries, he noted.
China’s representative, pointing out that sanctions are a means — not an end — encouraged a prudent approach in this area. Turning to the peaceful resolution of disputes, he recalled the five principles of peaceful coexistence proposed by China in the 1950s. This allowed for a proper resolution of the border issue with Myanmar and the signing of the first Peace and Friendship Treaty among Asian countries. Adding that the will of the parties in a dispute is of paramount importance, he emphasized that solutions cannot be imposed by external forces.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea, encouraging further debate on the peaceful resolution of disputes, said that States should avail themselves of preventive diplomacy, among other tools, and bring matters to the International Court of Justice. In this regard, he pointed out that Equatorial Guinea and Gabon have brought before the Court their dispute to arrive at a peaceful solution.
Eritrea’s representative, similarly, said that his country resorted to the Court’s arbitration and mediation mechanisms. This experience underscored the importance of acting in good faith, whichever mechanisms States chose to resolve disputes, he added.
The representative of the Philippines, highlighting another mechanism for the pacific resolution of disputes, spotlighted the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, which marked its fortieth anniversary in 2022. This is one of the Special Committee’s most-important achievements, he emphasized, adding that his country is honoured to conduct an interactive dialogue focusing on the role of international tribunals in the peaceful settlement of international disputes.
Highlighting another success was the representative of Türkiye, who said that the recent, devastating earthquake in his country demonstrated, once again, that international solidarity and multilateralism “is our first and best line of defence”. Peaceful resolution of conflicts and mediation is a cornerstone of his country’s foreign policy, he said, spotlighting achievements in this area — including the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a landmark agreement to limit the suffering of those dependent on fertilizer and grain exports for food security.
In other business, the Committee elected Zéphyrin Maniratanga (Burundi) as its Chair; Melinda Vittay (Hungary), Kavoy Anthony Ashley (Jamaica) and Yarden Rubinshtein (Israel) as Vice-Chairs; and Azela G. Arumpac-Marte (Philippines) as Rapporteur. The Committee also adopted the session’s provisional agenda (document A/AC.182/L.160).
Also speaking today were representatives of Viet Nam, Guatemala, India, Algeria, Bangladesh, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Uganda, Belarus, Nepal, Oman, Armenia, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Egypt, Slovakia and Morocco, along with an observer for the State of Palestine.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Syria, India, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea, along with an observer for the State of Palestine.
The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization will convene its various working groups at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 February.