Remarks by John R. Arbogast, Counselor for Legal Affairs,Report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (Charter Committee) at a GA 6th Committee (Legal) Session

New York, NY
October 6, 2011


Mr. Chairman,

We welcome consideration of the report of the Charter Committee, which last met early this year. We appreciate the opportunity to provide a few observations on the Committee’s recent work.

First, we very much support the Committee’s “recognition of the value of ongoing efforts within the United Nations to improve the workings of the Organization” as reflected in its report.     

One recurring crucial issue is this regard as it pertains to the Charter Committee is the question of Committee efficiency, a matter that is examined in some detail in the Committee’s report. We urge that the Committee remain focused on ways to improve its productivity throughout its sessions, and to seriously consider such steps as biennial meetings and/or shortened sessions. 

A key aspect of Committee efficiency is the fact that the Charter Committee has a number of longstanding proposals before it.  We believe many of the issues they consider have been taken up and addressed elsewhere in the United Nations.  There is also a considerable degree of overlap in these proposals. These are reasons why the Committee has shown little enthusiasm for acting on or discussing these proposals in depth.

With regard to items on the Committee’s agenda concerning international peace and security, the United States continues to believe that the Committee should not pursue activities in this area that would be duplicative or inconsistent with the roles of the principal organs of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter.  This includes consideration of a revised working paper calling for a new, open-ended working group “to study the proper implementation of the Charter…with respect to the functional relationship of its organs.” This also includes questions relating to sanctions.  It would, for example, be inappropriate for the Charter Committee to devise norms concerning the design and implementation of sanctions.

We note that positive developments have occurred elsewhere in the United Nations that are designed to ensure that the UN system of targeted sanctions remains a robust tool for combating threats to international peace and security.  The recent modifications to UN sanctions imposed on Al-Qaeda, including the introduction of the Ombudsperson, are an example of such developments.  With respect to the matter of third States affected by the application of sanctions, as stated in the Secretary-General’s report A/66/213, “…the shift from comprehensive to targeted sanctions in recent years has reduced the incidence of unintended harm to third States.  In fact, no official appeals have been conveyed to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to monitor or evaluate since June 2003.”

On the question of requesting an opinion from the International Court of Justice, we have consistently stated that the United States does not support the proposal that the General Assembly request an advisory opinion on the use of force.

With respect to proposals regarding new subjects that might warrant consideration by the Special Committee, we continue to be cautious about adding new items to the Committee’s agenda.  While the United States is not opposed in principle to exploring new items, it is our position that they should be practical, non-political, and not duplicate efforts elsewhere in the UN system.  The Committee’s past consideration of work in the area of dispute prevention and settlement mechanisms comes to mind.  In this connection, we are not convinced that the proposal for further measures concerning cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, discussion of which was deferred until the Committee’s next meeting, would be a productive use of the Committee’s time, given the Declaration on that subject previously adopted by the General Assembly and the implementing work thereunder that has occurred.

To summarize, we believe that the Charter Committee is most useful when it efficiently considers proposals that are clear, realistic, and take into account the appropriate role of the various organs of the United Nations.

Finally, we welcome the Secretary-General’s report A/66/201, regarding the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council.  We commend the Secretary-General’s ongoing efforts to reduce the backlog in preparing these works.  Both publications provide a useful resource on the practice of United Nations organs, and we much appreciate the Secretariat’s hard work on them.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2011/246