The 74th Session of the UN's Sixth Committee
· The Sixth Committee is the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly. All of the United Nations Member States are entitled to representation on the Sixth Committee. This year, the seventy fourth session of the Sixth Committee will be held from 7th October to 20th November 2019.
· As per the provisional programme of work, the Sixth Committee will consider more than 20 agenda items over a period of 30 days. Of these agenda items, the following two items are of particular interest, given the stage at which they are currently and their potential import for the values and interests of small / developing States -
o “Responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts” - The item has been considered every three years by the Sixth Committee since it took note of the Articles on responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts (ASR), as adopted by the International Law Commission (ILC) in 2001. The issue of what final form the ASR should take has been the central focus of the Sixth Committee debates on this item. During the previous session (seventy-first session) of the Committee, a small but significant number of delegations did not favor negotiating a convention at that time. This year the Secretary General has prepared and published two reports - one on the decisions of international courts, tribunals and other bodies in citing to the ASR (A/74/83), and another report containing the comments and information received from Governments on the ASR (A/74/156). During the upcoming session, the focus of the Committee will be on further examining the ASR, with a view to take a decision on the question of convening a conference to negotiate a convention or take other appropriate action on the basis of the articles. IILA has conducted a detailed analysis on the topic, including setting out the advantages and disadvantages of the convention process, and identifying key provisions contained in the ASR that must be grappled with (especially for small and developing States) should the decision to move toward a convention conference be made. IILA is ready to work with States to help the making of informed substantive decisions on this foundational element of international law.
o “The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction” - The item has been considered annually by the Sixth Committee since 2009. It was included in the agenda of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly at the request of the United Republic of Tanzania on behalf of the Group of African States. This year, the Secretary-General has prepared and released a report based on the submission of the Member States and relevant observers, on the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, including, information on the relevant applicable international treaties and their national legal rules and judicial practice (A/74/144) – the customary report prepared by the Secretariat. What is important to note particularly for this upcoming session concerns the decision taken by the International Law Commission to include the topic “Universal criminal jurisdiction” in its long-term programme of work. While several delegations voiced support for the decision taken by the Commission, other delegations considered that it would be premature and counterproductive at this stage for the Commission to undertake a study on the topic. The seventy fourth session could be an important juncture on this aspect. IILA could closely assist the States in understanding how the development of the topic would be affected by the forum in which it is being considered and the most effective and efficient way to move forward.
· Additionally, the following agenda items could also be of interest to the States since they are being considered after a period of three years:
o “Diplomatic protection” – The item has been considered by the Sixth Committee since 2006, after it took note of the draft articles on diplomatic protection as adopted by the ILC. In the previous session examination (seventy-first session), there was a divergence in opinion amongst the delegations as to whether or not there should a convention elaborated on the basis of the draft articles at the present stage. This year, the Secretary-General has prepared and published a report containing comments and information received from Governments on the item (A/74/143), as is customary. The focus of the Committee this year is to continue examining the question of a convention on diplomatic protection and to also identify any difference of opinion on the articles.
o “Consideration of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities and allocation of loss in the case of such harm” – The item has been by the Sixth Committee since 2006, after it took note of the draft articles on prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities (in 2001), and the draft principles on the allocation of loss in the case of transboundary harm arising out of hazardous activities (in 2006), as adopted by the ILC. In the previous session examination (seventy-first session), there was a divergence in opinion amongst the delegations on the final form that that the articles and principles should take. This year the Secretary-General has prepared a report on of decisions of international courts, tribunals and other bodies referring to the articles on prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities (A/74/132) and a report containing comments and observations of Governments on the consideration of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities and allocation of loss in the case of such harm. (A/74/131 + Add.1), as is customary.
o “The law of transboundary aquifers” - The item has been considered by the Sixth Committee since it took note of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers, as adopted by the ILC, in 2008. In the previous session examination (seventy-first session), there was a divergence in opinion amongst the delegations on the final form that that the draft articles should take.
· Effectively engaging during the Sixth Committee as well as providing information and comments to the ILC, are important methods for the States to affect the making and the interpretation of international law. IILA, with its strong experience in the workings of the ILC and the Sixth Committee, is ready to work with small and developing States to enhance their capacity to fully engage with the process.
For more information on the other agenda items being considered in the seventy fourth session of the Sixth Committee, see Sixth Committee’s website.