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Stepped-up Efforts on Mechanisms for Natural Disaster Relief Are Discussed as Legal Committee Continues Review of International Law Commission Report

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Sixty-fifth General Assembly
Sixth Committee
23rd Meeting (PM)

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) today continued to consider the report of the International Law Commission, with continued focus on expulsion of aliens, effects of armed conflict on treaties and protection of persons in natural disasters, the delegate of Italy called on the Commission to interact with organizations working in the field to protect victims of natural disasters and to meet in Geneva with members of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as well as to consult with prominent non-governmental organizations in continuing its work.

He said the recent natural disasters in Haiti, Chile, Pakistan and elsewhere highlighted the importance of conducting a study on the complex topic of enhancing the effectiveness of international response to such disasters. Among the aspects to be considered was a clarification of the ambiguous term referring to the "primary role" of the affected State. Further, the role of the affected State in relation to gaining access to victims needed to be clarified.

Thailand's representatives said that natural disasters had been reaffirmed as complex transnational security challenges beyond the scope of any country to handle alone. Thailand had been "a good citizen of the world" when disasters had struck in Myanmar, Haiti, Chad, Pakistan and China, to name just a few. The policy was to carry out national relief efforts by networking to strengthen regional mechanisms and expand the effectiveness of best practices under the global management of the United Nations. The scope of the draft article on the topic should cover pre-disaster activities related to risk reduction, prevention and mitigation.

Noting that the obligation to cooperate was a fundamental United Nations principle enshrined in the Charter, the representative of El Salvador said the magnitude and duration of recent natural disasters rendered the situations beyond the capacity of any country to handle. That made cooperation an intrinsically important obligation that should be enacted into the domestic legislation of States.

On the subject of the expulsion of aliens, the delegate of the Russian Federation noted that no provisions dealt with property rights, a circumstance presumably to be taken up later in the work. The approach, she said, would be different from those addressing the right to life or the prohibition of torture. However, rights to the immovable property in the expelling State's territory called for guarantees of inviolability that would allow the expelled person to maintain ownership.

The text on the effect of armed conflict on treaties should distinguish between the various types of conflict and should include non-international conflicts, the representative of New Zealand said. Also, treaties to which one or more international organizations were party should be excluded from the scope of the articles, since organizations could not be party to armed conflicts. A listing of major treaties to which organizations were party should be compiled.

On that issue, the delegate of Belarus called for a study of the nature of the armed conflict in question since the criteria and intensity of the conflict would have an impact on the effect of the conflict on a treaty. Only protracted conflicts would have that kind of impact.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Portugal, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Netherlands, Estonia, France, Monaco, Cuba and Poland.

The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (Friday, 29 October) when debate on the Law Commission report will continue with the same focus.


The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to continue its annual consideration of the report of the International Law Commission with a focus on issues dealing with "expulsion of aliens", "effects of armed conflicts on treaties" and "protection of persons in the event of disasters". (For background on the report and themes, see Press Release GA/L/3399 of 25 October.)