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Special Committee on United Nations Charter Opens 2022 Session amid Calls to End Sanctions Use, Uphold Rules-Based International Order

The Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization opened its 2022 session today with delegates debating questions related to sanctions, working methods and 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 the United Nations founding in 1945, the mission and work of the Organization have been guided by the purposes and principles contained in its Charter, adopted in 1945 and amended three times, in 1963, 1965 and 1973.  The Special Committee’s 2022 session, held from 22 February to 2 March, also features in-person and virtual discussions and working groups.

During today’s general debate, delegates highlighted a range of priorities.  Some drew attention to the Russian Federation’s recent actions in Ukraine, calling attention to the Special Committee’s agenda item on the peaceful settlement of disputes.  Several delegates made proposals on a range of issues, while others called for the required political will to enable the Special Committee to fully discharge its mandate.  Many echoed concerns about threats to the Charter, including an erosion of multilateralism and rise of unilateral actions and measures.

Expressing serious concern about these current and growing threats, Venezuela’s representative, on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, described attempts to ignore and even replace its purposes and principles with a new set of “rules”.  Voicing concern about the lack of willingness of some Member States to engage in meaningful discussions to consider various proposals, he called on those delegations to show political will to allow for the full implementation of the Special Committee’s mandate.  As for other challenges, he said the Special Committee could play a positive role in reviewing the situation of limited access for certain Member States to United Nations Headquarters.

Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran’s representative said the Charter should play a key role in United Nations reform.  Commending such major achievements as the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes — negotiated and adopted in 1982 — and the related handbook of guidelines, she said the Special Committee must work to update the latter, given new developments and the latest practices of some Member States.  Other concerns included the Security Council’s encroachment on the General Assembly’s functions and powers, as well as the unintended humanitarian side effects of sanctions.

Expressing interest in receiving more information on the perceived objective assessments of such side effects, she urged the Secretariat to develop its capacity on the proper analysis of their socioeconomic impact.  Coercive economic measures imposed on developing countries are equally worrisome, she said, calling on the States that use them to stop.  Anticipating results-based discussions on various proposals before the Special Committee, she voiced support for several, including the Russian Federation’s suggestion to update guidelines for peacefully settling disputes and establishing a related website.

Georgia’s representative, speaking also for Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, expressed concerns that the Manila Declaration is not being fully implemented, pointing to the Russian Federation’s recent military build-up in and around Ukraine as an example.  Regarding the use of judicial settlement, she pointed out that Russian military troops are still deployed illegally, despite numerous judgments, judicial orders and mediation efforts.  “We are constantly facing Moscow’s ongoing provocations and hybrid war that undermines the European and Euro-Atlantic security and the rule-based international order,” she asserted.

The Russian Federation’s representative, commenting on the statement made by Georgia’s delegate, said the Special Committee is a forum for discussing such issues as good-neighbourliness and strengthening the United Nations Charter, adding that Ukraine is “hardly an example worthy of following”.  Raising several concerns, he said the United States must respect its obligations as the host country of the United Nations.  Calling for support for the Russian Federation’s suggestion to update the Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, he said his delegation will also submit a proposal regarding the role of non-governmental organizations, given that some States have called for their increased participation.

The United States representative said sanctions implemented outside United Nations scope of work are tools for demonstrating foreign policy.  On proposals for new items, she said such topics must be non-political and must not be more suitable for other forums.  Concerns about sanctions are not for the Special Committee, nor are matters related to the host country agreement, she clarified, expressing hope that this session will make the best use of time and resources.

Syria’s representative, endorsing the statement made by the Group of Friends, said the Charter — a cornerstone of international law and relations — has been violated and politicized in its application over the decades.  As such, reform must address these concerns.  Respecting the options to peacefully settle disputes is critical, he said, expressing support for related proposals, including a joint one made by Belarus and the Russian Federation.  Unilateral sanctions are arbitrary and violate the Charter, he said, expressing support for Iran’s proposal to minimize their use and address the consequences of such measures.

Many delegates agreed on ending unilateral sanctions, including Pakistan’s representative.  The Special Committee must ensure the Charter is respected, he declared.  Indeed, Charter principles of non-interference and the pacific settlement of disputes are among the tools needed to address the current landscape, as unilateral force and external intervention have emerged alongside xenophobia, the formation of new military blocs and a growing arms race.

Indonesia’s delegate said the Charter’s principles must apply equally to all States.  He encouraged the international community to strengthen its collaboration on assisting States to implement the Charter through capacity-building and technical cooperation.  While the Secretariat has made progress on the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, he emphasized the importance of addressing the long-standing issue of backlogs in the preparation of subsequent volumes.

China’s delegate said the world has entered a new era of instability, from climate change to ideological confrontations, requiring efforts to uphold the Charter.  International laws can only be made collectively by all Member States.  To this end, all countries should support true multilateralism by putting into practice the principles of the Charter.  Commitments must be made to peacefully settle disputes, with political solutions leading the way.  Regional security cannot be frozen into blocs, and States must abandon a cold war mentality.  Instead, all countries should choose cooperation over confrontation, he said, recalling China’s proposal for a global development initiative, which is the answer to the international community’s aim of realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Condemning double standards and the imposition of unilateral sanctions, he said no country should put their own will above the Charter.

Nepal’s representative underlined the crucial role of preventive diplomacy to resolve disputes by using such tools as consultation, negotiation, political dialogue and other homegrown approaches.  Security Council sanctions must be used only as the last resort.  Highlighting a need for a clear separation of roles and effective cooperation, he called on the Special Committee to prevent duplication and overlap in the functioning of the General Assembly, Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

Zimbabwe’s delegate said that, large or small, all Member States equally have a positive role to play in promoting peace and development for present and future generations.  From strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations to analysing the best ways to peacefully settle disputes, the challenges affecting the international community can be effectively addressed through unity, solidarity, commitment and cooperation.  However, more must be done to address the outstanding topics on the Special Committee’s agenda.  Failure to address these and other such pressing topics as sanctions impedes the Special Committee from executing its important mandate — to improve the efficacy of the United Nations in order to make it more responsive and adaptive to current and emerging challenges, he said.

In other business, the Committee elected Gheorghe Leucă (Republic of Moldova) as its Chair; Ahmed Abdelaziz Ahmed Elgharib (Egypt), Dongkyu Moon (Republic of Korea) and Sarah Weiss Ma’udi (Israel) as Vice-Chairs; and Ligia Lorena Flores Soto (El Salvador) as Rapporteur.  The Committee also adopted the session’s provisional agenda (document A/AC.182/L.158).

Participating in the general debate today were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Peru, Nepal, Belarus, Mexico, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cuba, Costa Rica, India, Nicaragua, Iran (national capacity), Republic of Moldova, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Turkey, Armenia, El Salvador, Algeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Fiji, Azerbaijan, Timor-Leste, Eritrea, Morocco, Philippines and Egypt.  A representative of the European Union delegation, in its capacity as observer, also delivered a statement.

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, 23 February, to continue its session.

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