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10/15/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/15/2021 20:42

Concluding Heated Debate on Crimes against Humanity, Sixth Committee Speakers Urge Further Dialogue in Ad Hoc Committee to Determine Best Way Forward

Following Address by General Assembly President, Delegates Take Up Reports on International Treaty Framework, Administration of Justice in United Nations

Concluding a fiercely contested debate on crimes against humanity, before also taking up treaty registrations, administration of justice and an observer status request, delegates of the Sixth Committee (Legal) stressed that any future convention on the matter would only be as successful as the consensus it can gather. (For background, please see Press Releases GA/L/3638.)

France's delegate underscored that while genocide and war crimes are specifically regulated by conventions, crimes against humanity lack an international convention of the same rank. Expressing regret that there was no substantial negotiation on the subject last year, she called on the Sixth Committee to determine the best way forward during the current session through the broadest and most transparent dialogue possible.

Haiti's delegate, noting that slavery is a crime against humanity, called for reparative justice as stipulated in the draft articles. Despite the 1776  American Revolution and the 1789 French Revolution, he pointed out that the ideals of liberté egalité fraternité were not applied to enslaved people. "We had to wait for the Haitian revolution of 1884," he said, noting its uniquely anti-slavery and anti-colonial ideals, and voicing support for a convention based on the draft articles.

The National Unity Government of Myanmar, that country's delegate said, is actively seeking accountability for the torture and extrajudicial execution of more than 1,100 civilians, including protesters, children and innocent bystanders, by the military. His country's experience clearly demonstrate the urgent need for an international convention, he said.

However, the Russian Federation's delegate, countering the calls for an internationally binding legal instrument, reminded the Committee that there is no consensus on the contents or fate of the draft articles. The real problem is not the lack of a convention on crimes against humanity; it is the lack of political will to use existing instruments, he said.

Sri Lanka's delegate, stressing that crimes against humanity are the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, remarked: "We know what they are; we seem to tell ourselves that we know when we see it." However, there are many instances where certain groups have conveniently termed any act that goes against their ideologies as crimes against humanity. It is appalling to make use of such serious terms so frivolously, he said.

The representative of Ireland said that end goal is not just the elaboration of a convention, but a national and international framework that prevents crimes against humanity. Observing that some Member States are not yet ready, she voiced support for the creation of an ad hoc committee which will allow time for a detailed debate and discussion.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, while agreeing with many delegates on that proposal, underlined the need for a clear mandate for such a committee that would provide sufficient opportunity for every State to voice their views. "This does not, of course, mean endless debate," he stressed.

The Sixth Committee also took up the report of the Secretary-General, Strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework (document A/75/136).

Switzerland's delegate highlighted Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations which stipulates the registration of treaties. Noting that its objective is to safeguard peace by discouraging secret diplomacy, she reiterated her country's proposal to include a provision in the regulations expressly permitting the registration of treaties, even if they refer to older treaties that have not yet been registered. This could considerably reduce the number of treaties that remain under the radar.

The Republic of Moldova's representative put forward three main questions to consider: what is being registered, who is operating the registration and how it is being registered. She called for an approach that is "pragmatic, purely legal and most importantly, forward-thinking".

Spain's delegate, alongside 15 Spanish-language States, also offered a proposal, stressing the value of multilingualism. The languages of Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish should also be called upon to make it possible for international treaties and agreements to be accessible in their content, and published as soon as possible, he said, suggesting an addition to the current rule 5 of the Rules of Procedure regarding courtesy translations as a tool of multilingualism without any increase in costs and with potential savings in time and money.

The representative of the Philippines observed that, between 2009 and 2019, there was a geographical imbalance in treaty registration, with 60 per cent originating from Western European and other groups, and only 9 per cent from the Asia-Pacific group. She welcomed amendments to regulations that could ease the registration process through transparency, accessibility and simplification, as well as wider use of digital and electronic tools.

As a depository of treaties, Colombia, that country's delegate said, "can only attempt to put itself in the Office [of Legal Affairs]'s shoes". She welcomed proposals relating to the substantive conditions for registration; the depositing of treaties with provisional application; the translation of treaties; and making the registration and publication of treaties more efficient.

Next, the Committee took up the reports of the Secretary-General, including: The Administration of Justice at the United Nations (document A/76/99); The Activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (document A/76/140); and The Internal Justice Council (document A/76/124).

The United States delegate highlighted the reduction in the case backlog, noting that the number of applications pending is at the lowest point in over 10 years. Commending the hard work of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal staff, she pointed to the flexibility provided by the model of half-time judges and remote work.

Sierra Leone's delegate stressed that improvements must be not only quantitative but qualitative. Noting that the financial liquidity situation of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal was averted, he emphasized that it would be useful to determine whether this was because of the transition to remote work and what that means for its sustainability.

Abdulla Shahid, President of the General Assembly, also addressed the Sixth Committee today, offering his full support for its work during his "Presidency of Hope". Stressing the importance of considering the international legal implications that sea-level rise can have for small island States, he also lauded the gender balance in the Sixth Committee this year, including in its leadership. He voiced his hope that, in the future, women will be better represented in international institutions, including commissions, courts and tribunals.

The Sixth Committee also heard introduction of a draft resolution concerning observer status request for the International Solar Alliance.

Also speaking on crimes against humanity were representatives of New Zealand, Cameroon, Estonia, Argentina, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Malaysia, Lebanon, Jordan, Nigeria, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Austria, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Indonesia, Senegal, Kenya, Ecuador, Honduras, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Peru.

Speaking on strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework were representatives of Finland (also speaking for Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Norway), Singapore (also speaking for Argentina, Austria, Brazil and Italy), Iran, Egypt, Canada (also speaking for Australia and New Zealand), Portugal, China, Cuba, United States, Paraguay, El Salvador, Mexico, Chile, Ethiopia, Peru, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Nigeria, Bolivia, France, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Turkey and Cameroon.

The representatives of Morocco (speaking on behalf of the African Group), Australia (also speaking for Canada and New Zealand), Mexico, Switzerland, Netherlands and Cameroon spoke during the debate on administration of justice, as did a representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer.

The representatives of India and El Salvador spoke during the consideration of observer status requests.

The Sixth Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 18 October, to take up the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on the work of its fifty-fourth session.

Crimes against Humanity

LUKE ROUGHTON (New Zealand), noting that Member States must make every effort to prevent and punish crimes against humanity, stressed that the draft articles and commentaries prepared by the International Law Commission provide a strong basis for Member States to consider the negotiation of a convention. By taking measures at the national level and by enhancing international cooperation, including with respect to extradition and mutual legal assistance, Member States can prevent and prosecute such crimes, he said, stressing that the draft articles contain relevant provisions. The way forward must be the subject of a broad-based and inclusive dialogue, he said, urging Member States to work constructively towards establishing a forum for exchanging views on the draft articles.

ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon) highlighting the general consensus on combating crimes against humanity, said it is this very consensus that should make the international community cautious about defining those crimes. Noting that the Commission has taken up the definition in the Rome Statute, he pointed out that that definition is not universal. Also referring to the list of what constitutes a crime against humanity, he cautioned: "We need to avoid trivializing this serious crime". Crimes against humanity must target the humanity of the persona or group being targeted, and the perpetrator must be motivated by a dehumanizing view of the victim, he stressed, adding that a legally binding instrument is not the right option because it would create difficulties at the national level.

MERJE MÄGI (Estonia), associating herself with the European Union, reiterated hercountry's firm commitment to a rules-based international order and to the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. Emphasizing that it is a common responsibility for all States, she said the international community must step up its efforts to prevent and punish those heinous crimes. The International Law Commission's draft articles reflect that goal and the process leading to them was both transparent and open. She voiced her firm support for the elaboration of a convention on crimes against humanity on the basis of the draft articles, preferably through a global conference of plenipotentiaries. Alongside the international treaties on genocide and war crimes, such a convention will complement the Rome Statute and be fully in line with its basic principle of complementarity.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) recalled the assertion by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that rules prescribing crimes against humanity address the offender's conduct, not only towards the immediate victim but also towards the whole of humankind. Stressing that crimes against humanity are those most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, he said: "We know what they are; we seem to tell ourselves that we know when we see it". Pointing to ambiguities in distinguishing such core crimes from treaty crimes, he said that genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression enjoy a special place, through the exclusion of other crimes. However, there are many instances where certain groups have conveniently turned any act that goes against their ideologies as crimes against humanity. That disrespects the very foundation of justice, he said, calling it appalling to make use of such serious terms so frivolously.

MARTÍN JUAN MAINERO (Argentina) recalled that the International Law Commission's work on crimes against humanity resulted in a set of draft articles, along with a recommendation that an international convention on this topic be established based on the same. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court made some progress in the normative task of defining these crimes. However, it did not close the legal vacuum regarding the prevention and punishment of such offenses. While international law does contemplate certain crimes against humanity - such as apartheid, forced disappearance and torture - it does not currently cover all of them. "This convention represents an outstanding debt for the international community," he said, adding that the draft articles - being a high-quality product - can be the basis for the negotiation of such an instrument.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said that, to date, the Mynamar military has extra-judicially, arbitrarily, summarily executed more than 1,100 civilians and tortured many hundreds more, subjecting them to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment. The victims of those crimes against humanity include, not only anti-military protesters, but also children and innocent bystanders. He recalled crimes against humanity committed by the military against the Rohingya people in 2017. Noting that the National Unity Government is actively seeking accountability and justice for past and ongoing crimes committed by the military, he said the Government lodged a declaration with the registrar of the International Criminal Court on 17 July, accepting the Court's jurisdiction with respect to the international crimes committed in the territory of Myanmar since July 2002. Further, his country has appealed time and again to the Security Council to take decisive and timely measures, including imposing a global arms embargo on the military. Noting that his country's experiences clearly demonstrate the urgent need of an international convention, he expressed hoped that such an instrument will be adopted in the near future.

CHANAKA LIAM WICKREMASINGHE (United Kingdom) said the International Law Commission's draft articles would provide a good basis for the negotiation of a convention, which would be a powerful tool to promote international cooperation for prosecutions of atrocity crimes at the national level. It is time to move the consideration of the draft articles into a deeper, structured conversation, in which all Member States can fully engage, he said. That process requires the active engagement of all, along with dedicated time and space to allow for detailed discussions. As such, the establishment of an ad hoc committee that can meet with sufficient time and facilities in the intersessional period would provide the best means of enabling such a dialogue to proceed, he noted.

NIDAA HUSSAIN ABU-ALI (Saudi Arabia) called on all States to cooperate to ensure accountability and end impunity for those who commit crimes against humanity. A convention on the topic, however, must not propose new definitions that might confuse interpretation of relevant terms or obscure the concepts for which they stand. Definitions - such as those for "slavery," "torture" and "forced disappearance" - must be standardized, matching the definitions contained within relevant United Nations conventions. She also pointed out that draft article 7, relating to establishing national jurisdiction, and draft article 9, relating to preliminary measures when an alleged offender is present, expand the scope of the principle of universal jurisdiction. This principle is still being discussed in the Sixth Committee. The draft articles must not go beyond the scope of the Charter of the United Nations and international law.

BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland), noting that the admirable work of the International Law Commission deserves appropriate recognition, stressed that the end goal is not just the elaboration of an international convention, but rather the creation of a national and international framework that prevents crimes against humanity and effectively punishes the perpetrators of such crimes where they occur. Also voicing support for the development of a multilateral treaty for mutual legal assistance and extradition, as well as the holding of an international conference of plenipotentiaries, he noted that some Member States are not yet ready for that next phase. Therefore, he added his support to the proposal for the creation of an ad hoc committee which will allow time for a detailed debate and discussion to address their concerns.

MARIEKE LOUISA J. ANAF (Belgium), voicing support for drafting a convention based on the draft articles, said an ad hoc committee with a clear mandate and a well-defined time frame would be a good context in which to make progress. Also welcoming the deletion of the definition of gender as taken from the Rome Statute in the final version of the draft articles, she stressed the need to consider developments in international human rights law on that matter. She also expressed support for the MLA Initiative, pointing out that its aim is to develop a modern operational framework guaranteeing effective inter-State cooperation for national prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Stressing that it is different in scope and approach from the draft articles, she emphasized the complementary nature of both initiatives.

HANIZAH BINTI MOHD IZZUDDIN (Malaysia) described war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity and of aggression, as the most serious transgressions concerning the international community today. Stressing that the perpetrators must be brought to justice, she said that investigation and prosecution of such offences, as well as international cooperation amongst States, are vital. Within Malaysia's current framework, perpetrators of crimes against humanity may be prosecuted under its general criminal laws, foremost of which is the Penal Code. She added her support for the elaboration and discussion of draft articles for a convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity, be it by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries. She expressed hope that the draft articles would be examined prudently to ensure that any further work would not overlap with existing regimes, but rather complement them.

Mr. HITTI (Lebanon) expressed support for the elaboration of a convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity, based on draft articles adopted by the International Law Commission. Such a convention would help fill a normative gap and strengthen national legal systems, ultimately representing a notable step to combat impunity and ensure justice for victims. Adding that a legally binding instrument must be widely accepted to be truly effective, he said further discussion is needed, as some articles may require additional examination and improvement. He said he supports establishing a framework with a clear mandate that includes a meaningful, inclusive and results-oriented process. This framework should include a defined timetable and guarantee progress in a sound and stepwise manner, without prejudging the outcome.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan) stated that the draft articles serve an important purpose of complementing the regime of international legal instruments, aiming to combat the most serious international crimes. Even with the establishment of the International Criminal Court, most States do not have an adequate national legal structure to deal with crimes against humanity. He added that he was not convinced by arguments opposing the adoption of the draft articles into a treaty form. The draft articles contain both obligations based on State practice and developing new obligations. No treaty or convention is purely based on existing State practice. It is up to the negotiating State to determine the scope of the obligations under the proposed treaty or convention. He expressed support for the adoption of a convention on crimes against humanity on the basis on the draft articles, whether through the General Assembly or a diplomatic conference. To this end, he also added his support for the establishment of an ad-hoc committee to discuss the text and procedure for adoption as soon as possible.

ZAINAB TANI ZAKARI-AWAMI (Nigeria) asked Member States to consider the recommendation to elaborate the draft articles into convention. Such an instrument will provide a firm legal framework for promoting accountability at the national level. Adding her support for an open and inclusive dialogue, she also welcomed collective proposals that might emerge from various deliberations and lead to consensus, while noting existing national and international laws. Regarding article 12, she said she supported a comprehensive approach by States to take all necessary measures to ensure equal access to competent authorities and that all victims, complainants and witnesses are protected against ill treatment or intimidation. Protective measures should be without prejudice. She also welcomed the promotion of mutual legal assistance under article 14, which will give States, under relevant laws and treaties, access to investigations, prosecutions, judicial and other proceedings.

PETRA LANGERHOLC (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, added her support for the elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries, based on the draft articles. "There is a long way ahead of us, and work should be undertaken as soon as possible," she stressed, adding that there should be no excuses in pursuing global efforts to strengthen the legal framework for prosecuting perpetrators of one of the most serious international crimes. Welcoming the mutual legal assistance initiative, which is supported to date by 76 States, she said it pursues the similar objective of fighting impunity for the most serious crimes. However, its material scope and the general approach differ from the draft articles. As such, she emphasized that the two projects are complementary, and can coexist and continue to develop in parallel.

CARLOS MANUEL VIDECHE GUEVARA (Costa Rica), noting that one of the International Law Commission's main functions is the gradual development of international law - which is what the draft articles intend to do - emphasized that the Sixth Committee should not hinder this. There cannot be such a dysfunction between the Commission and the Committee. Over the years, the Committee has reached consensus regarding the need to prevent and punish crimes against humanity; the next step, however, has remained undefined. To this end, he supported a convention drawn up by either the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries. He also underscored the importance of international cooperation between States for the prevention of these crimes, particularly with respect to fugitives from justice.

ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria), aligning himself with the European Union, supported the establishment of a convention based on the draft articles. Codification of existing customary international law on this topic is long overdue, he stated. Such a convention would provide new momentum for the criminalization of these offenses at the national level and would improve international cooperation relating to prosecuting perpetrators of such acts. The Sixth Committee plays a key role in the promotion and development of international law and, therefore, must conduct meaningful and outcome-oriented discussions on - and ensure appropriate follow-up to - the work of the International Law Commission. He stressed that discussions have been had; it is now time to take the next steps, including finding common ground, discussing issues in the expert setting of an ad hoc committee and establishing a clear timeline for future action.

DIARRA DIME LABILLE (France), noting that unlike crimes of genocide and war crimes, there is no international convention governing crimes against humanity, voiced support for the draft articles and praised the International Law Commission's work in the codification of international law. Expressing regret that there was no substantial negotiation on the subject last year, she called on the Sixth Committee to make more progress during the current session and determine the best way forward. Her country does not need to demonstrate its commitment to battling impunity, she said, reaffirming commitment to undertake the broadest and most transparent dialogue possible to enable progress towards the adoption of a convention.

MOON DONG KYU (Republic of Korea), pointing out that no one can deny the need to enhance accountability and end impunity for crimes against humanity, stressed that there was no reason to delay discussions to establish a legal framework against such crimes. The elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference on the basis of the draft articles will strengthen the rule of law at both the national and international levels. Noting the different opinions on the draft articles and the way forward, he voiced support for the creation of a mechanism such as an ad hoc committee or working group, working with clear guidance and a set timeline. Underlining the importance of ensuring coherence and stability in line with existing legal instruments - such as the Rome Statute - and providing sufficient opportunity for every State to voice their views, he nevertheless added: "This does not, of course, mean endless debate".

ENRICO MILANO (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said that the draft articles should be elaborated into a convention, as they generally reflect State practice and existing customary international law. Further, they address an important normative gap of horizontal judicial cooperation for the prosecution of crimes against humanity. His delegation has already stated its preference for the insertion of a general formulation, aimed at avoiding any risk of conflicting obligations for States Parties to the Rome Statute. While we support the goal of universal participation in the future instrument and we fully respect the pacta tertiis principle, we will continue to insist on the necessity of that inclusion in future negotiations with effect on States parties to the Rome Statute. As well, he welcomed the inclusion in the draft articles of rules guaranteeing that any criminal prosecution of crimes against humanity, notwithstanding their particularly heinous character, is conducted in compliance with the principles of due process and fair trial.

AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said he supports efforts leading to the elaboration of a convention based on the International Law Commission's draft articles. "Along with genocide and war crimes, crimes against humanity represent a systemic and widespread attack on international law and civilization itself," he said, underscoring that the international community cannot remain indifferent to such crimes. While genocide and war crimes are specifically regulated by conventions, crimes against humanity lack an international convention of the same rank. His Government is particularly interested in the potential beneficial effects of the interaction of this future treaty with other instruments on criminal responsibility for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The future convention must have certain characteristics, which can be summed up as "consensus and universality," he said, noting that the path to its adoption must be as robust, inclusive and consensus-building as the result it intends to achieve.

LISELOT EGMOND (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union, pointed out that, among the three core international crimes, only crimes against humanity lack a convention. Elaborating one would strengthen the international criminal justice system and contribute to strengthening national laws and criminal jurisdiction in the fight against impunity for crimes against humanity. While welcoming the opening of treaty negotiations, she noted that some delegations have called for further scrutiny of certain elements of the draft articles. To that end, she voiced her support for the creation of an ad hoc committee - with a clear mandate and timeline - for that purpose. She also spotlighted the mutual legal assistance initiative launched by Argentina, Belgium, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Senegal and Slovenia, which aims to develop a modern operational framework ensuring effective inter-State cooperation for the prosecution at the national level of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

MATEUSZ SAKOWICZ (Poland) stated that a new convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity is urgently needed. The draft articles prepared by the International Law Commission constitute a very good starting point in this respect. The draft articles rely extensively on provisions that most States have already accepted in widely‑adhered‑to treaties, such as the 1984 Convention against Torture and the 2003 Convention against Corruption. He stressed that the draft articles are not in any way dependent or contingent on the Rome Statute, which his country fully supports. Thus, the position of certain States, with respect to the International Criminal Court, should not in any way be affected by, or influenced by, future work on the draft articles, he said, calling for an international conference of plenipotentiaries.

WISNIQUE PANIER (Haiti), voicing support for a convention based on the draft articles, said that slavery or enslavement is one of the most serious crimes, according to article 7 of the Rome Statute and article 2 of the draft articles. The system of slavery has very deep roots in the criminal and racist ideology of the Enlightenment philosophers, who promoted the superiority of the white race with the blessings of the Catholic Church. This retrograde idea ensured that a slave was considered a piece of property in French territory. The ideals of liberté egalité fraternité were not applied to enslaved people. "We had to wait for the Haitian revolution of 1884," he said, pointing out that it was the only revolution in the world that was anti-segregationist, anti-slavery and anti-colonial. Despite the 1776 American Revolution and the 1789 French Revolution, slavery was still a sacred ideal for those countries, while the Haitian revolution represented an epistemological break from white supremacy. Stressing that slavery is responsible for the poverty still experienced in his country, he called for reparative justice as stipulated in the draft articles. It is high time for nations to confront their colonial histories, he said, emphasizing that reparations and compensation for victims of enslavement is an absolute necessity.

MUHAMMAD TAUFAN (Indonesia) said that he cannot emphasize enough the importance of consensus, underscoring his support for additional consulting by the Sixth Committee to reach an agreement. He welcomed the inclusion of criminalization under national law and the establishment of national jurisdiction in articles 6 and 7, respectively. Among other remarks, he said that, in regards to article 10, the establishment of jurisdiction is inherently a matter of jurisdictional prerogative. In executing article 7(2), States will establish jurisdiction as far as their legislation allows. That means article 10 does not supplant such prerogatives that a State party may have and perform; article 10 is declaratory and does not necessarily expand, impose or create any new obligation regarding the aut dedere aut judicare principle. Indonesia also believes articles 13 and 14, which encompass respective matters on extradition and mutual legal assistance, are crucial. Both provisions reflect important elements of international cooperation in preventing and addressing forms of crimes against humanity.

Mr. DIAKITE (Senegal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that crimes against humanity represent "the worst negation of the most basic rights of the human being", involving murder, sexual violence, torture and forced disappearance. Recalling that Senegal was the first country to sign and ratify the Rome Statute, he stressed the need to combat impunity for perpetrators of mass atrocities. The international community must bring an end to these crimes and, towards this goal, the United Nations should focus on raising awareness and building Member States' capacities in this area. He urged all Member States to commit to inclusive, open and transparent debate to overcome obstacles to drafting a convention based on the draft articles. He also spotlighted the complementary jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in establishing the rule of law and called for the Rome Statute to be made universal.

JAMES WARUI KIHWAGA (Kenya), associating himself with the African Group, welcomed progress made since the topic was introduced to the agenda of the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee. In its efforts to seek agreement on the final outcome, the Committee should be guided by the importance of general consensus on the basis of transparency and flexibility. Success in this matter would be assured if the Committee took full account of the wide spectrum of the views expressed by all delegations. Spotlighting the many achievements made in ensuring criminal accountability - including for torture, genocide, war crimes, corruption and transnational organized crimes ‑ he noted the lack of a convention on crimes against humanity to date and expressed hope that the Commission will provide States with an outcome that would assist them in closing that normative gap.

IRINA ALEXANDRA BARBA BUSTOS (Ecuador), expressing support for the International Criminal Court as the only judicial body mandated to consider the most serious crimes, praised the work of the International Law Commission. She highlighted their definition of crimes against humanity, the obligations of States regarding prevention, codification of such crimes within national legislation and the procedures for mutual legal assistance. Article 80 of the Constitution of her country lays down punishments for crimes against humanity and other atrocity crimes, she said, voicing her support for an international instrument on that matter, which fills the current vacuum and consolidates existing procedures.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras), noting that a convention on crimes against humanity will fill a crucial gap in international criminal law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law, said that her country's legal system provides for a broad range of constitutional rights. Further, it consecrates the principle of universal justice in the face of serious violations of human rights such as genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes, trafficking in persons and forced disappearance. Voicing support for the recommendation that the General Assembly or an international diplomatic conference should draw up a convention on the basis of the draft articles, she called on countries to move away from the status quo.

MINE OZGUL BILMAN (Turkey), noting that preventing crimes against humanity and punishing those who commit them through a combination of national, regional and international efforts continues to be a shared goal, detailed her country's efforts to codify such crimes in Turkey's national legislation. Stressing that the definition and components of these crimes are complex in many dimensions, she noted that they are also more susceptible to political exploitation. In that regard, addressing the rules concerning prevention and punishment requires special care, non‑politicization, and integrity of international law. Calling upon States to address the topic in a diligent and inclusive manner and at a reasonable pace, she urged delegations to submit written comments in order to give a thorough consideration of various views.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) emphasized that States bear the responsibility to investigate, without undue delay, reports of crimes against humanity and to prosecute and punish the perpetrators. When national authorities fail to take action, the international community should play a more proactive role, in accordance with international law. He pointed out that efforts towards translating established international norms and standards into practical action have not been consistent or free from selectivity and politically motivated objectives, Further, attempts to promote political agendas and historical narratives under the cover of legal concepts continue. He further stressed that Azerbaijan has seriously suffered from multiple atrocity crimes committed against its people. In that regard, he underscored that he attached paramount importance to the fight against impunity. Highlighting the divergent views regarding the elaboration of the draft articles by the International Law Commission, he called on States to overcome such differences through inclusive and transparent deliberations and the broadest possible consensus in order to achieve the objective of strengthening the international criminal law.

ALESSANDRA FALCONI (Peru), stressing the importance of establishing a convention on crimes against humanity to complement the existing legal framework in that area, said that the prohibition against such crimes is an imperative norm of international law. The draft articles encompass both prevention and effective punishment for perpetrators of these offenses and, therefore, cover both dimensions that a future convention on this topic should address. She also welcomed the draft articles' provisions relating to the fact that crimes against humanity can be committed in times of both war and peace. As well, the draft texts include victims' rights; the protection of witnesses; and alleged perpetrators' right to fair treatment. She added that the draft articles should include a prohibition against general amnesty ‑ underscoring case law from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights - as failure to do so could result in impunity.

GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) recalled that the Sixth Committee's debate on this topic last year confirmed existing differences in delegations' positions. This year's statements demonstrate that the situation has not changed. There is no consensus on the contents or fate of the draft articles. The real problem is not the lack of a convention on crimes against humanity; rather, it is the lack of political will to use existing international legal instruments. States' resolve to use such mechanisms is often held hostage to political considerations. Zealous attempts to establish a new international treaty in this area might lead to a text not based on consensus. That lack of universal support for an instrument purportedly based on existing law can only undermine such principles.

President of the General Assembly

ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, applauded the work the Sixth Committee has done over the years to uphold justice and international law, introduce measures to eliminate international terrorism and revitalize the work of the General Assembly. Stressing that the eyes of a world emerging from a global pandemic are on the United Nations, he emphasized: "This is the year that we must act". In this regard, he encouraged the Committee to continue to conduct its business through dialogue and consensus, highlighting the primacy of the rule of law. He also emphasized that the repercussions of global warming and sea-level rise are not limited to their immediate climate impacts; rather, they extend to many spheres, including the legal one. The international community should seriously consider the international legal implications that sea-level rise can have for small island States.

Acknowledging the gender balance in the Sixth Committee this year, including in its leadership, he said that he hoped that in the future women will be better represented in international institutions, including commissions, courts and tribunals. Noting that the General Assembly will elect members of the International Law Commission on 12 November, he also voiced hope that more countries will advance women candidates - an important step given that only three per cent of the Commission's 229 members have been women. "Clearly, we must do better," he said. Offering his full support for the Committee's work during his "Presidency of Hope," he said that strengthening international legal regimes and instruments will allow the international community to steer the world on a better path.

Strengthening and Promoting International Treaty Framework

VIRPI LAUKANNEN (Finland), also speaking for Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said that that well‑functioning and easily accessible registration and publication of treaties are important elements of the international treaty framework and help to promote transparency in international law. She also welcomed the amendments already made in 2018 that helped simplify the treaty registration and publication process. Further use of modern electronic methods in the registration and publication process of treaties remains an important aspect to consider.

To this end, she welcomed further discussions on an online treaty registration system referred to in the Secretary‑General's report and resolution (document A/75/144). On the multilingualism, she said that while the Nordic countries recognize a burden imposed by the translation of all published treaties into English and French, any suggestion to remove this requirement should be avoided in order to secure the transparency of international law and accessibility of treaties. Likewise, shifting the requirement entirely to States should also be avoided, she added.

YONG-ERN NATHANIEL KHNG (Singapore), also speaking for Argentina, Austria, Brazil and Italy, said an important element of the international treaty framework is the regime for treaty registration and publication under Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations. Recalling the inclusion of this agenda item both in the seventy‑third and seventy‑fifth sessions of the General Assembly, he said that Member States were given the opportunity to consider how shortcomings in treaty registration could be addressed, exchange of views on treaty-making practice and identify trends and share best practices in treaty‑making, as well as discuss other treaty‑related topics.

He went on to say that during the two sessions in which the item had been on the agenda, the Sixth Committee's work has produced substantive, practical and tangible results, achieving consensus on a number of areas related to treaty registration. Once the review of the regulations is completed, the Sixth Committee should turn its attention to current shortcomings in treaty registration and to developments in treaty-making practice. He also pointed out that the pandemic and other recent geopolitical developments have been the catalyst for many new and innovative practices in the area of treaty‑making.

Mr. ASIABI POUR IMANI (Iran) pointed to significant geographical disparity on treaty registration trends and patterns, as well as numbers, which could be attributed to limited awareness of the obligation to register or lack of resources to submit treaties for registration. In addressing this, he said a revision of regulations in force is vital to make registration easier, efficient, less bureaucratic and less costly. The Sixth Committee could play an essential role in strengthening and promoting the international treaty framework by modifying and updating existing regulations to make them more efficient and accessible to Member States. It is also crucial to consider additional measures through capacity‑building and technical assistance, he added, particularly through workshops on treaty law and practice at the national and regional levels.

AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt), voicing support for the important work of the Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs, welcomed innovative ideas to improve its performance. Highlighting the use of electronic submissions to expedite registration and respond to the challenges caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said this will also help tackle the problem of extended backlogs in registration, publication of treaties and the promotion of multilingualism. Noting the unfortunate geographical imbalance in treaty registration, with developing countries lagging behind, he called for capacity‑building activities and stressed that "no set of rules is good for all times".

AZELA GUERRERO ARUMPAC-MARTE (Philippines) highlighted her country's policy of making treaties accessible to the people, including the Philippine Treaty Series, a collection of the texts of treaties and the Philippine Treaties in Force 2020, an index of 3,367 subsisting agreements entered into by the Philippines since 1946. As well, the Philippine Supreme Court also runs an online database of treaties to which the Philippines is a State party. She observed that, between 2009 and 2019, there was a geographical imbalance in treaty registration, with 60 per cent originating from Western European and other groups, and only 9 per cent from the Asia-Pacific group. She welcomed amendments to regulations that could ease the registration process through transparency, accessibility and simplification, as well as wider use of digital and electronic tools. The registration, and subsequent, publication of existing and valid treaties gives a sense of the actual practice of States, creates better understanding of accepted norms in international law and fosters compliance with obligations adhered to by States parties, under legally binding international agreements.

AUGUSTINA ŞIMAN (Republic of Moldova) recalled that the matter of improving the practice of registration and publication of treaties was of such importance that, instead of considering the agenda item on a biannual basis, the Committee deferred it to the current session. Stressing the need for more clarity to the process, she said the very technical document concerning the regulations should answer three main questions: what is being registered, who is operating the registration and how it is being registered. Answering these fundamental questions is essential for bringing improvements, she said, calling for an approach that is "pragmatic, purely legal and most importantly, forward‑thinking" and stressing the role of multilingualism in ensuring faster access.

LUCIA TERESA SOLANO RAMIREZ (Colombia) welcomed the work of the Office of Legal Affairs relating to the publication of treaties, noting that - as a depository of treaties itself - Colombia "can only attempt to put itself in this Office's shoes". She noted, however, that the Office's treaty section continues to face issues regarding the expedited publication of registered treaties in all official United Nations languages, which is necessary in order to guarantee access to all States. She welcomed all proposals on this topic, including those relating to the substantive conditions for registration; the depositing of treaties with provisional application; the translation of treaties; and making the registration and publication of treaties more efficient.

BEATRICE MAILLE (Canada), also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, said a steady transition to electronic methods is crucial in controlling the publishing backlog that the United Nations is experiencing. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the possibilities afforded by digitalization and remote access to key tools and documents. Noting that Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all transitioned from paper to digital, she said the online platform has been a useful resource for Government officials during lockdown, when accessing physical records has been difficult. However, she noted that traditional print-based access must be preserved as an alternative available on request, particularly in light of the need for high standards of security that must be maintained when digitizing legal records.

SERGIO AMARAL ALVES DE CARVALHO (Portugal) said there is room for improvement regarding certain aspects of the system, including addressing the delay in the publication of treaties in the Treaty Series after their registration. Further, the Regulations should allow for the possibility of Member States submitting, on a voluntary basis, courtesy translations into any of the six official languages of the United Nations. Commending the current practice by the Treaty Section to make available the text of the treaties upon registration, but before formal publication, he noted that article 13 should be amended to reflect that practice. He also pointed out that an online registration tool would serve to benefit the overall registration process.

LIU YANG (China) stressed that timely registration of treaties is essential to their effective use by all parties and the fulfilment of treaty obligations. Noting the significance of this in upholding the international order based on international law, he added that, compared with submission in hardcopy or electronic format, an online treaty registration system is more convenient and leads to higher efficiency. Voicing support for the work to be carried out in this regard, he emphasized that treaties are the primary source of international law and, therefore, the Sixth Committee should continue its in-depth discussions to improve treaty law and practice.

YURI ARIEL GALA LÓPEZ (Cuba), reaffirming the role of the United Nations in ensuring transparency of the treaties concluded by Member States, said the Sixth Committee has an essential role in strengthening the international treaty framework. Acknowledging the support afforded to countries by the treaty through capacity-building, publication and technical assistance, he highlighted the seminars given by the Treaty Section. The use of electronic resources can help the international community to overcome current challenges in the publication of treaties, he said, calling for a balance between addressing the delays in publication, with respect for multilingualism.

JULIAN SIMCOCK (United States) said that the United Nations treaty registration and publication program should strive for transparency and accessibility of treaty information, as well as ease of use. Frequent changes to the regulations complicate the ability of States to use and rely on them. Recalling the substantial revisions in 2018, he said that the scope for any further changes to the regulations in the near term should be limited. In the interests of stability and predictability in the registration and publication regime, the Sixth Committee should not take up revision of the regulations as a routine matter, he said, encouraging the Committee to conclude its current consideration of further revisions to the regulations during this session.

DAVID ANTONIO GIRET SOTO (Paraguay) pointed out that the registration and publication of treaties contributes to the progressive development of international law and provides legal certainty. Accordingly, it is fundamental to ensure consistency in this practice, especially for those States depositing multilateral agreements. Noting that Paraguay has two official languages ‑ Spanish and Guarani ‑ he underscored that multilingualism is a fundamental value of the United Nations and called for all official languages of the United Nations to be used, not only in the publication of treaties, but also in all capacity-building initiatives.

LIGIA LORENA FLORES SOTO (El Salvador) endorsed the joint proposal presented by 15 Spanish-language States, as it seeks to effectively address one of the main problems in the treaty publication process ‑ namely, the translation of treaties. The terms of the 2016 General Assembly resolution 71/138 ‑ recognizing multilingualism as a basic value of the Organization - must be fulfilled to achieve the purposes and principles set out in the Charter. She also added her support for the proposal to promote, as a voluntary option, the possibility of using courtesy translations into any of the six official languages of the United Nations in order to expedite the translation process into English and French for purposes of treaty publication.

PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico), acknowledging the important work of the Treaty Section, voiced support for updating the regulations for the registration of treaties. Welcoming the digitization of the registration publication process, he noted that ever since it became possible to have electronic registration of treaties, in a period of little over a year, 80 per cent of registrations were electronic. Also voicing support for the proposal to standardize the electronic registration process through an online tool, he said this agenda item goes beyond a simple review. Given the constant changes in treaty practice, this agenda item could afford a forum for broader and ongoing updates on law of treaties.

JOSE JUAN HERNANDEZ CHAVEZ (Chile), voiced support for the review of regulations and the "never-ending quest for improvement" in the procedures for registration and publication of treaties. Stressing the need to strengthen the important role played by the Office of Legal Affair's Treaty Section, he welcomed ideas geared towards expediting the treaty publication and translation process. Underscoring the need for transparency and accessibility, he said that multilingualism is a tool that can enrich and facilitate that work.

NATHALIE SCHNEIDER RITTENER (Switzerland) said Article 102 of the Charter is crucial as it provides for the obligation to register every treaty with the Secretariat. Failing that, it cannot be invoked before a United Nations organ. The objective of Article 102 is to safeguard peace by discouraging secret diplomacy, considered harmful to the international community. Therefore, she said, she supports the effective implementation of this objective, reiterating her country's proposal - submitted on 24 June - to include a provision in the regulations expressly permitting the registration of treaties, even if they refer to older treaties that have not yet been registered. This could considerably reduce the number of treaties that remain under the radar because they cannot be registered with the Secretariat, she stressed.

HANNA BETACHEW BIRHANU (Ethiopia) expressed concern over secret treaties - especially in the security sector - and noted that unfettered pursuit of national interests through secret pacts is an old, yet emerging, challenge. Article 102 of the Charter should be given a direct meaning, instead of a context-driven interpretation. She also pointed out that translation of treaties requires a critical legal consideration that balances the legal status of different treaty versions on one hand and accessibility to a wider body of users on the other. Noting that regional and sub-regional organizations overseeing an increasing level of inter-State integration are exercising a depository function, she said that her country does not read Article 102 in a manner that excludes the role of such organizations.

ALESSANDRA FALCONI (Peru) welcomed improvements to the efficiency of treaty registration and publication through electronic means, along with efforts made to develop an electronic treaty database. She also expressed support for Spain's proposal concerning voluntary courtesy translation, which would help Member States access treaty texts rapidly and in accord with the principle of multilingualism. Further, Peru supports the online publication of treaties before such instruments are officially published in the United Nations' treaty series. Noting that different States contemplate the legal status enjoyed by varying types of treaties differently, she suggested that the Sixth Committee include a discussion on this issue in its agenda item on strengthening the international treaty framework.

MELINA LITO (United Kingdom) said that over the past two years the United Kingdom has agreed to more than 150 individual treaties, with States or international organizations, that are designed to replicate or enhance the relations his country maintained as part of the European Union. All States benefit from the stability given by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the wider international treaty framework, he said adding that his Government takes its obligations to register treaties under Article 102 of the Charter very seriously. Before the United Kingdom ratifies an agreement, it must be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days. Both Houses of Parliament have an opportunity to scrutinise the agreement. Because of its dualist system, this is separate from any legislative process. The Parliament has recently undertaken several inquiries into the United Kingdom treaty scrutiny process. The reports of the various committees considering this issue are published on the Parliament website. The regulations which give effect to Article 102 are a crucial tool for treaty makers.

RICARDO GARCÍA LÓPEZ (Spain), joining 15 Spanish-language States, offered specific proposals to articles of the Rules of Procedure, based on the multilingualism of the Organization; and the use of information and communication technologies. The languages of Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish should also be called upon to make it possible for international treaties and agreements to be accessible in their content, and published as soon as possible. He suggested an addition to the current rule 5 of the Rules of Procedure regarding courtesy translations as a tool of multilingualism, without any increase in costs, and with potential savings in time and money. He also noted the Secretariat's practice of sequentially and immediately "making available online" both the original versions and the translations into English and French at the very moment that each one is available. To this end, he suggested new wording to article 13, adding that this practice is beneficial in those cases where the treaties that are made available online are in one of the six official languages; by making available online the original versions in the official languages, plus the translations into the languages of publication when available, the treaty in question could enjoy a very satisfactory level of early accessibility.

ZALA CRČEK BEOVIĆ (Slovenia) stated that the agenda item could be used as a platform for a more general discussion on issues related to treaties and treaty framework, taking into full consideration the activities of the International Law Commission. Last year, in relation to article 1 of the Regulations, her delegation welcomed the outline of the Secretariat's practice relating to the registration of provisionally applied treaties. While she recognized that, in practice, provisionally applied treaties are being registered based on the internal interpretation of the Regulations, the current practice is not sufficiently clear. In the interest of clarity and transparency, article 1(2) would benefit from clarification, by inserting explicit wording on the registration of provisionally applied treaties, she said.

Mr. SALEH (Nigeria), stressing the importance of making the treaty registration process transparent, inclusive and accessible to all, welcomed the possibility of introducing electronic online registration of treaties. Multilingualism in the work of the United Nations was also of great importance and to that end, he called on delegates to be mindful not to create new obligations for Member States. Also pointing to the need to address the issue of backlog, as well as geographical imbalance, he emphasized the importance of technical assistance, especially to developing States.

CARLOS IVAN ZAMBRANA FLORES (Bolivia), voicing support for reviewing and improving the process for the registration and publication of treaties, welcomed the use of technological advances, including the use of electronic registration. It is necessary to modernize the publication of international treaties because the online system facilitates a more rapid, transparent and accessible system, he said. The main way of incentivizing countries to register their treaty is to resolve the issue of translations, he said, underscoring linguistic parity and multilingualism.

BRICE FODDA (France) emphasized that reducing the time required for the registration and publication of treaties cannot be achieved to the detriment of the principles of transparency and accessibility. Turning to the Regulations to give effect to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations, he said that any revision thereof should not create new obligations for Member States or international organizations. This would limit the ability of some to comply with their obligations and reduce the number of treaties submitted to the Secretariat. The obligation to translate into English and French, however, helps support the realization of the Organization's goals. Doing away with this requirement would be incompatible with the needs of the Secretariat and the International Court of Justice, who need instruments translated into their working languages.

BAE JONGIN (Republic of Korea) stressed that the geographical imbalance of treaty registration speaks to the gaps in implementation and the failure to submit treaties in time. He also noted that simplified and streamlined procedures have helped reduce the burden on both States and the Secretariat. Acknowledging the Secretariat's efforts to transition from print-based to digital-based registration and publication, he pointed out that a standardized format, together with an online registration tool, can be even more helpful. He also acknowledged the practice to promptly make available online the texts of registered treaties, which increased accessibility. In that regard, he added his support for Spain's proposals that allow States to submit a voluntary, courtesy translation into any of the six official languages, to address the backlog of the formal publication in the United Nations Treaty Series. He further suggested to broaden limited publication policy, so that some detailed technical and administrative information do not have to be fully published or translated in the Treaty Series, encouraging more interactions on treaty-making practice beyond the topic of treaty registration.

NOEL MARTIN MATEA (Solomon Islands) expressed his support for the development of an online tool to facilitate the submission of international treaties and agreements for registration. Noting the geographic imbalance in registered treaties, he said such a tool could potentially remedy this inequity by simplifying the registration process. However, small island developing States continue to experience challenges in information and communications technology. If the United Nations transitions to a fully online platform, it should also address regional disparities through capacity‑building. He welcomed a discussion on adapting the United Nations Treaty Series into a digital publication, provided the same recognizes the technological challenges faced by developing States. He added that treaties identifying maritime baselines can only be updated through formal amendment by parties to the treaty, regardless of sea‑level rise.

ESTELA MERCEDES NZE MANSOGO (Equatorial Guinea), noting that treaties constitute a fundamental pillar in international relations, welcomed the amendments made to the Regulations, including online registration, since this simplifies the registration procedure and makes it more efficient. Also noting significant progress made since 2018, such as the cloud‑based database, she said: "Thanks to these timely modifications in March we were able to present an electronic certification statement for the purpose of registering a bilateral treaty."

IRINA ALEXANDRA BARBA BUSTOS (Ecuador) noted the increase in the number, complexity and length of treaties presented for registration in recent years. Highlighting the geographic imbalance in the registration of treaties, she called for action to help shorten the time needed to publish treaties. Voicing support for Spain's proposals, she highlighted the value of multilingualism and said the use of courtesy translations into any of the six official languages of United Nations makes the process more flexible.

FRANCIS WINSTON CHANGARA (Zimbabwe) shared the view that increased technical assistance and workshops on treaty law at the national and regional levels can help reduce the geographical imbalance in treaty registration. There is merit in Mexico's observation that the regulations did not address the issue of registration of treaties provisionally applied in‑accordance with article 25 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. With regards to translations into one of the official languages of the Organization and the requirement that all published treaties be translated into French or English, he noted the divergent views, but said he still looks forward to States submitting courtesy translations to support the Secretariat in its publication of treaties.

MINE OZGUL BILMAN (Turkey) said she considered the assistance provided by the Treaty Section to be crucial. She noted the geographical imbalance in treaty registration and called for increased resources to address it. Recalling that the backlog in treaty registration was mainly due to translation delays, she urged that this be addressed while avoiding creating new obligations for Member States. Any amendment to the Regulations would have to be agreed upon by the States and aim at simplifying the registration process, she said, stressing that she wanted to avoid any further complication in this area.

ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon) said although digitalization may be necessary in this digitized, globalize age, development gaps disadvantage some countries which do not have effective access to communication technologies. "The digital option should remain optional in nature," he emphasized, calling for retaining the practical and symbolic nature of publishing treaties in United Nations treaty series. He stressed that additional changes should be of limited scope as frequent changes to the rules will make it more difficult for States to use them. On the issue of the translation of treaties into one of the six official languages and the requirement of all treaties being translated to English and French, he said since treaties are constitutional elements of the international legal order, they shall be accessible to all and it would be desirable for treaties to be translated to all of the official languages of the United Nations.NL

Administration of Justice at the United Nations

AAHDE LAHMIRI (Morocco), speaking for the African Group, welcomed a decrease in the number of applications received by the United Nations Dispute Tribunal. A lower number of cases can be indicative of an improvement of the ecosystem at the workplace. Stressing the importance of strengthening the internal system of justice to ensure work-related disputes receive the fullest attention of management and are resolved in a fair and timely manner, she said the informal resolution of conflict is a crucial element of the system of administration of justice. She expressed concern that field personnel continue to carry the highest number of caseloads, as they face hardship and stress related to their contractual status. With regards to self-representation, she emphasized that applicants who opt to be self-represented shall have all the necessary information to successfully file a case and be confident to have a fair outcome.

SIMONA POPAN, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed that an independent, impartial, transparent and professional system of administration of justice is not only a prerequisite for the rule of law, but also for protecting individual rights, including the right to work in a professional environment free of harassment and retaliation. She expressed concern over the culture of harassment and abuse directed at female managers at senior and other levels, as well as the retaliation policy against staff members who lodge cases before the United Nations Disputes Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal. Harassment, sexual harassment and retaliation are unacceptable in the workplace and should not be tolerated, she emphasized.

She went on to note the disparity of treatment between staff and non-staff personnel in terms of access to the formal and informal justice system. In that regard, she welcomed the continuation of the pilot project that provides access to the services of the Office of Ombudsman and Mediation Services for non-staff personnel. Further discussions should be had on providing non-staff personnel with access to fair and effective mechanisms for resolving work-related disputes, including through potential collaboration between the United Nations and a neutral entity. She also stressed the need to look at the root causes of such disputes and address them upstream.

ALEXANDRA HUTCHISON (Australia), also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, expressed concern over recurring issues raised in the Secretary-General's reports, including a backlog of cases, high rates of self-representation and underlying systemic issues, such as gender and race. The Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services has identified systemic issues underlying workplace conflicts, particularly racism. Expressing deep concern about the harm that is caused to individuals and the Organization by racist, sexist and other discriminatory behaviours, she said ongoing efforts to ensure gender equity and representation within the United Nations internal justice administration will be crucial to strengthen the quality of justice delivered. The Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services has also highlighted COVID-19 effects as a key concern, she said, stressing the importance of good management during times of crisis.

MICHAEL IMRAN KANU (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the African Group, said: "As we cautiously commend the downward trend, indicative of an improving working environment, we also hold the view that improvements must be quantitative and qualitative". Echoing the Secretary-General's indication that the financial liquidity situation on the Appeals Tribunal was averted, he emphasized that it would be useful to determine whether this was because of the transition to remote work, and whether the aversion of the liquidity situation is sustainable. He voiced grave concern over reports of harassment and discriminatory behaviours. Gender protection and advancement, as well as anti-discrimination, are some of the core values of the United Nations that should be replicated across its systems. Condemning all forms of discrimination, based on gender, race, religion and ethnicity, he called for the promotion of a safe and just workplace.

ELIZABETH MARYANNE GROSSO (United States), highlighted the significant reduction in the case backlog, particularly among cases pending for more than 400 days. The number of applications pending is at the lowest point in over 10 years. This success was enabled both by the hard work of the Tribunal staff and by the valuable flexibility that the model of half-time judges and remote work has provided. This had allowed judges to be assigned to the geographic areas of greatest need. Transparency of the system is critically important so that United Nations staff, their representatives, and the General Assembly can better understand how the tribunals are carrying out administrative justice. She also welcomed the availability of a cause list of individual judges and a case tracking dashboard, as well as the anticipated improvements to this system.

NATALIA JIMÉNEZ ALEGRÍA (Mexico) pointed out that effective dispute‑resolution mechanisms contribute to a healthy working environment, improve motivation and reduce costs relating to absenteeism. She welcomed the reduction in cases pending resolution - including those pending for over 400 days - as well as efforts to strengthen the Organization's informal justice system, especially those designed to expand mediation services. Mediation, she stressed, should be the first tool used in dispute resolution. The increased number of cases brought by local staff before national courts demonstrates the need to revitalize the use of mediation within the Organization. To this end, she called for sustained efforts to raise awareness regarding this mechanism, with a special focus on non‑staff personnel.

NATHALIE SCHNEIDER RITTENER (Switzerland) highlighted two key issues: the resolution of employment disputes involving non-staff personnel and the use of mediation as an informal dispute resolution mechanism. She emphasized that it is essential to ensure that effective safeguards are in place and remedies are available to all categories of United Nations personnel without distinction. Calling for a fair and effective internal administration of justice system that is accessible to all, she noted that most categories of non‑staff personnel still have no access to a justice mechanism for resolving work‑related disputes. She also called for strengthening mediation as an informal dispute resolution mechanism. Mediation facilitates dialogue and reduces conflict and, as such, has the advantage of offering mutually acceptable solutions without the need for protracted and costly litigation.

ANGELIQUE VAN DER MADE (Netherlands), aligning herself with the European Union, noted the increase in judgements delivered by the Dispute Tribunal in 2020, reducing the backlog by an even higher number than the previous year. Yet there has been an increase in cases received, disposed of and pending before the Appeals Tribunal. She welcomed the development of the Caselaw portal and the continued dissemination of information and materials. The services offered by the United Nations Ombudsman give staff a safe, accessible and cost-effective way to discuss any type of workplace-related concerns. She appreciates the continuation of the pilot project offering non-staff members access to informal dispute-resolution services. In that regard, the pilot project should be regularized and the mandate of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services should be expanded to include non-staff personnel.

ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon) affirmed that access to justice is paramount at the United Nations. He encouraged the Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal to stay the course and to remain particularly vigilant on procedural matters and especially on Staff Rules 111.2, 111.2(a), 111.2(a)(i) and 111.2(a)(ii)(d). He noted that the average duration of cases handled by the Dispute Tribunal has not significantly decreased, despite an amendment to its statute. He also noted his surprise at the tendency for staff to self-represent in the Dispute Tribunal, despite the existence of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance. To discourage intimidation and retaliation against staff members who have filed complaints, he voiced his support for the Secretary-General's proposal to give heads of offices in the Secretariat responsibilities for prevention, monitoring and protection.

Request for Observer Status

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), introducing the draft resolution for granting observer status in the General Assembly to the International Solar Alliance, said that the Alliance was established as an international treaty-based organization on 15 November 2016. The Alliance initiates thematic programmes dedicated to deploying cross-cutting solar energy applications across sectors, including agriculture, health and electricity. Participation in major international meetings involving global climate change is critical for the Alliance to carry out its work and, further, he pointed out that the Alliance has the resources and expertise to contribute to such meetings by helping shape the global policy dialogue.

The representative of El Salvador said the International Solar Alliance meets all the essential criteria to meet the status of an observer and will enable countries to address common challenges in their solar energy needs through coordinated action in training, research and financing.