Delegates Approve Three Draft Resolutions for United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

After approving three draft resolutions, the Sixth Committee (Legal) took up the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country today, with many speakers stressing that visa and travel restrictions imposed on the delegations of certain States ‑ motivated by these States’ bilateral relations with the host country ‑ threaten their ability to participate fully in United Nations activities.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee approved, without a vote, three draft resolutions relating to the Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its fifty‑fourth session, previously introduced on 4 November.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3651.)

Two of those resolutions would have the General Assembly recommend the use of UNCITRAL’s mediation rules and expedited arbitration rules, respectively, in the settlement of disputes arising in the context of international commercial relations.  The third would have the Assembly decide to increase UNCITRAL’s membership from 60 to 70 States.

Following consideration of the draft resolutions, Andreas Hadjichrysanthou (Cyprus), Chair of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, introduced its current report (document A/76/26) and underlined the Committee’s role as a forum for Member States to resolve problems arising from the implementation of the 1947 Headquarters Agreement through a frank and constructive exchange of views.  During the reporting period, issues concerning entry visas and travel restrictions were of particular concern and numerous matters raised in the report remain unresolved.

“What is important is that the relevant parties are engaged in a process that they consider to be constructive, can yield results and should continue, as more work remains to be done,” he emphasized.  The United Nations Legal Counsel has informed the Host Country Committee that this remains the best avenue for finding acceptable solutions.  To that end, he said he will continue to engage with the representatives of the host country, affected Member States and with the Secretary‑General and Legal Counsel to resolve all outstanding issues concerning the Headquarters Agreement.

The representative of Iran, speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern over the host country’s denial or delay of entry visas to the Movement’s member States, along with its imposition of arbitrary movement restrictions on the diplomatic officials of such States.  Political considerations must not interfere with the provision of facilities required under the Headquarters Agreement for Member States to participate in United Nations activities, he stressed.

Venezuela’s delegate pointed out that issues relating to the United States Government’s disregard for its commitments under the Headquarters Agreement have been discussed for years in the Host Country Committee.  That Government ‑ “in line with its supremacist and hegemonic tradition” ‑ takes advantage of its role as host country of the United Nations to advance its national interests, selectively targeting those countries with which it has differences at the bilateral level.

The representative of Cuba said that the United States’ failure to comply with its obligations arising from its role as host country has rendered delegations unable to carry out their functions within the Organization on an equal footing.  These various violations include preventing Member States from accessing bank accounts and conducting transactions to meet their financial commitments, resulting in the loss of their right to vote.

Singapore’s delegate also expressed concern that the issues continuously raised in the Host Country Committee may have a negative impact on the proper functioning of the United Nations.  He called on the host country and other relevant States to seriously engage with each other to expeditiously seek a resolution that accords with international law.

The representative of the United States, responding, said that the vast majority of visas for this year’s General Assembly were issued in time, adding  that there is no serious concern that any delegation lacked sufficient representation.  Further, the United States Mission’s Host Country Section has reversed the policy of more‑restrictive travel controls applied to one Mission and has streamlined procedures to issue visas to United Nations delegates and their families.  “We do not take our responsibilities lightly”, she stressed, underscoring that the United States is aware of its special responsibility “to each and every delegate in the halls of the United Nations”.

The Sixth Committee also heard the oral report of the Working Group on “Measures to eliminate international terrorism”.  The representative of South Africa, presenting the report on behalf of the Working Group’s Chair, detailed informal consultations devoted to discussing outstanding issues pertaining to the finalization of a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and the convening of a High‑Level conference under the auspices of the United Nations.

Also speaking were the representatives of Iran (in its national capacity), Syria, China and the Russian Federation, along with the representative of the European Union in its capacity as observer.

The Sixth Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 November, to consider requests for observer status and the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee approved, without a vote, three draft resolutions relating to the Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its fifty‑fourth session, previously introduced on 4 November.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3651.)

The first, titled “Mediation Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law” (document A/C.6/76/L.3), would have the General Assembly express its appreciation to UNCITRAL for having formulated and adopted mediation rules and recommend use of the same in the settlement of disputes arising in the context of international commercial relations.  It would also request the Secretary‑General to make all efforts to ensure that the mediation rules become generally known and available.

The second, titled “Expedited Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law” (document A/C.6/76/L.4), would have the General Assembly express its appreciation to UNCITRAL for having formulated and adopted expedited arbitration rules, which came into effect on 19 September, and recommend use of the same in the settlement of disputes arising in the context of international commercial relations.  It would also request the Secretary‑General to make all efforts to ensure that the expedited arbitration rules become generally known and available.

The third, titled, “Enlargement of the membership of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law” (document A/C.6/76/L.5), would have the General Assembly decide to increase UNCITRAL’s membership from 60 to 70 States.  Through the text, the Assembly would also decide that the 10 additional members shall be elected by the Assembly for a term of six years, with the following distribution of seats: two from African States; two from Asia‑Pacific States; two from Eastern European States; two from Latin American and Caribbean States; and two from Western European and other States.  The Assembly would also call upon UNCITRAL member States to make efforts to achieve increased and active participation in UNCITRAL’s sessions and working groups and request the Secretariat to periodically provide UNCITRAL with data on the attendance of member States and observer States at the same.

Committee on Relations with Host Country

Andreas Hadjichrysanthou (Cyprus), Chair of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, introduced its current report (document A/76/26) and highlighted its four chapters.  While chapter 3 summarizes the discussion on the topics dealt with by the Host Country Committee during the reporting period, chapter 4 contains the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions.  Underlining the role of the Committee, he said that it is an important forum for representatives of Member States to resolve different problems arising, in connection with the implementation of the 1947 Headquarters Agreement, through a frank and constructive exchange of views and cooperation of all concerned.

Any interested delegation can participate as an observer in the work of the Host Country Committee, he noted, adding that during the reporting period, issues concerning entry visas and travel restrictions were of particular concern.  Still, numerous issues raised in the report have remain unresolved.  There is new language, inter alia, on issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States and members of the Secretariat; on travel regulations issued by the host country; and the ongoing discussions between the Legal Counsel and the competent authorities of the host country regarding unresolved issues and with respect to the implementation of the Headquarters Agreement.

Recalling that members reached consensus through intense but constructive negotiations, he thanked the Secretary‑General and the Legal Counsel for their active involvement.  “What is important is that the relevant parties are engaged in a process that they consider to be constructive, can yield results and should continue, as more work remains to be done,” he emphasized.  The Legal Counsel has informed the Host Country Committee that this remains the best avenue for finding acceptable solutions, he said, affirming his commitment to continue to engage with the representatives of the host country, affected Member States and with the Secretary‑General and the Legal Counsel to find solutions to resolve all outstanding issues in line with the Headquarters Agreement.

MOHAMMAD GHORBANPOUR NAJAFABADI (Iran), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, underlined the critical role of host countries of United Nations Headquarters and Offices in preserving multilateralism as well as facilitating multilateral diplomacy and intergovernmental norm-making processes.  In this regard, he called upon all States which host United Nations Headquarters and Offices to facilitate the presence of the representatives of Member States in relevant meetings of the United Nations.  He also recalled that the provisions of the Headquarters Agreement shall be applicable, irrespective of the bilateral relations existing between the Governments and the host country.

He expressed grave concerns regarding the denial of or the delay in the issuance of entry visas to the representatives of any Non‑Aligned Movement member States by the host country of the United Nations Headquarters.  It was crucial that political considerations not interfere with the provision of facilities required under the Headquarters Agreement for the Member States to participate in the United Nations activities, he reiterated.  He also expressed concern regarding the arbitrary movement restrictions imposed on the diplomatic officials of some missions of Non‑Aligned Movement member States by the host country.  The Non‑Aligned Movement will present a short and action‑oriented draft resolution before the General Assembly demanding the fulfilment of host country responsibilities by virtue of relevant Headquarter Agreements and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including the timely issuance of entry visas and the removal of arbitrary movement restrictions.

SIMONA POPAN, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, highlighted the importance of the Host Country Committee and its transparent forum of discussion.  Under the Headquarters Agreement, as well as the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the delegations and missions accredited to the United Nations enjoy privileges and immunities in order to function efficiently and independently.  The observance of such privileges cannot be subject to any restrictions arising from the bilateral relations of the host country, she said, welcoming the resolution of banking issues that have enabled two Member States to make their financial contributions to the United Nations and have their voting rights restored.  Also noting the lifting of the more stringent travel restrictions that had been imposed on one Mission’s representatives, she voiced concern that numerous other issues raised before the Committee remain unresolved.

Recalling the Legal Counsel’s statement to the Host Country Committee that the nature and number of delayed or non‑issued visas is of particular concern, she also pointed to his confirmation of the legal position expressed in 1988 regarding the host country’s obligations.  Citing this position, she said: “the Headquarters Agreement makes it clear that there is an unrestricted right of persons mentioned in section 11 to enter the United States for the purpose of proceeding to the Headquarters district.”  Stressing that there is no room for the application of measures based on reciprocity in the treatment accorded to permanent missions accredited to the United Nations in New York, she welcomed the increased and active involvement of the Legal Counsel and Secretary‑General himself and also acknowledged the commitment of the United States to engage on all matters related to its status as host country.

YONG-ERN NATHANIEL KHNG (Singapore) noted that issues relating to entry visas and travel restrictions, among other concerns, continue to be raised in the Host Country Committee.  All aspects of the Organization and its work must necessarily be consistent with international law, including the relationship between the host country and the Organization, as well as with its Member States.  He expressed concern that the issues that have been raised in the Host Country Committee may have a negative impact on the proper functioning of the United Nations.  The host country and other relevant countries must engage with each other with seriousness and in a spirit of cooperation and expeditiously seek a resolution that is in accordance with international law.  He also welcomed the senior‑level discussions during the reporting period between the United Nations Secretariat and the host country on issues raised in the Host Country Committee.  He encouraged the Secretariat and the host country to engage in such discussions on a regular basis.

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that outstanding issues such as visa restrictions, travel and movement restrictions, security of missions and personnel, mission property and banking issues are all still unresolved.  Although the three mile‑radius movement restriction in January has been changed back to the 25 mile‑radius movement restriction that was implemented prior to 2019, it is not a fundamental change in behaviour by the host country with regard to abiding by its responsibilities under the Headquarters Agreement and other relevant instruments.  These restrictions are arbitrary and discriminatory in nature, she said, further stressing that “the unresolved cases before the Host Country Committee represent a systematic policy of discriminatory application of the Headquarters Agreement against certain Member States”.

She welcomed the recommendation of the Host Country Committee to the Secretary‑General to consider and take the appropriate steps under section 21 of the Headquarters Agreement.  Several years of negotiations between the United Nations Secretariat and the host country have not yielded fundamental change in the latter’s policies in the discriminatory application of the Headquarters Agreement.  She called for the Secretary‑General to trigger the Dispute Settlement Mechanism in section 21, noting that he has not only the discretion but also the obligation to do so, in order to preserve the credibility, independence and functionality of the Organization.

ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that, for many years, the host country’s Government has imposed hostile policies on certain delegations.  For example, it has issued visas to members of the Syrian Mission and their families with a duration of only six months and has placed restrictions on travelling for personal reasons, including a death in the family.  He also pointed out that using the COVID‑19 pandemic as a justification for delaying the issuance of visas is mere pretext, as this practice has gone on for years.  He called on the Host Country Committee to pressure the host country’s Government to issue longer visas for the Syrian Mission, adding that Government, since 2017, has restricted the movement of the Syrian delegation’s members and their families to a 25‑mile radius under a “null and void” security pretext.

YURI ARIEL GALA LÓPEZ (Cuba) stated that delegations are still unable to carry out their functions within the Organization on an equal footing, due to the failure of the United States to comply with its obligations deriving from its role as a host country.  The United States commits various violations, including arbitrarily imposing restrictions on the movement of diplomats from various countries and their families; delaying and denying visas to access the Organization’s Headquarters and participate in its work; unreasonably expelling diplomats accredited to the Organization; seizing properties; opening diplomatic pouches; and preventing Member States from accessing bank accounts and conducting transactions to meet their financial commitments, resulting in the loss of their right to vote.  Turning to negotiation of the conclusions and recommendations of the report, he expressed disappointment that it was not possible to take on language of compromise and textual citations from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, among other international instruments.  It is also of great concern that no consensus was found on adding textual references to the Headquarters Agreement regarding the promptness with which visas should be issued, he said.

XU CHI (China) expressing appreciation for the efforts made by the New York City Council and the police to ensure security of missions, noted that issues relating to visas and travel restrictions have been dragging on for a long time, affecting the normal participation of Member States.  Calling on the host country to listen attentively to the concerns of the missions, he said it is crucial to avoid linking visa and travel restrictions with bilateral relations and political issues.  If the visa is refused, the applicant should be informed as soon as possible regarding the additional documents to be submitted and the reasons for the refusal, he said, also noting that unilateral sanctions prevent some Member States from paying their assessment, leaving them at risk of losing their voting rights.

JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the United States Government – “in line with its supremacist and hegemonic tradition” – openly violates the principle of sovereign equality and takes advantage of its role as host country of the United Nations to advance its national interests.  Issues relating to that Government’s disregard for international law and its commitments under the Headquarters Agreement have been discussed for years in the Host Country Committee.  However, there has yet to be a comprehensive, lasting solution to these aggressions, which are targeted selectively against a group of countries with which the Government has differences at the bilateral level.  He called on the Host Country Committee to ensure full implementation of the Headquarters Agreement ‑ both in letter and in spirit ‑ and on the Secretariat to participate more actively in that Committee’s work.

SERGEI A. LEONIDCHENKO (Russian Federation) noted that over the past four years, his delegation has faced problems stemming from the host country’s failure to properly discharge its obligations under the Headquarters Agreement.  These include the systematic denial of entry visas both to members of the Russian Federation Mission, as well as to delegates from Moscow.  Further, other actions include the confiscation of diplomatic property, in violation of international law on privileges and immunities, and travel restrictions.  Russian citizens in the Secretariat are also affected by visa problems.  Some of them, who successfully have competed for international positions, have been unable to enter the United States to begin work.  He said that he hoped that the Secretary-General, who has only very recently spoken out strongly against designations of “persona non grata”, will be no less adamant in his condemnation of the discriminatory measures taken by the United States.  The systematic and blatant nature of the violations is a clear indication that Washington has no intention of remedying the situation, not only within a reasonable and limited time, but in principle, he stated.

ELIZABETH MARYANNE GROSSO (United States) thanked the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, the Governor’s Office and all the public servants in New York who worked to keep the United Nations community safe and healthy while the pandemic continued to pose unexpected challenges.  Her country’s mission’s Host Country Section has worked overtime to provide assistance to permanent mission members.  Expressing pride in the significant progress made, she noted that the Section has reversed the policy of more restrictive travel controls applied to one Mission and has streamlined procedures to issue visas to United Nations delegates and their families.  For this year’s General Assembly, the vast majority of visas were issued in time; there is no serious concern that any delegation has lacked sufficient representation.  Also pointing to the constructive engagement of senior officials in her Government who are in active dialogue with the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, she said that calls for more formal dispute resolution are inappropriate and unjustified.

Noting the intensive negotiations among members of the Host Country Committee that led to the adoption by consensus of the recommendations and conclusions at the end of its report, she voiced the hope that the Sixth Committee will continue to follow its prior practice, which is to fold the recommendations of the Host Country Committee into its own resolution, and to adopt that resolution by consensus.  Thanking the Legal Counsel and various officials for their support to the Committee, she added that her country is honoured to have the privilege of hosting the United Nations in the great city of New York.  “We do not take our responsibilities lightly,” she stressed, adding that the United States is aware of its special responsibility “to each and every person in this room, to each and every delegate in the halls of the United Nations, and to all of the international civil servants at the United Nations.”

Working Group Report

THABO MICHAEL MOLEFE (South Africa), presenting on behalf of its Chair, the oral report of the Working Group on “Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism”, noted that the Working Group held informal consultations on 14 October and 19 October devoted to discussing outstanding issues concerning the finalization of a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and the convening of a High‑Level conference under the auspices of the United Nations.  During these consultations, some delegations called for a revitalization of the current process and for discussion on this agenda item to be distinguished from the review of the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy.

Some delegations emphasized the need to clearly define “terrorism”, along with the need for such definition to encompass the new, emerging threats from this evolving phenomenon, he continued.  Some also stressed the importance of distinguishing the rights of peoples fighting against colonial domination and in exercise of their right to self‑determination, while others said that such a definition must be based on clear principles and not justify terrorism in any way.  Still others emphasized that the draft comprehensive convention must be coherent with existing legal regimes and not cover military action by Member States.  He encouraged delegations to work together on these outstanding issues intersessionally and to seize this opportunity to revitalize the Working Group’s efforts.

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