Statement of the U.S. Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization

Elizabeth Grosso
Attorney Adviser
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 18, 2020


Thank you, Madame Chair.

The United States welcomes this opportunity to make some general observations about the work of the Special Committee this year. As we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco, we reaffirm our commitment to the Charter, and the spirit of multilateral cooperation embodied in that landmark occasion. In this milestone year, examining and strengthening adherence to the Charter through the work of this Committee takes on renewed importance.

With respect to items on the agenda under the peaceful settlement of disputes, the United States is looking forward to the annual thematic debate during this meeting focusing on the exchange of information on State practices regarding the use of conciliation. As member states, we must dedicate ourselves to preventive diplomacy. The annual debate is an opportunity to deepen the Committee’s dialogue on this topic.

With respect to items on the Committee’s agenda concerning the maintenance of international peace and security, the United States continues to note the positive developments that have occurred elsewhere in the United Nations that are designed to ensure that the UN system of targeted sanctions remains a robust tool for combating threats to international peace and security. We will look forward to the annual briefing on sanctions, and the biannual briefing on Article 50, and hope that these discussions will further advance an effective and appropriate approach to the use of sanctions.

The United States continues to believe that the Committee should not pursue activities in the area of the maintenance of peace and security that would be duplicative or inconsistent with the roles of the principal organs of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter. This includes consideration of a working paper that calls, among other things, for a Charter Committee legal study of General Assembly powers, as well as a longstanding proposal regarding UN reform. On the question of the General Assembly requesting an advisory opinion on the use of force from the International Court of Justice, we have consistently stated that the United States does not support the proposal.

However, we also continue to believe that consideration of the proposal of Ghana could lead to fruitful results, if its scope can be narrowed to areas where consensus is possible on how to fill specific gaps. We look forward to continued engagement and discussion in the working group.

The United States has welcomed productive steps in recent years to streamline the agenda of this Committee and to close the discussion of proposals that failed to generate consensus. We believe that there is more progress to be made in the area of productivity and rationalization of the Committee’s work. The United States encourages Committee members to continue to make further improvements in this regard, giving further scrutiny to proposals with an eye toward updating our work and making the best use of scarce Secretariat resources. This includes the proposals made in past years to update the 1992 Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States, and to establish a website also dedicated to the peaceful settlement of disputes.

With respect to proposals regarding new subjects that might warrant consideration by the Special Committee, the United States continues to stand ready to engage on matters that have the potential to add value. These new items should be practical, non-political, and not duplicate efforts elsewhere in the United Nations. In addition, we would not wish this Committee to become a forum for the airing of bilateral concerns, or for meaningful discussion within its mandate to be displaced by consideration of topics more appropriately raised in other forums. In particular, concerns about the obligations of the host country should be raised in the dedicated Host Country Committee. We do not support the new proposal concerning unilateral coercive measures, and also have serious doubts about the new proposal concerning Article 51. We believe consideration of these politically charged topics has little prospect for generating consensus in this committee.

Finally, we thank the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs for their continued work on the Repertory of Practice of the United Nations Organs and the Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council. Both publications provide a useful resource on the practice of the United Nations organs, and we much appreciate the Secretariat’s hard work on them.

Thank you.