General Assembly: 23rd Plenary Meeting, 76th Session
Speakers Praise World Court’s Resilience Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Stressing Continued Need for Global Dispute Settlement Platform
The General Assembly today adopted a resolution emphasizing the need for adequate, predictable and sustainable funding of the United Nations resident coordinator system, following a day‑long debate on the work of the International Court of Justice, which marks its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2021.
By the terms of the resolution, titled “Review of the functioning of the reinvigorated resident coordinator system, including its funding arrangement” (document A/76/L.4), the Assembly welcomed the progress made in implementing its resolution 72/729 on the repositioning of the United Nations development system and in creating an empowered, independent and impartial resident coordinator system. It also invited the Secretary‑General to report to the Assembly and make recommendations if the resident coordinator system’s proper functioning is not enabled through the generation of adequate, predictable and sustainable funding.
The resident coordinator system ensures the coordination of all organizations of the United Nations dealing with operational activities for development at the country level. It is focused on the advancement of sustainable development, leaving no one behind and the eradication of poverty, consistent with the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Also today, more than 40 speakers took the rostrum for the Assembly’s review of the International Court of Justice annual report (document A/76/4), which covers the period 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021, with many delegations emphasizing that the Court’s growing and diversified caseload reflects its status as an internationally respected lynchpin of the rules‑based multilateral system.
Joan E. Donoghue, the Court’s President, said its docket remained full throughout the reporting period, with 15 contentious cases currently on its list, involving States from around the world and touching on a wide range of issues. Those included territorial and maritime delimitation, reparations for internationally wrongful acts and alleged violations of bilateral and multilateral treaties concerning, among other things, diplomatic relations and eliminating racial discrimination.
No new cases were added in 2020, when the COVID‑19 pandemic led to the Court adopting hybrid hearings, but so far in 2021 it has taken on three new contentious cases, she said. One case concerns a land and maritime delimitation and sovereignty dispute between Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, while the other two ‑ one initiated by Armenia, the other by Azerbaijan ‑ deal with alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
She briefed the Assembly on the Court’s decisions during the reporting period in cases involving Equatorial Guinea versus France, Guyana versus Venezuela, Iran versus the United States, Qatar versus the United Arab Emirates and Somalia versus Kenya. In addition, she discussed the creation of a three‑judge ad hoc panel to monitor implementation of the Court’s decisions, and updated Member States on a newly established trust fund that will enable law graduates from developing countries to participate in the Court’s Judicial Fellowship Programme.
Azerbaijan’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored the Court’s 1996 advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, in which it concluded that States have an obligation to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. He also called on Israel, as an occupying Power, to respect the Court’s 2004 advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The representative of the United States emphasized that the Assembly’s ability to request advisory opinions from the Court cannot be misused for political gain or to circumvent the Court’s jurisdiction over contentious proceedings. “The advisory function of the [Court] was not intended to settle disputes between States,” he emphasized.
Finland’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, called for a better gender balance in the Court. As judges are concerned, this requires country‑level attention, she said. “The submission of a dispute to the Court should not be regarded as an unfriendly act,” she continued, adding: “It is rather an act to fulfil the obligation of all States to settle their disputes peacefully.”
The representative of Guatemala noted that, following referendums, his country and Belize decided to take their long‑standing border dispute to the Court. He expressed concern, however, that financial challenges could hamper its work, and urged Member States to fulfil their financial obligations.
Bangladesh’s representative, noting that his country is currently hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, detailed the Court’s 23 January 2020 order indicating provisional measures against Myanmar and called for full implementation of the same by all concerned stakeholders.
Also addressing specific cases before the Court, the representative of Iran said two cases filed by his country in the past five years ‑ both stemming from the imposition of sanctions and other measures by the United States ‑ are still pending. In that regard, he warned that prolonging judicial proceedings would run counter to the principle of exigency of due process.
The representative of Senegal said Member States, the Assembly and the Security Council must guarantee respect for, and implementation of, the Court’s decisions. Recalling that only 74 countries have so far made a declaration recognizing as compulsory the Court’s jurisdiction, he invited all States which have not yet done so to follow suit.
Numerous speakers also paid tribute to James Richard Crawford of Australia, one of the Court’s 15 judges, who died on 31 May at the age of 72. The Security Council and the Assembly will meet independently but concurrently on 5 November to elect his successor. (See Press Release SC/14566.)
In addition to the annual report, the Assembly had before it the Court’s report titled “Secretary‑General’s trust fund to assist States in the settlement of disputes through the International Court of Justice” (document A/76/196) as well as a note by the Secretariat titled “Trust fund for the Judicial Fellowship Programme of the International Court of Justice” (document A/76/431).
Also speaking today were representatives of Hungary (on behalf of the Visegrád Group), Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Angola (on behalf of the Community of Portuguese‑Speaking Countries), Romania, Switzerland, Cuba, Brazil, Germany, Philippines, Honduras, Singapore, France, Ecuador, Egypt, China, Argentina, Japan, Liechtenstein, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Chile, Viet Nam, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Greece, Cyprus, Peru, Oman, Malaysia, Georgia, Colombia, Indonesia, India, Bolivia, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Eritrea, Belarus, Turkey, Japan and El Salvador.
A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine also spoke.
The representatives of the Russian Federation and Israel, as well as the representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 29 October, to take up the report of the Human Rights Council and to take action on a draft decision on its high‑level meeting on the appraisal of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.