On 21 May 2018, the United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, participated in commemorative events to mark the 70th session of the International Law Commission, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In his remarks during a solemn meeting of the Commission, the Legal Counsel emphasized the indispensable role that the International Law Commission has played in the progressive development of international law and its codification. As reasons for its success, the Legal Counsel identified the Commission’s interaction with governments, its composition, its working methods and its Secretariat, the Codification Division of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs.
Looking ahead, the Legal Counsel encouraged the Commission to continue its important work. He noted that the Commission had adapted the format of its outcomes and the selection of its topics to changing times. He also urged the General Assembly and the Commission to work together to achieve gender parity in the Commission’s membership in the foreseeable future.
Alongside the Legal Counsel, statements were delivered by Mr. Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, Chair of the International Law Commission; H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations; H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, Chair of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations; H.E. Mr. Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations; and H.E. Ms. Jennifer G. Newstead, Legal Adviser of the Department of State of the United States of America. A keynote address was delivered by Mr. Nico Schrijver, Professor of Public International Law, Grotius Centre, Leiden University, and President of the Institut de Droit international.
Following the afternoon programme, which consisted of a conversation between the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, the Legal Counsel formally opened the photo exhibit “70 Years of the International Law Commission”, which was on display at the Visitors’ Lobby in the General Assembly Building from 30 April to 3 June 2018.
The Legal Counsel, Mr Serpa Soares, opens photo exhibit
The Legal Counsel expressed the hope that the exhibit would enhance the public’s understanding of the role that international law plays in achieving a stable and peaceful world, and that it would serve as a reminder to delegates and United Nations staff about why international law matters.
Earlier in the month, on 9 May 2018, the Legal Counsel had briefed the International Law Commission on the work of the Office of Legal Affairs over the past year. The Legal Counsel highlighted, inter alia, the progress in the field of accountability for international crimes; the assistance of the Office to peace operations; developments in the law of the sea, in particular in the area of conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction; and the adoption of several new multilateral treaties.
The Legal Counsel briefs the International Law Commission on the work of the Office of Legal Affairs over the past year
The Legal Counsel also participated as a panelist in two side events alongside the meetings of the Commission. On 8 May 2018, the Legal Counsel discussed “The International Law Commission and the fight against impunity”, during a panel discussion organized by the Permanent Missions of Brazil, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia and Switzerland. Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which was concluded on 17 July 1998, the Legal Counsel noted the crucial role the Commission played in the genesis of the Rome Statute.
The Legal Counsel participates in a side event entitled “The ILC and the fight against impunity”
On 24 May 2018, the Legal Counsel delivered the keynote speech at the side event entitled “Seven Women in Seventy Years: a round-table discussion on achieving gender parity at the International Law Commission”, organized by the Permanent Missions of China, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The Legal Counsel highlighted the gender disparity – both historical and current – in the membership of the Commission and discussed the efforts of the Secretariat to assist in the bridging of this gender gap .
On 5 and 6 July 2018, the Legal Counsel will participate in further commemorative events marking the seventieth session of the International Law Commission at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.