Activities of the Legal Counsel of the
Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares visits Beijing from 12 to 15 April 2015.
The Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, visited the People’s Republic of China from 12 to 15 April 2015. The main purpose of this mission was to represent the Secretary-General at the opening session of the 54th consultative session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) on 13 April 2015. In his capacity as United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares was also invited by the Government of the People’s Republic of China as an honorary guest of the AALCO session and as a panellist. Mr. Serpa Soares also used the opportunity of his presence in China to participate in an international colloquium that was held concurrently with the AALCO session to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the founding of the United Nations.
The Legal Counsel and the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Li Keqiang prior to the opening of the AALCO session.
During the opening ceremony of the AALCO session on 13 April 2015, the Legal Counsel had the opportunity to meet with the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Li Keqiang, who delivered the opening address to the participants. In his wide-ranging and substantive remarks, Mr. Li identified priorities for working together to advance world peace, development, equality and justice. The Legal Counsel was very pleased that Premier Li included a number of statements of principle regarding the importance of international law and the rule of law in his address. Premier Li proposed, for example, to make the international order more just and equitable, including through maintaining the order established by the Charter of the United Nations and staying committed to the principles that is enshrines. He called upon the AALCO Members to work toward a more open and institutionalized world economy through, among other things, free trade, the observance of international trade laws and the basic principles and the promotion of trade and investment at the regional level to reinforce the global system. And finally, Premier Li stated in unequivocal terms that China was committed to upholding regional and international peace and security through the peaceful settlement of disputes. The full text of his speech was published in the 15 April 2015 edition of the China daily.
The Legal Counsel delivers remarks on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to the AALCO session.
Later the same day, the Legal Counsel participated in a special event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. In his remarks, he addressed two main legacies of the Conference, namely its contribution to multilateralism and its reaffirmation of the importance of principles as touchstones for effective international relations. He emphasized that the Bandung Conference had served to strengthen and significantly reinforce the multilateral order under the Charter. He also expressed the view that principles, such as those put forth in the final communiqué from the Bandung Conference and those reflected in the Charter of the United Nations and other United Nations documents, are essential because they frame answers to complex questions and serve as important sources of stability. He further emphasized that applying principles requires us to critically examine their operation in the current environment and that, if necessary, we should be willing to make adjustments based on our experience and lessons that we may have learned.
During the afternoon of 14 April, the Legal Counsel participated in the international colloquium that was held concurrently with the AALCO session. The colloquium was opened by Mr. Liu Zhenmin, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for the People’s Republic of China. In his remarks, Mr. Liu commented broadly on the importance of the Charter and the Organization to the maintenance of international peace and security and development for all States. He also expressed the ongoing commitment of the Chinese Government to the rule of law at the international level.
The Legal Counsel and other distinguished participants in the international colloquium held concurrently with the AALCO session.
In the Legal Counsel’s remarks to the colloquium, he addressed some of the developments and challenges that have arisen with respect to the Charter over the past 70 years. Specifically, he focused on the three main pillars of the United Nations. With respect to peace and security, he highlighted both the substantive and structural challenges, including the interpretation of the use of force and “intervention”, the exercise of self-defense, criteria for action under Chapter VII of the Charter and the composition and procedures of the Security Council. He also acknowledged the special role of the permanent members of the Security Council, including China, in taking action while also upholding the principles and rules of the Charter. In the human rights area, he highlighted the adoption of the core international human rights instruments and the establishment of the United Nations human rights bodies as giving practical effect to the obligation of the Organization to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all…” in accordance with the Charter. He also noted that the United Nations has been proactive in expanding the application of human rights principles to private actors, including through the United Nations Global Compact. Finally, on the issue of development, he emphasized the multifaceted nature of the issue and noted that this year alone a number of major international meetings on development would occur, including the third International Conference on Financing for Development; the summit on sustainable development; and the twenty-first session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He also noted that the post-2015 development agenda, when adopted by Member States, would seek to build on progress to-date on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the issue of sustainable development. Through these initiatives, the United Nations would continue to catalyze mutually-beneficial development.
The Legal Counsel’s views on development were further elaborated in an article that he published in March of this year in the Chinese Journal of International Law. In the article, titled “Room for Growth: The Contribution of International Law to Development”, he underscored the opportunity for international law to play a larger role on the issue of development through, among other things, the creation of a more advanced institutional framework to refine and integrate broad development principles, as well as methods of enforcement to protect development rights and hold the various actors accountable.
The Legal Counsel during his interview with CCTV news at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
The Legal Counsel was also interviewed by CCTV, the State English-language television station, on the AALCO session and the international colloquium, which gave him a unique opportunity to communicate on international legal issues with the broader Chinese audience. The interview is available at http://english.cntv.cn/2015/04/15/VIDE1429073283887327.shtml.
This was the Legal Counsel’s second visit to China in as many years. It was also yet another instance of the longstanding participation of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs in the sessions of AALCO. During his stay, he had many constructive exchanges with important interlocutors that will continue to strengthen the relationship between the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, AALCO and its members, including China, in the future.
The Legal Counsel left Beijing with the impression that China has every intention to enhance its already strong engagement with the international community and in particular within the context of the United Nations in legal matters. He is very pleased with this development, which is commensurate with China’s central role in the global economy as well as its special responsibility for issues of international peace and security as a permanent member of the Security Council.