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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.



Madam/Mister Chair,


1.  The European Union has the honour to address the Sixth Committee on the work of the International Law Commission relating to the topic of Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, based on the fifth report prepared by Special Rapporteur Eduardo Valencia-Ospina. 


2.  The European Union would like to start by expressing its great appreciation for the progress and quality of the reports produced by the Special Rapporteur and the International Law Commission on this topic thus far. 


3.  It will be recalled that the European Union has addressed this topic for the first time on the occasion of its statement before last year’s session of the 6th Committee. Commendably, Special Rapporteur Eduardo Valencia-Ospina has in part II of his Fifth Report duly taken note of various points made by the European Union in its first statement. 


4.  Overall, the European Union is pleased to note that the Special Rapporteur and the Commission seek to strike a fine balance between the need to safeguard the national sovereignty of the affected States on the one hand, and the need for international cooperation regarding the protection of persons in the event of disasters, on the other. However, in humanitarian emergencies, the European Union would like to emphasize the need for full respect of humanitarian principles and human rights. 




5.  The European Union proposes first to highlight a selected number of issues. 


6.  As compared to the legal framework set out in the EU statement of last year, the European Union is pleased to announce that the EU legislator is presently considering a proposal for the establishment of a body of “EU aid volunteers” that should enhance the pool of well-trained people in order to further contribute to the capacity for providing international humanitarian assistance.


7.  In part III of his Fifth Report the Special Rapporteur reports on the input received on the following question: does the duty for States to cooperate in disaster relief with the affected State include a duty on States to provide assistance when requested by the affected State?  On the basis of the input received by States that have responded to this question, as well as international practice, the Special Rapporteur takes the view that there is no positive duty in international law for the assisting State to render assistance(1). This position is reflected in the draft article 12 provisionally adopted by the Draft Committee and which the Commission took note of(2).   


8.  The foregoing notwithstanding, in paragraph 69 of his report, the Special Rapporteur notes that by means of mutual arrangements States may accept the imposition of such a duty as between the Parties thereto.  In this context, the Special Rapporteur referred to Article 222(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union (TFEU), which reads: ” Should a Member State be the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster, the other Member States shall assist it at the request of its political authorities. To that end, the Member States shall coordinate between themselves in the Council”.  This is complemented by Declaration No 37 annexed to the TFEU which stresses the latitude given to EU Member States in deciding how they would provide such assistance(3). Currently discussions are ongoing within the European Union regarding implementing arrangements for article 222 TFEU.




9.  After these preliminary remarks, the European Union is now pleased to submit comments on draft articles 5 bis and 12 to 15, as provisionally adopted by the Drafting Committee(4).


Regarding Draft Article 5 bis (Forms of cooperation)  


10.  The European Union welcomes draft Article 5bis. Its new drafting clarifies the relationship to draft Article 5 on the duty to cooperate. 


11.  The European Union would submit two specific suggestions for further consideration. 


12.  Firstly, it should become clear from reading Article 5 in conjunction with Article 5bis that there is a need for all international actors rendering assistance to cooperate among themselves including in particular as regards needs assessments, situation overview, delivery of assistance, and so forth. In short, in the Union’s view, cooperation should not be confined to cooperation solely with the affected State, or between States or between States and international actors, but all international actors should cooperate among themselves. To this end, the European Union suggests to include precise language in the draft article or in its commentary.


13.  Secondly, the Union would suggest that in relation to the scientific and technical assistance referred to in this article, specific reference is made in the commentary of this draft article to the use of satellite imagery as another important means of delivering technical assistance during emergency response. For example, satellite imagery products such as damage assessment maps are available through the European Earth monitoring programme GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), not only to Union actors but also to other international actors. 


Regarding Draft Article 13 (Conditions on the provision of external assistance)  


14.  The European Union would submit two specific suggestions for further consideration. 


15.  Firstly, the European Union welcomes the improvements made to the Article by the Drafting Committee, but suggests that this draft Article could be even further refined so as to better reflect the need to respect, on one hand, the affected State’s right to sovereignty, and, on the other hand, the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence which govern humanitarian assistance. In this vein, the recognized standards of humanitarian assistance should be adequately reflected, especially the needs-based approach. It follows that it appears too vague that conditions shall only take into account the identified needs, conditions should rather veritably reflect the identified needs of the affected persons. 


16.  Secondly, the draft article would also benefit from including wording on the special needs of women and especially vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, including children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.   


Regarding Draft Article 15 (Termination of assistance)

17.  The European Union is of the opinion that the draft Article on the termination of assistance should not only follow a procedural approach, but in the consultations with the affected State the needs of the affected persons should also be adequately taken into account.



Madam/Mister Chair,


18.  I would like now to address a matter of a more general nature in relation to assisting actors.


19.  In this regard, the Special Rapporteur summarized that the Commission’s recognition of the role of international organisations and other humanitarian actors in the protection of persons in the event of disasters was welcomed, while it was deemed unclear whether the respective draft articles also included regional international organisations, including the European Union(5).


20.  In light of this remaining uncertainty, the European Union reiterates the suggestion, which it already made last year, to expressly include a reference to regional international organisations in the draft texts(6) or to include a clarification to that effect in the commentaries of the draft articles.


21.  Lastly, with regard to the proposed form in which the work of the ILC on this topic should be adopted, the European Union considers that this matter should be addressed through framework principles.




Madam/Mister Chair, in conclusion on the topic of Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, 


22.  In the European Union’s view the outstanding work of the Special Rapporteur and the International Law Commission have already contributed significantly to the reflection on how to best codify and progressively develop this area of international law which will steer the international community in its assistance to persons affected by disasters. The European Union will continue to follow this work closely and will continue to assist the International Law Commission in this endeavour.  


Thank you.




(1) See the Special Rapporteur’s Fifth Report (A/CN.4/652), paras. 56 and following, pp. 16 and following.


(2) See the report of the ILC on the work of its sixty-fourth session (2012), Official records of the General Assembly, 67th session, Supplement No. 10 (A/67/10), para. 56, p. 85.


(3) Declaration No. 37 on Article 222 (TFEU) reads: ‘Without prejudice to the measures adopted by the Union to comply with its solidarity obligation towards a Member State which is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of natural or man-made disaster, none of the provisions of Article 222 is intended to affect the right of another Member State to choose the most appropriate means to comply with its own solidarity obligation towards that Member State’.


(4) See the report of the ILC on the work of its sixty-fourth session (2012), Official records of the General Assembly, 67th session, Supplement No. 10 (A/67/10), para. 56, p. 85.


(5) See the Special Rapporteur’s Fifth Report (A/CN.4/652), para. 14, p. 6.

The terms ‘regional integration organization’/’regional organization’ are  accepted at UN level and have been included in important international legal instruments, including for example in the 2006  UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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