Statement by Mr. Abdul Hameed, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, New York on Agenda Item 107: Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its sixty-second Session, Chapter VII: “Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters” (27 October 2010)

Madam Chair,

I would like to thank the Members of the International Law commission and the Secretariat for their work during the sixty-second session of the Commission. I would also like to pay tribute to Professor Paula Escarameia who recently passed away. She will be remembered as a member of the International Law Commission who made a solid contribution to the development of international law.

In our statement of today, we would restrict our comments to Chapter VII of the International Law Commission Report: protection of persons in the event of disasters. Other topics of the report will be addressed in the coming days according to the schedule of proposed clusters.

Madam Chair,

At its fifty ninth session in 2007, the Commission had included the topic “Protection of persons in the event of disasters” in its programme of work. Pakistan has been following the work and results of the International Law Commission in this area with much interest. We are glad to note some progress in this field

We are of the view that the Commission rightly focused on the core principles of humanity, neutrality, and impartiality in response to disasters and the primary responsibility of the affected State in the provision and coordination of relief assistance. We think that the focus on core principles of humanitarian assistance in draft article-6 will go a long way in addressing the issues of humanitarian assistance in disaster situations.

The principle of neutrality in draft article-6 highlights a-political nature of disaster relief. It implies that foreign actors, organizations and the international community involved in response to disaster should not commit any act which might amount to interference in the internal affairs of the affected State. The principle of neutrality is, indeed, the result of the obligation to respect the sovereignty of States.

The principle of impartiality excludes political considerations from the humanitarian aid and gives a functional framework to the relief effort. The impartiality implies that need-based criterion should be used to distinguish and prioritize among individuals for distribution of resources and relief efforts.

Madam Chair,

We support the approach of Commission in highlighting first the rights and obligations of States vis-à-vis each other in the event of disasters. We think that State-to-State relations are important features of disaster-relief. We appreciate that draft articles 6 and 8 duly focus on the rights and obligations of the affected State vis-a-vis external actors.

We tend to agree with the report of the Commission that respect and protection of the inherent dignity of the human person embodied in article-7 might not be a human right per se but it is a foundational principle on which the edifice of all human rights is built.

Madam Chair,

The primacy of the affected State in the provision of disaster relief assistance in draft articles is based on the central principle of international law, i.e. sovereignty of State. The principle of independence and territorial sovereignty of States is supported by the Charter of the United Nations, numerous international instruments, the jurisprudence of ICJ, and resolutions of the General Assembly.

The primary responsibility of affected State flows from its obligation towards its own citizens. Only the affected State can evaluate its requirement and the need for international assistance. The Special Rapporteur has rightly drawn two conclusions from the primacy of the affected State in disaster response. First, the affected State has the primary role in facilitating, coordinating, directing, controlling and supervising relief operations on its territory. Second, the international relief operation requires the consent of affected State.

In conclusion, we reiterate that the primary role of the affected State is most essential provision of draft articles. It is rooted in conventions in various fields including the draft Convention on Expediting the Delivery of Emergency Assistance, the Tampere Convention, and the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response. A range of international instruments have emphasized the primary role of affected State for providing aid and protection in various contexts. We also appreciate the preference for national law in draft articles to stress the primacy of affected State in coordination of relief efforts.

Thank you, Madam Chair.