Statement by Mr. Shair Bahadur Khan, Legal Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, on Agenda Item 81: Report of the International Law Commission (New York, 28 October 2011)

Mr. Chairman,

Pakistan delegation would like to thank the Members of the International Law Commission (ILC) and the Secretariat for their work during its sixty-third session. In this segment of the debate, my delegation would like to comment on the Chapter IX of the ILC Report: Protection of persons in the event of disaster.

Mr. Chairman,

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 had 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.

Mr. Chairman,

In our view, the primary role of the affected State is the 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.

In this background, my delegation supports the view that any provision which would create legal right to provide assistance may be avoided. The provision of assistance by the international community has been based on the practice of international cooperation and solidarity and not on assertions of legal rights and obligations.

However, my delegation is of the view that in case of an overwhelming disaster, the affected State would certainly, in the interest of its citizens, seek assistance of the outside world. As such the assumption of draft articles 10 and 11 that Sates would not seek assistance from the international community would create complications and undermine the current practice of international cooperation in the event of disaster. In addition, as pointed out earlier by some States, the Commission may consider in the context of draft Article 12 whether States, the UN, other competent intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations should be treated at par and on the same juridical footing.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.