Statement by Mr. Abdul Hameed, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, in the Sixth Committee on Agenda Item 79: Report of the International Law Commission (New York, 2 November 2012)

Mr. Chairman,

Pakistan delegation appreciates the Members of the International Law Commission (ILC) and the Secretariat for their work during its sixty-fourth session. In this part of the debate, we would like to comment on the Chapter V 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 rooted in the key principle of international law, i.e. sovereignty of State. The Charter of the United Nations, numerous international instruments, the jurisprudence of ICJ, and resolutions of the General Assembly highlight the principle of sovereignty of State.

The sovereignty also entails primary responsibility of the affected State towards its own citizens. Only the affected State can assess its need for international assistance. The affected State has the primary role in facilitating, coordinating, directing, controlling and supervising relief operations on its territory.

My delegation is of the view that in case of an overwhelming natural disaster requiring a response beyond the capacity of the affected State, it would certainly, in the interest of its citizens, seek assistance of the international community. As such the assumption of draft articles 10 and 11 that States would not seek assistance from the international community even in cases of overwhelming natural disaster is flawed. We do not find sufficient empirical evidenced for the assumption that if the disaster exceeded the affected State’s capacity, the affected State would not seek or accept assistance from any external actor altogether arbitrarily and would let it citizens suffer indefinitely. Associating the affected State with irrational decision making and arbitrariness without adequate empirical evidence would create complications and undermine the current practice of international coop4ration in the event of natural disaster.

However, we can assume that based on its national security concerns a State might prefer seeking/receiving assistance from certain States over others. The reluctance of the affected State to prefer a historically hostile country’s offer of assistance over friendly countries’ offers of assistance might be understandable. A sovereign State has the right and must be free to choose among various external actors offering assistance. A suitable reference in the draft articles to assure the affected State that the humanitarian assistance would not be abused in any manner to undermine its sovereignty or to interfere in its domestic affairs would be welcome.

Mr. Chairman,

The Commission may like to 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.

We have noted the conditions on the provision of external assistance highlighted in draft Article 13. In general, we agree with the idea that the affected State should be able to put whatever conditions it finds necessary before accepting the offer of external assistance. We believe that the affected State, having primary responsibility, would be far more concerned than external actors regarding the expedited facilitation of assistance and the protection of persons in its territory. We agree that the affected State must indicate the scope and type of assistance sought from other States.

Pakistan delegation supports the provision of Article 14 that once conditions of the affected State have been met, it must facilitate the assistance by making its legislation and regulations available to ensure the compliance of external actors with its national law and its general disaster preparedness framework. As the provision of humanitarian assistance in the wake of natural disasters is a dynamic process, the affected States should have a right to review the situation in the light of changing ground reality.

Similarly the consultation among the affected State, the assisting State, and other assisting recognized humanitarian actors before the termination of external assistance in the light of draft Article 15 would be a positive measure as it would add legal certainty to the process. However, in this area also the primacy of the affected State in the final decision would be important for the completion of the humanitarian assistance mission.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you.