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General Assembly – Sixth Committee Meeting on the Protection of persons in the event of disasters – Agenda Item 90

Statement delivered by Ambassador Stefano Stefanile, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, at the Sixth Committee Meeting on the Protection of persons in the event of disasters – Agenda Item 90 —

Thank you Madam Chairperson,

Italy would like to renew its appreciation for the excellent work performed by the International Law Commission and by the Special Rapporteur Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, which has resulted in the adoption in 2016 of a full set of draft articles on the protection of persons in the event of disaster.

Italy is a country that has had to cope, even in recent times, with the dire consequences of natural disasters. As a result of that we have developed an advanced system of civil protection, which has operated with professionalism and dedication both domestically and in several operations worldwide. Just to mention a few examples, the Italian “Protezione Civile” was active in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the earthquake in Nepal in 2015. Those experiences have reinforced Italy’s conviction that a stable regulatory framework regarding international cooperation and cooperation with the affected State would benefit the capacity of the international community to respond, promptly and effectively, to natural disaster that exceed the means of reaction of the affected States.

As the ILC has well explained in its commentary to the draft articles, such stable regulatory framework is today missing. We have numerous bilateral agreements (often outdated), soft law instruments and some multilateral agreements dealing with specific issues related to relief operations. What we do not have, however, is a general multilateral legal framework where lays down the fundamental rules and principles.
We believe that the ILC Draft Articles would constitute a balanced compromise between the enhanced responsibilities of the international community in relief operations and the respect of States’ sovereign rights, which maintain full control over the admission and operation of international actors. To that extent these draft articles would constitute a solid basis for constructive negotiations towards a future UN convention.

Madam Chairperson,

Our delegation is ready to constructively engage on any option regarding the form and content of such agreement. At the same time, we think this instrument may take the form of a framework convention, with a clearly defined scope of application, establishing the fundamental rules and principles of international cooperation in disaster response, especially with regard to the performance of relief operations by external actors in the territory of the affected State. Such rules and principles could provide the legal toolbox to which States may resort to when adopting more specific and operational instruments at bilateral or regional level. Furthermore, the process towards a framework convention could explore the establishment some form of quasi-institutional mechanism – for instance a light secretariat, a meeting of the parties and/or a technical body – which would enable the parties to develop operational, technical protocols and instruments facilitating the work of stakeholders and relief operators on the ground.

In conclusion, Italy is of the view that – in the age of climate change, characterized by an increasing number of natural disasters – the time has come for the UN to take the lead in providing a stable and comprehensive regulatory framework. Therefore, we support the recommendation issued by the ILC and, in line with the invitation to Member States expressed by the GA in Resolution 71/141, we look forward to engaging with other States in identifying the best ways to make further progress on this topical issue.

Thank you for your attention.