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Statement by Mr. GUAN Jian, Counsellor and Legal Adviser of the Chinese Mission to the United Nations, at the Sixth Committee of the 58th Session of the UN General Assembly, on Item 152: Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-fifth session

2003-11-03 21:00

(Shared Natural Resources & Fragmentation of International Law)

New York, 3 November 2003

Mr. Chairman,

During its 55th session, the International Law Commission (ILC) considered the topics of shared natural resources and fragmentation of international law among others. Now I would like to make a brief statement on these topics.

Firstly, on the topic of shared natural resources. The Special Rapporteur submitted to this session of the Commission his first report, which provides the background to the topic and a description of the hydrogeological features of groundwaters. The Commission decided to begin with a study of confined groundwaters.

We are in favor of this decision of the Commission since confined groundwaters, compared with other transboundary natural resources, are more closely linked with the productive activities and livelihood of mankind. Moreover, the Commission had carried out a preliminary study of groundwaters when it was drafting the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses and some principles embodied therein can also be applicable to confined groundwaters. This will facilitate the study of confined groundwaters.

As transboundary confined groundwaters are under the territories of several states, actions in one state are bound to bear on the exploitation and use of those waters in another. In its study, the Commission should take into full consideration the interests of all states and ensure to the greatest extent possible their sovereignty over and security of those natural resources.

Scientific research has revealed that as the impact of human activities on confined groundwaters varies in degree, the time it takes for the impact to show also varies. It can be as short as a few years or as long as a few decades or even hundreds of years before it catches the attention of mankind. This feature shows that the topic of confined groundwaters involves a lot science and requires the Commission to conduct the study on the basis of ample scientific evidence by acquiring a full picture of the hydrogeological features of confined groundwaters throughout the world and the impact of various human activities on such waters. On the other hand, it also shows that the Commission should take a practical approach to the study by focusing on solving current issues or issues about to occur in the near future without bothering itself too much with issues that are not going occur until hundreds of years later.

Secondly, on fragmentation of international law. During this session, ILC adopted the report of the study group, conducted preliminary deliberation on "lex specialis" rule and the question of "self-contained regimes" and set a schedule of work for the topic. We express our appreciation in this regard.

We believe that one of the tasks that the study of the topic should aim to accomplish is to clarify the inherent lack of coherence and certainty in international law and show states the way out of dilemmas arising from such lack of coherence and certainty in applying international law, thereby reducing the cost for applying law and minimizing the possibility of disputes to be caused or aggravated by international law itself.

During the 54th session, the Commission decided to include five issues in the study under the topic, namely, "lex specialis" rule and the question of "self-contained regimes", conflict between different interpretations of treaties, conflict between successive treaties relating to the same subject matter, the modification of multilateral treaties between certain of the parties only and hierarchy in international law. The study of the five issues is of both theoretical importance and practical significance. The study of "lex specialis" rule, the question of "self-contained regimes" and hierarchy in international law is especially important as it will facilitate the gradual unification of the understanding of those issues among the international community, reaffirm the fundamental status of the basic principles of international law, regulate international practices and contribute to the rule of law in the international community.

This concludes my statement.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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