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STUDY OF THE PROBLEM OF THE MATERIAL REYNPETS OF WARS, PARTICULARLY MINES, AND THEIR EFFECT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

443. The Governing Council considered agenda item 14 at its 72nd meeting, on 19 May 197'T. The Council had before it a report of the Executive Director on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 3435 (XXX): study of the problem of the material remnants of wars, particularly mines, and their effect on the environment (UNEP/GC/103 and Corr.1). 361

444. The Executive Director, in a brief introductory statement, drew the attention of the Council to the fact that limited information had been received from Governments in response to his letters and questionnaires. Nevertheless, the information had been augmented by data from other sources.

445. The representative of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, while expressing his delegation's appreciation for the report, said it would have liked to see the section on the scope of the study state more affirmatively the adverse environmental effects of remnants of wars. He recognized the need for preventive measures for the protection of the environment in the future and emphasized that both international and bilateral co-operation were urgently required in tackling the problem of removing remnants. His delegation hoped to see arrangements made for the exchange of information, technical and financial assistance and advice, joint clearance operations and further study and research. Supported by the Iraqi delegation, he urged the Executive Director to continue exploring the possibilities of convening an intergovernmental meeting, which would provide an opportunity for working out collaborative arrangements to deal with the problem. He further suggested that the Governing Council, in the draft decision before the Council, should authorize the Executive Director to consult with the Governments concerned with a view to developing the technical and financial components of an international programme of co-operation in connexion with the removal of remnants of war.

446. The representatives of France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland said that they would be unable to support the Libyan proposals. The representative of the Federal Republic of Germany said that his Government was prevented by the Agreement on German External Debts, signed in London on 27 February 1953, 37/ from entering into any obligations in respect of claims related to the materi7l remnants of wars, and recalled that his Government had provided the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya with maps indicating the emplacement of mines. The representative of France referred to the legal and political complexities of the issue, recalled that his delegation had abstained in the General Assembly vote on resolution 3435 (XXX) and said that the French authorities had found themselves unable to reply to the questionnaire. His

36/ Circulated to members of the General Assembly under the symbol A/32/137

delegation would favour a bilateral approach to the question. The delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany indicated its Government’s willingness to enter into bilateral negotiations when appropriate. That approach was also favoured by the British and Italian delegations. The Italian delegation noted that, although the Italian authorities had replied to the UNEP questionnaire and were willing to co-operate with UNEP in that respect, they had doubts as to whether the problem of the material remnants of wars fell within the jurisdiction of UNEP. The United States delegation, while acknowledging that the General Assembly had called for the study, also expressed doubts about the advisability of the involvement of UNEP in that area. It appreciated, however, the thoughtful approach followed by the Executive Director in his report. Noting that the report would be discussed by the General Assembly at its thirty-second session, the United States delegation reserved its Governments comments for that occasion.

447. The Swedish representative said that her country's technical experience in the

removal of the material remnants of wars could be of use to other countries. She suggested that the Executive Director should continue collecting information on ways of dealing with the environmental problems caused by such remnants. That information should be registered with the International Referral System (IRS), which had a valuable role to play in disseminating information on removal methods.

448. The representative of Poland described his country's own painful experiences

and losses caused by the material remnants of wars. His delegation would have liked the report to refer also to the remnants of conflicts that had occurred since the Second World War. He supported the recommendations in paragraph 28 (c) of document

UNEP/GC/103/Corr.1, but would have preferred a wording more in line with the text of General Assembly resolution 3435 (XXX). The Soviet representative said

that the problem of the material remnants of wars properly fell with the purview of UNEP and supported the views expressed by the Polish and Libyan delegations.

449. The representative of the German Democratic Republic associated himself with

the views expressed by the Polish delegation and said that the 1953 London Agreement on the so-called German debt regulations exclusively concerned problems between the Federal Republic of Germany and other parties to that agreement.

450. The representative of China said his delegation felt that in General Assembly resolution 3435 (XXX) the aim and scope of the research and study to be carried out by UNEP was clear and there should be no departure therefrom. The

report failed to consider sufficiently the damage caused by the colonialist Powers,and had therefore departed from the provisions of the resolution, which called on the colonialist Powers which had neglected to remove material remnants of wars to assume responsibility for their removal. It was essential to safeguard life in the

developing countries. His delegation also reaffirmed its principled stand regarding

the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of

Environmental Modification Techniques, and reserved its right to comment on the subjects discussed by the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development

of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts and by the

Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, both of which were referred to in the

Executive Director's report. His delegation would be unable to participate in any

vote on the draft decision before the Council.

451. With respect to the Libyan proposal regarding consultations with Governments

in connexion with the environmental problems of the material remnants of wars, the Executive Director stated that the attempt of UNEP to initiate consultations had been delayed by the lack of prompt responses to its inquiries. He also recalled that the advisory group of experts which had assisted him in the preparation of his recommendations to the Governing Council had noted that the request for the study did not contain any reference to the question of responsibility. According to paragraph 9 of document UNEP/GC/84/Add.1, it did not appear that the problem of responsibility formally fell within the province of the study requested from the Governing Council. In that light, he had carried out the mandate entrusted to him by the Governing Council; he had been instructed to implement UNEP decision 80 (IV), not General Assembly resolution 3435 (XXX).

452. The Executive Director suggested that, although many delegations had indicated that he should submit his report to the General Assembly, he would in effect be transmitting not the Executive Director's report, but a report on behalf of the Governing Council.

Action by the Governing Council

453. At its 75th meeting, on 25 May 1977, the Governing Council considered a draft decision submitted by the President on the study of the problem of the material remnants of wars, particularly mines, and their effect on the environment.

454. The representative of the Federal Republic of Germany reiterated that his Government was inhibited by the London Agreement on German External Debts from agreeing to any settlement of claims arising out of the Second World War except in the context of a general settlement. His Government did not believe that UNEP was the proper body for the complex and delicate negotiations involved, but was prepared to enter into bilateral negotiations where appropriate.

455. The representative of France said that, in his Government's view, the problems referred to in General Assembly resolution 3435 (XXX) were, in view of their legal complexity, outside the competence of UNEP and should be dealt with bilaterally. 'In the event of a vote on the draft decision before the Council, his delegation would abstain.

456. The representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland said his Government endorsed the view that the problems indicated were best dealt with bilaterally. Moreover, it felt that the subject was outside the mainstream of the concerns of UNEP and that the Programme's united resources could more profitably be used elsewhere.

457. The representative of Italy agreed that, primarily for practical reasons, the subject was best approached bilaterally. UNEP was not suited to deal with the problem and its involvement created a harmful overlap with the work of other bodies.

458. The representative of the United States of America associated her delegation fully with the comments of the representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

459. At its 75th meeting, the Governing Council adopted with out a vote the draft decision submitted by the President (decision 101 (V)). 38/

460. The representative of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya welcomed the adoption of the decision by consensus. His delegation recognized that, in addition to its environmental aspect, the issue of material remnants of war had legal and political implications. In submitting the original draft of the decision just adopted, his delegation's motive had been to promote the search for co-operation at all levels in dealing with the problem.