from the International Model United Nations Association Manual
Legal Committee History
The Legal Committee is the Sixth Committee of the United Nations
General Assembly. It was established in 1945 along with the other original
UN organs. This committee is dedicated to discussing legal issues and studying draft reports from various specialized and adhoc agencies, and then codifying it all into international law.
The Legal Committee then adopts a solution that is presented to the General Assembly Plenary committee. The Sixth Committee is formed under Chapter IV of the United
Nations Charter. As part of the General Assembly, the Committee may not coerce a government into action, but may make recommendations to the Security Council if necessary. The Committee consists of all the
Member States of the United Nations who wish to be represented. Since its creation, the Legal Committee has handled a wide variety of issues. It has issued recommendations on topics such as the peaceful settlement of disputes (1982), international terrorism (1963,1970,1971,1973), hostages
(1983), the UN Charter (1963, 1968, 1984), mercenaries (1980), and Law of the Sea (1982). These subjects, among others, have helped make the
Sixth Committee a defining force in international law. Many of the recommendations from the Legal Committee have been used as foundations for conferences and treaties. It must be understood that the term “Legal” Committee can be misleading. The Sixth Committee of the
United Nations was created to help resolve legal issues. The Committee often helps establish the agenda for the International Law Commission, a collaboration of legal professionals from around the world. The ILC will draft a treaty, statute, or convention and submit it to the Sixth Committee which may then recommend it, change it, or return it for revision. The
Sixth Committee examines the documents from a political perspective as well as a legal one, and refines them to ensure that they are acceptable to the international community. The debate in the Sixth Committee is political in nature, and this has helped to expand the duties and capabilities of the
Committee. Today the Sixth Committee faces a new era in international relations. Cooperation has reached new heights, and there is a growing trend toward stopping illegal international behavior. As the force behind
the creation of many treaties and draft statutes, much responsibility will lie on the shoulders of the Legal Committee in this new age of international law. It must oversee the design and changes of peacekeeping in the UN
It must also continue its work on older issues that, due to the intricacies of international law, are still unresolved. Yet with every step it takes, the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly works to assure a world of peace, order, and security.
Since its inception in 1945, the Sixth Committee of the United Nations, the
Legal Committee, has labored to produce internationally acceptable legal codes establishing a “common law” for the international community.
has addressed numerous topics setting forth codification of issues including state succession, peace keeping and Law of the Sea.
Article 15 of the Statute of the International Law Commission (ILC) defines codification as meaning “the more precise formulation and systematizing of rules of international law in fields where there has already been extensive state practice, precedent and doctrine” (West 104).
This article entrusts to the ILC the responsibility of restating international law and combining previously issued precedents into a clear, precise and efficient form. In the case of international terrorism, a subject rife with legal and political complications, there exists mountains of “precedent, practice, and