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63rd session of General Assembly opens

The 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly will open tomorrow (16 September 2008) in New York. As part of its lengthy agenda, the Assembly will debate topics under the headings of the maintenance of international peace and security, the promotion of economic growth and sustainable development, development in Africa, the promotion of human rights, the coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts, the promotion of international law and justice, disarmament, drug control, crime prevention and combating international terrorism, as well as administrative and other matters. Highlights of the session include a high-level meeting on Africa’s Development Needs, high-level meeting on meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and a Commemorative plenary meeting devoted to the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2008. Other important business includes the election of five judges onto the International Court of Justice.

Perhaps one of the more interesting potential items on the agenda is proposed in a letter dated 15 August 2008 from the Permanent Representative of Serbia to the United Nations. The letter requests the inclusion of a supplementary agenda item entitled “Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on whether the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo is in accordance with international law.” This is a highly controversial issue, politically and legally. According to the letter, “an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, rendered in a non-contestable, non-adversarial manner, would go a long way towards calming tensions created by Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, avoiding further negative developments in the region and beyond and facilitating efforts at reconciliation among all parties involved.” Not only would an advisory opinion help to solve the dispute concerning Kosovo, it may also provide valuable guidance on this difficult area of law which could assist in the resolution of other pending or future disputes, e.g. South Ossetia. Whether or not the General Assembly will make a request for an advisory opinion will therefore be awaited with much interest in many quarters.

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