The Sixth Committee's main function is the examination of legal issues in the Programme of the General Assembly.
One of the main items is annual report of the International Law Commission (ILC). This is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, created in 1947, which assists the GA in the discharge of art. 13 of the United Nations Charter, according to which the General Assembly shall encourage the progressive development of international law and its codification.
The Sixth Committee also receives and considers reports of other subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly in legal matters, namely:
• “United Nations Commission on International Trade Law” (UNCITRAL), established in 1966, with a mandate to promote the harmonization and unification of international trade law
• “Committee on Relations with the Host Country”, established in 1971 to examine issues arising in connection with the implementation of the Agreement between the United Nations and the United States regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations
• “Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Organization”, created in 1974 to consider proposals for the Charter and suggestions aimed at improving the functioning of the United Nations that do not require amendments to its text.
The Sixth Committee of the General Assembly also works on other legal issues that are referred by the Bureau of the Assembly on an annual or biannual basis. These include the annual resolution on "Measures to eliminate international terrorism", under which the General Assembly adopted a number of important international conventions in the fight against terrorism.
Other items on the agenda of the Commission include the criminal responsibility of officials and experts from the United Nations mission; the rule of law at the national and international levels; the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction; the administration of justice at the United Nations; the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 relating to the protection of victims of armed conflict; and measures to improve the protection and security of missions and diplomatic and consular representatives.
The Sixth Committee also considers the Program of Assistance of the United Nations for Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law, as well as requests for observer status in the General Assembly.
Also within the framework of the Sixth Committee takes place the "International Law Week", during which the annual meeting of Legal Advisers of various countries takes is convened. In that week the report of the CDI is presented and an interactive dialogue is maintained with Special Rapporteurs of the Commission. The reports of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are also presented during this week to the Plenary of the General Assembly.
Indeed, the Sixth Committee does not exhaust the consideration of legal affairs at the United Nations, since certain legal areas of great relevance are directly dealt with by the plenary of the General Assembly. This is the case of the item "Oceans and the law of the sea" and the reports of international tribunals such as the ICJ and ICC (it is worth recalling that the 1998 Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court was the result of the work of the Sixth Committee). Also, many of the isssues discussed by the Security Council throughout the year have legal dimensions, such as the measures taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, sanctions regimes, protection of civilians in armed conflict, "ad hoc "criminal tribunals or international terrorism.
For more information on the issues discussed by the Sixth Committee and on international law and the United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/ga/sixth/