The Commission was inaugurated in Geneva at the Palais des Nations, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General, in July 1983. Statements were made by Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, Mr Perez de Cuellar, and Mr Probst representing the host Government. A special message was received from His Holiness the Pope John-Paul II. The Commission was received by the President of Switzerland and net senior Swiss and UN officials as well as permanent representatives accredited to the United Nations. After the inauguration, the Commission inct briefly at the Institut Henri Dunant to discuss its programme of work. It decided to hold its first plenary meeting in New York. It also heard statements by Sir Robert Jackson on disaster management and by Ms Julia Taft on humanitarian norms in armed conflicts.
The first plenary meeting of the Commission was held in New York in November 1983. It discussed the preliminary papers submitted to it on the three areas it decided to study: humanitarian norms in armed conflicts, man-made disasters and vulnerable groups. The following appeared before the Commission and made substantive statements: Mr Alexandre Haye, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on humanitarian norms in armed conflicts; Mr M’hamed Essaafi, UN Under Secretary-General and head of the UN Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO); Mr Jean-Pierre Hocke, then Director of Operations of ICRC and now UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Mr Anders Wijkman, Secretary-General of the Swedish Red Cross, on various aspects of disaster management: Mr Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen, Mrs Marta Casal de Gatti, Mr. Julio Cortazar, as well as representatives of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, on the subject of “disappearances’. The Commission established various working groups to examine the specific issues selected by it for in-depth study. Commissioners also met the UN Secretary-General, senior UN officials and various ambassadors,
The second plenary meeting was held in Hammamet, Tunisia, in May 1984. The meeting paid special attention to the dramatic situation prevailing in Africa at that time and issued a substantive public statement containing a series of recommendations relating to short and long-term measures that could be taken to address the problem of famine. The Commission also heard statements by Mr Joseph Wheeler, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and Mr Mansour Khalid, Vice-Chairman of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). The Commission met the President of the Republic of Tunisia and senior officials of the Government,
The third plenary meeting was held at the Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands, in December 1984. The Commission reviewed the work done by its working groups on famine, desertification, deforestation, and early-warning systems. It also held a special session devoted to the problems of the young, attended by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands and Prince Klaus, The Commission decided to address a detailed memorandum to all Governments which had not adhered to the 1977 Geneva Protocols relating to humanitarian norms in armed conflicts. The Commission also heard statements by Mr Michael Mann, Dean of Windsor, Professor Draper, University of Sussex, and Professor Gordenker, University of Princeton. The Commission was received by H. M. Queen Beatrix and met with senior Dutch officials, judges of the International Court of Justice and representatives of Dutch non-governmental organizations,
The fourth plenary meeting was held at the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan, in June 1985. It was devoted essentially to the consideration of various vulnerable groups, Special attention was paid to the problems of refugees and displaced persons as well as indigenous peoples, The Commission also considered the conceptual framework of its final report and took note of the publication of the first book (on famine) in its series of sectoral reports. Substantive statements were made by Ambassador Korino who headed the Japanese team of experts working on the refugee problem for the Commission, as well as Professor Onishi of Soka University. The Commission also held a one-day public meeting in collaboration with the National Institute for Research Advancement of Japan (NIRA) and the United Nations University. The statements made by the Commission members and eminent Japanese experts as well as a summary of the public debate that followed were later published by NIRA in English and Japanese in a booklet entitled Ethics of Hurtar Survival, Private meetings were held with the Prime Minister and eminent persons in Japan.
The fifth plenary meeting was held in Vienna, Austria, in December 1985. It noted the publication of the sectoral reports on desertification and deforestation which followed the book on famine. The Commission also examined the working group reports on street children, disappearances and refugees. Substantive statements were made by Mr Kurt Herndl, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UN Centre for Human Rights, Mr Ivan Tosevski, Chairman of the UN Working Group on Disappearances, and Mr. G. Mauntner-Markhof of the UN Secretariat. In addition, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Abdus Salam, appeared before the Commission in connection with the problem of communal riots. The Commission also held a public meeting at the Hofburg Palace in collaboration with the Austrian Institute of International Affairs. Commissioners met the President of the Republic and senior officials of the Government.
The sixth plenary meeting was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in May 1986, in the wake of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. The Commission discussed the future of commercial nuclear power as well as the problem of weapons of mass destruction. A communique containing the Commission’s recommendations regarding these questions was issued. The Commission also examined its draft final report. It heard statements by Mr Jozef Goldblat of the Swedish Institute for Peace Research (SIPRI) and Mr Jacques Moreillon. Director-General of ICRC, on issues relating to armed conflicts. A public meeting devoted tio different aspects of the increasing LI se of violence was held in collaboration with the Swedish Institute for International Relations. The Commission also met the Prime Minister and other senior officials of the Swedish Government.
The seventh and last plenary meeting of the Commission was held in Amman, Jordan, in December 1986. This necting was devoted entirely to the draft final report of the Commission. The Commission took note of the publication of sectoral reports on disappearances, street children, refugees and modern wars, and examined the draft framework of the report on indigenous peoples. It also finalized arrangements regarding the completion of its series of sectoral reports and the follow-up mechanism, as well as action to be taken within the UN system. The Commission met His Majesty King Hussein as well as the Prime Minister and other senior officials of the Government,
All the meetings of the various working groups taking place between plenary sessions were held at the ICIHI Secretariat with the exception of one indigenous peoples which was held in Strasbourg. In many cases, the occasion of the plenary meetings was also used to hold meetings of working groups before or after them. Details regarding attendance are contained in the sectoral reports enumerated in Annex II of this book. The Commission records its appreciation to all the experts and eminent persons who appeared before it and made valuable contributions to its deliberation.