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Last update: July 28, 2017

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

Unilateral acts of States

See also: Summary | Texts and Instruments

Mandate

Studies undertaken by the Secretariat and Reports of the Secretary-General

None

Reports of the Working Group or Sub-Committee

  • 49th session of the International Law Commission (1997)
    • Report of the Working Group
  • A/CN.4/L.543 (in ILC Report, A/52/10, 1997, chap.  IX(B), paras. 195–210)
  • ILC Report, A/52/10, 1997, chap. IX, paras. 191–216
  • 50th session of the International Law Commission (1998)
    • Report of the Working Group
  • 51st session of the International Law Commission (1999)
    • Report of the Working Group
  • 55th session of the International Law Commission (2003)
    • Report of the Chairman of the Working Group
  • 56th session of the International Law Commission (2004)
    • Conclusions of the Working Group
  • ILC Report, A/59/10, 2004, chap. VIII, paras. 245–247
  • 57th session of the International Law Commission (2005)
    • Conclusions of the Working Group
  • ILC Report, A/60/10, 2005, chap. IX, paras. 327–332
  • 58th session of the International Law Commission (2006)
    • Report of the Working Group — conclusions of the International Law Commission relating to Unilateral acts of States

Reports of the Special Rapporteur

  • Preliminary report reflecting doctrine, jurisprudence and State practice on the topic.
    • First Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño (50th session of the ILC (1998))
  • Proposed draft articles 1 (scope of the present draft articles), 2 (unilateral legal acts of States), 3 (capacity of States), 4 (representatives of a State for the purpose of formulating unilateral acts), 5 (subsequent confirmation of a unilateral act formulated without authorization), 6 (expression of consent), and 7 (invalidity of unilateral acts), together with a comment on reservations and conditions in relation to unilateral acts and on the non-existence of unilateral acts.
    • Second Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño (51st session of the ILC (1999))
  • The Special Rapporteur proposed a new draft article 1 on definition of unilateral acts, the deletion of the previous article 1 on the scope of the draft articles, a new draft article 2 on the capacity of states to formulate unilateral acts, a new article 3 on persons authorized to formulate unilateral acts on behalf of the state, and a new draft article 4 on subsequent confirmation of an act formulated by a person not authorized for that purpose. The Special Rapporteur also proposed the deletion of previous draft article 6 on expression of consent and a new draft article 5 on the invalidity of unilateral acts.
    • Third Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño (52nd session of the ILC (2000))
  • Consideration of the classification of unilateral acts. Proposed draft articles (a) and (b) on the rules relating to the interpretation of unilateral acts.
    • Fourth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño (53rd session of the ILC (2001))
  • The Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur provided a recapitulation of the progress made and the explanation why certain concepts and terms had been changed. The first part of the report referred to previous consideration of the topic; consideration of international practice; and the viability and difficulties of the topic. The second part considered four aspects of the topic that the Commission dealt with at previous sessions: definition of unilateral acts; conditions of validity and causes of invalidity; rules of interpretation; and classification of unilateral acts. The third part of the Fifth Report examined the rule regarding respect for unilateral acts; the application of the act in time; and its territorial application. The fourth part discussed the subject of determination of the moment at which the unilateral act produced its legal effects by examining revocation; modification and suspension of the application of the act; and its termination. The last part set out the structure of the articles already drafted and the future plan of work.
    • Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño, (54th session of the ILC (2002))
  • The Sixth Report focused on recognition as a particular type of unilateral act. The first part of the report examined the institution of recognition as a unilateral act. It attempted to define an act of recognition, and shortly discussed the criteria for the formulation of an act and their discretionality. Also an act of non-recognition was examined. The second part dealt with the conditions required for the validity of such an act covering formulation (intent); lawfulness of the object; and conformity with imperative norms of international law. The third part of the Sixth Report considered the legal effects of an act of recognition, particularly with regard to the opposability and enforceability of the act. The last part looked at the application of acts of recognition: the relationship between the author State and the addressee; the spatial and temporal application of acts of recognition; and matters relating to the modification, suspension and revocation of acts of recognition, including causes external to the act, in particular the disappearance of the object and a fundamental change in circumstances.
    • Sixth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño, (55th session of the ILC (2003))
  • Provided an exposition of acts and declarations that may represent the practice of States, including: acts whereby States assume obligations, acts by which a State waives a right or a legal claim, acts by which as State reaffirms a right or a legal claim, some forms of State conduct which may produce legal effects similar to those of unilateral acts, and silence and estoppel as principles modifying some State acts.
    • Seventh Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño, (56th session of the ILC (2004))
  • The eighth report offered a detailed presentation of 11 examples or types of unilateral acts of various kinds, followed by a set of conclusions drawn from the cases discussed.
    • Eighth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño, (57th session of the ILC (2005))
  • Proposal for eleven draft guiding principles on unilateral acts of States.
    • Ninth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño, (58th session of the ILC (2006))

Reports of the Drafting Committee

None

Comments by Governments

  • 52nd session of the International Law Commission (2000)
    • Replies from Governments to the questionnaire. Report of the Secretary General
  • 54th session of the International Law Commission (2002)
    • Replies from Governments to the questionnaire. Report of the Secretary-General

Other

None

Reports of the International Law Commission

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-eighth session, 6 May to 26 July 1996
    • The Commission identified this topic as a possible future topic for consideration and set out a general outline of the main legal problems raised by this topic (see Addendum 3 of Annex II). Governments were invited to express their views
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2466th and 2467th meetings (22 and 23 July 1996)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-ninth session, 12 May to 18 July 1997
    • The Commission considered it advisable and feasible to initiate work on the codification and progressive development of the applicable legal rules of this topic. A new and more detailed outline was prepared by the Working Group on the topic established at the present session. The Commission considered and endorsed the report of the Working Group (see A/CN.4/L.543; A/52/10, 1997, paras. 195–210). Certain issues pertaining to the scope and content of the subject were clarified. The main objective of the study should, in the view of the Commission, be to identify the constituent elements and effects of unilateral legal acts of States and to set forth rules which are generally applicable to them, as well as any special rules that might be relevant to particular types or categories of such acts. A plan of work for the quinquennium was also prepared. The Commission appointed Mr. V. Rodriguez Cedeño Special Rapporteur for the topic and, according to the plan, an initial report is to be submitted to the Commission for discussion in 1998.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2477th meeting (15 May 1997) and 2512th meeting (14 July 1997)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fiftieth session, 20 April to 12 June 1998 and 27 July to 14 August 1998
    • The Commission had before it the Special Rapporteur's first report on the topic. As a result of its discussion, the Commission decided to reconvene the Working Group on Unilateral Acts of States. It subsequently considered and endorsed the report of the Working Group.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2524th, 2525th, 2526th and 2527th meetings (5 to 8 May 1998), and 2543rd meeting (8 June 1998)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-first session, 3 May to 23 July 1999
    • The Commission had before it the Special Rapporteur's second report on the topic. Following its discussion, the Commission decided to reconvene the Working Group on Unilateral Acts of States. It subsequently considered and adopted the report of the Working Group as amended.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2593rd, 2594th, 2595th and 2596th meetings (24 June to 2 July 1999), and 2603rd meeting (15 July 1999)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-second session, 1 May–9 June and 10 July–18 August 2000
    • The Commission examined the third report of the Special Rapporteur. The Commission decided to refer new draft articles 1 to 4 to the Drafting Committee and new draft article 5 to the Working Group on Unilateral Acts of States.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2624th, 2628th, 2629th, 2630th and 2633rd meetings. (Between 19 May and 7 June 2000)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-third session, 23 April–1 June and 2 July–10 August 2001
    • The Commission examined the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur. The Commission considered the oral report of the Chairman of the Working Group on the topic, Mr. Victor Rodríguez-Cedeño, and supported the proposal to submit a request to States for additional information on State practice relating to unilateral acts.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2693rd, 2695th, 2696th, 2701 meetings. (20, 25 and 26 July, 3 August 2001)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-fourth session, 29 April –7 June and 22 July–16 August 2002
    • The Commission had before it the Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur and the text of replies received from States to the questionnaire on the topic circulated on 31 August 2001. It considered the report and established an open ended informal consultation, to be chaired by the Special Rapporteur.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2720th meeting (15 May 2002), 2722nd and 2723rd meetings (21 to 22 May 2002), 2725th meeting (24 May 2002), 2726th meeting (28 May 2002), and 2727th meeting (30 May 2002)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-fifth session, 5 May–6 June and 7 July–8 August 2003
    • The Commission considered the Sixth Report of the Special Rapporteur. Subsequently, it established an open-ended Working Group on Unilateral acts of States chaired by Mr. Alain Pellet.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2770th, 2771st, 2772nd, 2773rd and 2774th meetings (7 to 11 July 2003)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-sixth session, 3 May–4 June and 5 July–6 August 2004
    • The Commission considered the Seventh Report of the Special Rapporteur. Subsequently, it re-established the open-ended Working Group on Unilateral acts of States chaired by Mr. Alain Pellet.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2811th, 2812th, 2813th, 2815th, 2816th, 2817th, 2818th (5 to 7 and 9, 13, 14 and 16 July 2004) and 2829th (5 August 2004) meetings
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-seventh session, 2 May– 3 June and 11 July–5 August 2005
    • The Commission considered the Eighth Report of the Special Rapporteur. It re-established the open-ended Working Group on Unilateral acts of States chaired by Mr. Alain Pellet.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2836th (11 May 2005), 2852nd, 2853rd, 2854th, 2855th and 2859th (15, 18, 20, 21 and 28 July 2005) meetings
  • ILC Report, A/60/10, 2005, chap. IX, paras. 275–332
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/560)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-eighth session, 1 May–9 June and 3 July–11 August 2006
    • The Commission considered the Ninth Report of the Special Rapporteur. It re-established the open-ended Working Group on Unilateral acts of States chaired by Mr. Alain Pellet. The Working Group was requested to prepare conclusions of the Commission on the topic “Unilateral Acts of States” taking into consideration the various views expressed, the draft Guiding Principles of the Special Rapporteur and its previous work on the topic. The Commission subsequently considered the report of the Working Group and adopted a set of 10 “Guiding Principles” together with commentaries applicable to unilateral declarations of States capable of creating legal obligations and commended the “Guiding Principles” to the attention of the General Assembly.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2886th, 2887th and 2888th meetings, held on 3, 4 and 5 July 2006, and 2906th meeting on 4 August 2006
  • ILC Report, A/61/10, 2006, chap. IX, paras. 160–177
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/577, Add.1 and Add.2)

General Assembly Action

  • Resolution 51/160 of 16 December 1996
    • Invited the Commission further to examine the topic and to indicate its scope and content in the light of the comments and observations made during the debate in the Sixth Committee on the report of the Commission and any written comments that Governments may wish to submit.
  • Resolution 52/156 of 15 December 1997
    • Endorsed the decision of the Commission to include the topic in its agenda.
  • See topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/483)
  • Resolution 54/111 of 9 December 1999
    • Invited Governments to respond in writing by 1 March 2000 to the questionnaire on unilateral acts of States circulated by the Secretariat to all Governments on 30 September 1999.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/504 and Add.1)
  • Resolution 55/152 of 12 December 2000
    • Reiterated its invitation to Governments to respond, to the extend possible, to the questionnaire and request for materials on the topic by the Secretariat.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/513)
  • Resolution 56/82 of 12 December 2001
    • Reiterated its invitation to Governments to respond, to the extend possible, to the questionnaire and request for materials on the topic by the Secretariat.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/521 and Corr.1)
  • Resolution 57/21 of 19 November 2002
    • Reiterated its invitation to Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission regarding State practice on the topic.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/529)
  • Resolution 58/77 of 9 December 2003
    • Reiterated its invitation to Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission regarding State practice on the topic.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/537)
  • Resolution 59/41 of 2 December 2004
    • Reiterated its invitation to Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission regarding State practice on the topic.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/549 and Add.1)
  • Resolution 60/22 of 23 November 2005
    • Invited Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission on the topic.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/560)
  • Resolution 61/34 of 4 December 2006
    • Expressed its appreciation to the International Law Commission for the completion of the work on "Unilateral acts of States" by the adoption of the Guiding Principles applicable to unilateral declarations of States capable of creating legal obligations.
    • Took note of the Guiding Principles applicable to unilateral declarations of States capable of creating legal obligations and commended their dissemination.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/577, Add.1 and Add.2)

Final Outcome

International Law Commission (58th session, 2006)

  • The Commission adopted a set of 10 “Guiding Principles” together with commentaries applicable to unilateral declarations of States capable of creating legal obligations and commended the “Guiding Principles” to the attention of the General Assembly.
 

General Assembly

  • Resolution 61/34 of 4 December 2006
    • Expressed its appreciation to the International Law Commission for the completion of the work on “Unilateral acts of States” by the adoption of the Guiding Principles applicable to unilateral declarations of States capable of creating legal obligations.
    • Took note of the Guiding Principles applicable to unilateral declarations of States capable of creating legal obligations under the topic “Unilateral acts of States”, contained in paragraph 176 of the report of the International Law Commission and commended their dissemination.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/577, Add.1 and Add.2)