International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: July 15, 2015

About the Commission

Organization, programme and methods of work

The Secretariat

In accordance with article 14 of the Statute of the Commission, the Secretary-General of the United Nations provides the staff and facilities required by the Commission to fulfil its task. The Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations provides the Secretariat for the Commission. The Commission has recognized the essential contribution of the Codification Division.1 Members of the Codification Division assist the officers of the Commission by, inter alia, providing the agenda, keeping records and preparing drafts of reports to the Commission. They assist in the preparation of the commentary to draft articles, although the Commission remains of the view that this is the primary responsibility of the Special Rapporteur. In working groups, where there may be no Special Rapporteur, this assistance is invaluable. The Commission has recommended that members of the Codification Division should be encouraged to make an even greater contribution to the Commission’s work.2

In addition to providing this substantive servicing to the Commission and its subsidiary bodies, the Codification Division undertakes considerable research to facilitate the work of the Commission.3 At the preliminary stage of the consideration of a topic, the Codification Division may, at the Commission’s request or on its own initiative, prepare substantive studies and carry out research projects to facilitate the commencement of work on the topic by the Commission and the Special Rapporteur concerned. Secretariat studies and research projects may also be requested by the Commission or the Special Rapporteur concerned at other stages in the consideration of a topic. At its thirty-second session, in 1980, the Commission noted that the studies and research projects prepared by the Codification Division are part and parcel of the consolidated method and techniques of work of the Commission and, as such, constitute an indispensable contribution to its work.4

The Codification Division has prepared a number of studies and surveys on general questions relating to progressive development and codification5 as well as on particular topics on the programme of the Commission or aspect thereof.6 Except for those prepared in 1948 and 1949, these studies and surveys are usually published in the Yearbook of the International Law Commission, or are issued as sales publications.

The Codification Division has also published, primarily for the assistance of the Commission, in the United Nations Legislative Series, collections of laws, decrees and treaty provisions on such subjects as: the regime of the high seas; the nationality of ships; the regime of the territorial sea; diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities; the legal status, privileges and immunities of international organizations; nationality; the conclusion of treaties; the utilization of international rivers for purposes other than navigation; succession of States; the law of the sea; jurisdictional immunities of States and their property; and review of the multilateral treaty-making process. Texts of arbitral awards are also published by the Codification Division in the Reports of International Arbitral Awards.7 The Codification Division also established, and maintains, a comprehensive website for the International Law Commission.8

The Commission has recognized the increased role of the Codification Division in providing assistance to the Commission and its Special Rapporteurs, especially in the area of research and studies. The Commission has recommended that the contribution of the Codification Division to the Commission’s work be maintained and reinforced.9 The General Assembly has endorsed the Commission’s recommendation for the strengthening and increased role of the Codification Division since 1977 in resolutions concerning the report of the Commission.

1 See, for example, the view expressed by the Chairman of the Commission in introducing the annual report in the Sixth Committee, in 2003, that “[t]he importance of the role of the Codification Division in the work of the Commission rested not only on the high quality of the members of the Division, their hard work and commitment to the Commission, but also on the fact that the members of the Division were involved in dealing both with the content and substance of work as well as with the procedural and technical aspects of servicing. That provided continuous and useful interaction and feedback between the Commission and its Secretariat. The fact that the Codification Division served also as the Secretariat of the Sixth Committee provided an invaluable and irreplaceable link between the two bodies. The Codification Division was thus in a position to be a source of information and unique expertise mutually beneficial for both bodies. That quality of servicing must be preserved”. See Document A/C.6/58/SR.14, para. 6.

2 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1996, vol. II (Part Two), para. 234.

3 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1996, vol. II (Part Two), para. 234.

4 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1980, vol. II (Part Two), para. 192. See Selected bibliography for a list of substantive studies undertaken by the Secretariat.

5 For example, the Codification Division assisted the Commission in the review of its long-term programme of work by preparing surveys on international law in 1949 and 1971, as discussed above.

6 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1979, vol. II (Part One), document A/CN.4/325, para. 9.

7 See Selected bibliography.

8 See www.un.org/law/ilc.

9 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1996, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 148 (o) and 233–234.