International Law Commission International Law Commission

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Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Representation of States in their relations with international organizations1

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

In the course of the consideration by the Sixth Committee, during the General Assembly’s thirteenth session, in 1958, of the Commission’s final report on diplomatic intercourse and immunities, the representative of France proposed that the General Assembly should request the Commission to include in its agenda the study of the subject of relations between States and international organizations. In support of this proposal, he pointed out that the development of international organizations had increased the number and scope of the legal problems arising out of relations between the organizations and States and that these problems had only partially been solved by special conventions governing privileges and immunities of international organizations. It was therefore necessary, he stressed, not only to codify those special conventions but also to work out general principles which would serve as a basis for the progressive development of international law in the field.

On the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, the General Assembly adopted resolution 1289 (XIII) of 5 December 1958, inviting the Commission “to give further consideration to the question of relations between States and intergovernmental international organizations at the appropriate time, after study of diplomatic intercourse and immunities, consular intercourse and immunities and ad hoc diplomacy has been completed by the United Nations and in the light of the results of that study and of the discussion in the General Assembly”.

At its eleventh session, in 1959, the Commission took note of the resolution and decided to consider the question in due course. At its fourteenth session, in 1962, the Commission decided to place the question on the agenda of its next session, and appointed Abdullah El-Erian as Special Rapporteur for the topic.

At its fifteenth and sixteenth sessions, in 1963 and 1964, respectively, the Commission considered the scope of and approach to the topic of relations between States and intergovernmental organizations on the basis of the report and working papers submitted by the Special Rapporteur.2 A majority of the Commission concluded that, while agreeing that in principle the topic of relations between States and intergovernmental organizations had a broad scope, for the purpose of its immediate study “the question of diplomatic law in its application to relations between States and intergovernmental organizations should receive priority”. Subsequently, the Commission concentrated its work with respect to the topic on the study of the status, privileges and immunities of representatives of States to international organizations.

The Commission considered the topic from its twentieth session, in 1968, to its twenty-third session, in 1971. In connection with its consideration of the topic, the Commission had before it the reports of the Special Rapporteur,3 information provided by Governments and international organizations4 as well as documents prepared by the Secretariat.5

From its twentieth session, in 1968, to its twenty-second session, in 1970, the Commission proceeded with the first reading of the draft articles and transmitted the provisionally adopted draft articles with commentaries to Governments of Member States and Switzerland as well as the secretariats of the United Nations, the specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency for their observations.

By resolutions 2501 (XXIV) of 12 November 1969 and 2634 (XXV) of 12 November 1970, the General Assembly recommended that the Commission should continue its work on relations between States and international organizations, with the object of presenting in 1971 a final draft on the topic. It was also recommended that the Commission take into account the views expressed at the General Assembly session and the written comments submitted by Governments.

At its twenty-third session, in 1971, the Commission held the second reading of the draft articles. It established a working group that studied the whole draft from the stand-point of its general economy and structure and made recommendations thereon to the Commission.6

At the same session, the Commission adopted the final set of eighty-two draft articles, with commentaries,7 and submitted it to the General Assembly with a recommendation that it should convene an international conference of plenipotentiaries to study the draft articles and to conclude a convention on the subject.8 In the light of the contents of the final draft, the title was changed to “Draft articles on the representation of States in their relations with international organizations”.9

The scope of the draft was limited to international organizations having a universal character, to organs of such organizations in which States were parties and to conferences convened under the auspices of those organizations. Because the set of provisions on observer delegations to organs and conferences had not been included in the provisional sets of draft articles transmitted to Governments and international organizations, the Commission deemed it appropriate to present its provisions on observer delegations in the form of an annex to the final draft articles.10

The General Assembly, in resolution 2780 (XXVI) of 3 December 1971, expressed its desire that an international convention be elaborated and concluded expeditiously on the basis of the Commission’s draft articles. By the same resolution, Member States and Switzerland were requested to submit written comments and observations on the draft articles and on the procedure to be adopted for the elaboration and conclusion of a convention on the subject. The Secretary-General and the Directors-General of the specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency were also invited to submit their written comments and observations on the draft articles.

The following year the General Assembly, by resolution 2966 (XXVII) of 14 December 1972, decided to convene the international conference as soon as practicable. In 1973 the Assembly, by resolution 3072 (XXVIII) of 30 November, decided that the conference would be held early in 1975 in Vienna.

The United Nations Conference on the Representation of States in Their Relations with International Organizations11 was thus held at Vienna from 4 February to 14 March 1975. It was attended by representatives of eighty-one States as well as observers from two States, seven specialized and related agencies, three other intergovernmental organizations and seven national liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity and/or by the League of Arab States. The Conference established a Committee of the Whole and assigned to it the consideration of the draft articles adopted by the International Law Commission. It also set up a Drafting Committee, to which it entrusted, in addition to the responsibilities for drafting and for coordinating and reviewing all the texts adopted, the preparation of the title, preamble and final clauses of the Convention, as well as the preparation of the Final Act of the Conference.

On 13 March 1975, the Conference adopted the Vienna Convention on the Representation of States in Their Relations with International Organizations of a Universal Character,12 consisting of ninety-two articles. The Convention was opened for signature on 14 March 1975. It remained open for signature until 30 September 1975 at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria and, subsequently, until 30 March 1976 at United Nations Headquarters. Signatures are subject to ratification. The Convention remains open for accession by any State. It will enter into force on the thirtieth day following the date of deposit of the thirty-fifth instrument of ratification or accession.

In addition to the Vienna Convention, the Conference adopted two resolutions relating, respectively, to the status of national liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity and/or by the League of Arab States and to the application of the Convention in future activities of international organizations. These resolutions are annexed to the Final Act of the Conference.13 In light of the provisions of those resolutions, an item was placed on the agenda of the thirtieth session of the General Assembly, in 1975, entitled “Resolutions adopted by the United Nations Conference on the Representation of States in Their Relations with International Organizations: (a) resolution relating to the observer status of national liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity and/or by the League of Arab States; (b) resolution relating to the application of the Convention in future activities of international organizations”. From its thirtieth to thirty-fourth sessions, the General Assembly deferred consideration of the item to its next session. It considered it at its thirty-fourth, thirty-fifth, thirty-seventh, thirty-ninth,14 forty-first, forty-third, forty-fifth, forty-seventh and forty-ninth sessions and adopted resolutions 35/167 of 15 December 1980, 37/104 of 16 December 1982, 39/76 of 13 December 1984, 41/71 of 3 December 1986, 43/160 of 9 December 1988, 45/37 of 28 November 1990 and 47/29 of 25 November 1992, and decisions 34/433 and 49/423. The General Assembly by its decision 49/423 deferred the consideration of the subject matter to its future session.

After completing its work on the first part of the topic, the Commission, at its twenty-eighth session, in 1976, commenced its consideration of the second part of the topic dealing with the status, privileges and immunities of international organizations, their officials, experts and other persons engaged in their activities not being representatives of States.15

1 At its twentieth session, in 1968, the Commission decided to amend the title of the topic, without altering its meaning, by changing the word “intergovernmental” to “international”.

2 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1963, vol. II, documents A/CN.4/161 and Add.1, and A/CN.4/L.103; as well as document A/CN.4/L.104. (see Analytical Guide for individual documents)

3 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1967, vol. II, document A/CN.4/195 and Add.1; ibid., 1968, vol. II, document A/CN.4/203 and Add.1–5; ibid., 1969, vol. II, document A/CN.4/218 and Add.1; ibid., 1970, vol. II, document A/CN.4/227 and Add.1 and 2; ibid., 1971, vol. II (Part One), document A/CN.4/241 and Add.1–6; and documents A/CN.4/L.136, A/CN.4/L.151, A/CN.4/L.166, A/CN.4/L.171 and A/CN.4/L.173. (see Analytical Guide for individual documents)

4 Documents A/CN.4/221 and Add.1 and Corr.1, A/CN.4/238 and Add.1 and 2, A/CN.4/239 and Add.1–3 and A/CN.4/240 and Add.1–7, incorporated in Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1971, vol. II (Part One), document A/8410/Rev.1, annex

5 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1967, vol. II, document A/CN.4/L.118 and Add.1 and 2; ibid., 1968, vol. II, document A/CN.4/L.129; as well as documents A/CN.4/L.162/Rev.1 and Rev.1/Corr.1, A/CN.4/L.163, A/CN.4/L.164, A/CN.4/L.165 and A/CN.4/L.167. (see Analytical Guide for individual documents)

6 For the report of the Working Group, see documents A/CN.4/L.174 and Add.1–6 and A/CN.4/L.177 and Add.1–3. (see Analytical Guide for individual documents)

7 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1971, vol. II (Part One), document A/8410/Rev.1, paras. 39 and 60. (see Analytical Guide)

8 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1971, vol. II (Part One), document A/8410/Rev.1, para. 57. (see Analytical Guide)

9 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1971, vol. II (Part One), document A/8410/Rev.1, paras. 51 and 52. (see Analytical Guide)

10 See Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1971, vol. II (Part One), document A/8410/Rev.1, paras. 40–56. (see Analytical Guide)

11 See Official Records of the United Nations Conference on the Representation of States in Their Relations with International Organizations, Vienna, 4 February–14 March 1975, vol. I (United Nations publication, Sales No. 75.V.11); and ibid., vol. II (United Nations publication, Sales No. 75.V.12).

12 See Official Records of the United Nations Conference on the Representation of States in Their Relations with International Organizations, Vienna, 4 February–14 March 1975, vol. II (United Nations publication, Sales No. 75.V.12), document A/CONF.67/16.

13 See Official Records of the United Nations Conference on the Representation of States in Their Relations with International Organizations, Vienna, 4 February–14 March 1975, vol. II (United Nations publication, Sales No. 75.V.12), document A/CONF.67/15.

14 Since the thirty-ninth session of the General Assembly, the subject matter of the item has been confined to the observer status of national liberation movements recognized by the Organization of African Unity and/or by the League of Arab States.

15 In order to assist the Commission in its work on the topic, the Secretariat published two volumes in the United Nations Legislative Series entitled “Legislative Texts and Treaty Provisions concerning the Legal Status, Privileges and Immunities of International Organizations” (ST/LEG/SER.B/10, United Nations publication, Sales No. 60.V.2; and ST/LEG/SER.B/11, United Nations publication, Sales No. 61.V.3).