International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: July 15, 2015

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Responsibility of international organizations

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

At its fifty-second session, in 2000, the Commission, on the basis of the recommendation of a Working Group on the long-term programme of work, concluded that the topic “Responsibility of international organizations” was appropriate for inclusion in its long-term programme of work.1

The General Assembly, in resolution 55/152 of 12 December 2000, took note of the Commission’s report concerning its long-term programme of work. In resolution 56/82 of 12 December 2001, the Assembly requested the Commission to begin its work on the topic.

At its fifty-fourth session, in 2002, the Commission decided to include the topic in its programme of work, to appoint Giorgio Gaja as Special Rapporteur for the topic, and to establish a Working Group on the topic.2 The Working Group considered the following issues: (a) the scope of the topic, including the concepts of responsibility and international organizations; (b) relations between the topic of responsibility of international organizations and the articles on State responsibility; (c) questions of attribution; (d) questions of responsibility of member States for conduct that is attributed to an international organization; (e) other questions concerning the arising of responsibility for an international organization; (f) questions of content and implementation of international responsibility; (g) settlement of disputes; and (h) the practice to be taken into consideration. The Working Group recommended that the Secretariat approach international organizations with a view to collecting relevant materials, especially on questions of attribution and the responsibility of member States for conduct that is attributed to an international organization.3 The Commission adopted the report of the Working Group.4

The General Assembly, in resolution 57/21 of 19 November 2002, took note of the Commission’s decision to include the topic in its programme of work.

At its fifty-fifth session, in 2003, the Commission had before it the first report5 of the Special Rapporteur dealing with the scope of the work and general principles concerning the responsibility of international organizations. The Special Rapporteur proposed the following draft articles: 1 (scope of the draft articles), 2 (use of terms) and 3 (general principles). The Commission referred draft articles 1 and 3 to the Drafting Committee and established a Working Group to consider draft article 2. The Commission considered the report of the Working Group on draft article 2 and referred the text of that article, as formulated by the Working Group, to the Drafting Committee.6

At the same session, the Commission provisionally adopted the following three draft articles as well as the commentaries thereto: 1 (Scope of the present draft articles), 2 (Use of terms) and 3 (General principles). The Commission also decided to establish a Working Group to assist the Special Rapporteur with regard to his next report. The Commission further decided to request the Secretariat to circulate, on an annual basis, the chapter of the Commission’s report on this topic to the United Nations, its specialized agencies as well as other international organizations for comment.7

At the fifty-sixth session, in 2004, the Commission considered the second report8 of the Special Rapporteur dealing with attribution of conduct to international organizations for which he proposed four draft articles: article 4 “General rule on attribution of conduct to an international organization”, article 5 “Conduct of organs placed at the disposal of an international organization by a State or another international organization”, article 6 “Excess of authority or contravention of instructions”, and article 7 “Conduct acknowledged and adopted by an international organization as its own”. The Commission referred draft articles 4 to 7 to the Drafting Committee. The Commission subsequently considered and adopted the report of the Drafting Committeee on draft articles 4 (General rule on attribution of conduct to an international organization), 5 (Conduct of organs or agents placed at the disposal of an international organization by a State or another international organization), 6 (Excess of authority or contravention of instructions), and 7 (Conduct acknowledged and adopted by an international organization as its own), and adopted commentaries on those articles.9

At the fifty-seventh session, in 2005, the Commission had before it the comments of Governments and international organizations,10 as well as the third report of the Special Rapporteur11 which dealt with the existence of a breach of an international obligation on the part of an international organization and with the responsibility of an international organization in connection with the act of a State or another international organization. The Special Rapporteur proposed draft articles 8 to 16: article 8 “Existence of a breach of an international obligation”, article 9 “International obligation in force for an international organization”, article 10 “Extension in time of the breach of an international obligation”, article 11 “Breach consisting of a composite act”, article 12 “Aid or assistance in the commission of an internationally wrongful act”, article 13 “Direction and control exercise over the commission of an internationally wrongful act”, article 14 “Coercion of a State or another international organization”, article 15 “Effects of the preceding articles”, and article 16 “Decisions, recommendations and authorizations addressed to member States and international organizations”.

The Commission considered the third report of the Special Rapporteur, and subsequently established a Working Group to consider draft articles 8 and 16. The Commission referred draft articles 9 to 15, and 8 and 16 (on the basis of the oral report of the Wokring Group) to the Drafting Committee. The Commission, subsequently considered and adopted the report of the Drafting Committee on draft articles 8 (Existence of a breach of an international obligation), 9 (International obligation in force for an international organization), 10 (Extension in time of the breach of an international obligation), 11 (Breach consisting of a composite act), 12 (Aid or assistance in the commission of an internationally wrongful act), 13 (Direction and control exercised over the commission of an internationally wrongful act), 14 (Coercion of a State or another international organization) and 15 (Decisions, recommendations and authorizations addressed to member States and international organizations), and adopted commentaries on those articles.12

At its fifty-eighth session, in 2006, the Commission had before it the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur,13 as well as written comments received from international organizations and from governments.14 At the same session, the Commission adopted 14 draft articles together with commentaries dealing with circumstances precluding wrongfulness and with the responsibility of a State in connection with the act of an international organization.15

At the fifty-ninth session, in 2007, the Commission had before it the fifth report of the Special Rapporteur,16 as well as written comments received so far from international organizations.17 The Commission subsequently adopted draft articles 31 to 45 and commentaries thereto.18

At the sixtieth session, in 2008, the Commission had before it the sixth report of the Special Rapporteur19 comprising twelve articles (46 to 57) dealing with the implementation of the responsibility of international organizations as well as written comments received so far from international organizations.20 At the same session, the Commission considered and adopted the report draft articles 46 to 53 as well as the title of Chapter I of Part Three of the draft articles. The Commission also adopted the commentaries to the said draft articles.21

At the sixty-first session in 2009, the Commission had before it the seventh report of the Special Rapporteur22, as well as written comments received from international organizations.23 The Commission adopted draft articles 2, 4, 8, 15, 15 bis, 18, 19 and 55, adn subsequently draft articles 54, and 56 to 60, as well as draft articles 3, 3 bis, 28, paragraph 1, 61, 62, 63 and 64. It thus adopted a set of 66 draft articles on the responsibility of international organizations on first reading, together with commentaries.24 The Commission decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute to transmit the draft articles, through the Secretary-General, to Governments and international organizations for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 1 January 2011.

At the sixty-third session in 2011, the Commission adopted, on second reading, a set of 67 draft articles, together with commentaries thereto, on the responsibility of international organizations.25 In accordance with article 23 of its Statute, the Commission recommended to the General Assembly to take note of the draft articles in a resolution and to annex them to the resolution, and to consider, at a later stage, the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles. In so doing, the Commission had before it the eighth report of the Special Rapporteur26 surveying the comments made by Governments27 and international organizations28 on the draft articles on responsibility of international organization adopted on first reading at the sixty-first session in 2009 and making recommendations for consideration by the Commission during the second reading.

The Commission's work on this topic as described above has proceeded in accordance with the successive resolutions adopted by the General Assembly under the item relating to the report of the International Law Commission.29

1 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-fifth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/55/10), paras. 726–728 and 729 (1). For the syllabus on the topic, see ibid., annex (1).

2 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-seventh Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/57/10), paras. 10 (b), 18, 461–463, 517 and 519.

3 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-seventh Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/57/10), paras. 465–488.

4 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-seventh Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/57/10), para. 464.

5 Document A/CN.4/532. (see Analytical Guide)

6 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-eighth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/58/10), paras. 43–48.

7 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-eighth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/58/10), paras. 49–54.

8 Document A/CN.4/541. (see Analytical Guide)

9 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/59/10), paras. 64–72.

10 Documents A/CN.4/547 and A/CN.4/556. (see Analytical Guide)

11 Document A/CN.4/553. (see Analytical Guide)

12 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixtieth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/60/10), paras. 195–206.

13 Document A/CN.4/564 and Add.1 and 2. (see Analytical Guide)

14 Document A/CN.4/568 and Add.1. (see Analytical Guide)

15 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-first session, Supplement No.10 (A/61/10), para. 16.

16 Document A/CN.4/583. (see Analytical Guide)

17 Document A/CN.4/582. (see Analytical Guide)

18 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-second session, Supplement No.10 (A/62/10), paras. 341 and 342.

19 Document A/CN.4/597. (see Analytical Guide)

20 Document A/CN.4/593 and Add.1. (see Analytical Guide)

21 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-third session, Supplement No.10 (A/63/10), paras. 164 and 165.

22 Document A/CN.4/610. (see Analytical Guide)

23 Document A/CN.4/609. (see Analytical Guide)

24 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-fourth session, Supplement No.10 (A/64/10), paras. 50 and 51.

25 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-sixth session, Supplement No. 10 (A/66/10), paras. 87 and 88.

26 Document A/CN.4/640. (see Analytical Guide)

27 Document A/CN.4/636 and Add.1. (see Analytical Guide)

28 Document A/CN.4/637 and Add.1. (see Analytical Guide)

29 General Assembly resolutions 55/152 of 12 December 2000, 56/82 of 12 December 2001, 57/21 of 19 November 2002, 58/77 of 9 December 2003, 60/22 of 23 November 2005, 62/66 of 6 December 2007, 63/123 of 11 December 2008, and 64/114 of 16 December 2009.