Codification Division Publications: Diplomatic Conferences Codification Division Publications: Diplomatic Conferences

United Nations Conference on Succession of States in Respect of State Property, Archives and Debts

(Vienna, 1 March — 8 April 1983)

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In 1967, at the nineteenth session of the Commission, Mohammed Bedjaoui (Algeria) was appointed Special Rapporteur for the sub-topic of succession in respect of rights and duties resulting from other sources than treaties. The question was considered by the Commission at its sessions in 1968, 1969, 1973 and from 1975 to 1981, with consideration given to material provided by Governments and the Secretariat, as well as reports from the Special Rapporteur. At its twenty-fifth session in 1973 the Commission decided to limit its study to one category of public property, namely property of the State. A first reading was held of the draft articles on the succession of States in respect of State property and State debt at its thirty-first session, and on succession in respect of State archives at the following session in 1980. These drafts were provisionally adopted by the Commission, and transmitted to Governments of Member States for their observations.

Following a recommendation by the General Assembly in Resolution 35/163 of 15 December 1980, the Commission undertook an examination of the articles in light of the comments made by Member States, and adopted the final text of the draft articles at its thirty-third session in 1981, which was transmitted to the General Assembly with the recommendation that it convene an international conference of plenipotentiaries to conclude a convention on the subject. On 10 December 1981 the General Assembly decided in Resolution 36/113 to convene an international conference for the purpose of adopting a convention or other appropriate instrument on the basis of the draft articles. Ninety States participated at the Conference, held in Vienna from 1 March to 8 April 1983. The Conference had before it written observations provided by Governments on the final draft, as well as an analytical compilation prepared by the Secretariat, including comments made orally at the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh sessions of the General Assembly. On 7 April 1983 the Conference adopted the Vienna Convention on Succession in respect of State Property, Archives and Debts (status).

Several resolutions were also passed and included in the Final Act of the Conference. One of these provided that the provisions of the Conventions in no way impaired the exercise of the right to self-determination and independence for peoples struggling against colonialism, alien domination and occupation, racial discrimination or apartheid, and recognised the sovereignty of those people over their resources and natural wealth.

The Convention was opened for ratification at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria from 7 April until 31 December 1983, and subsequently at the United Nations Headquarters until June 1984. The Convention remains open for accession by any State.

The Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of State Property, Archives and Debts regulates the effects of a succession of State in respect of property, archives and debts. It was adopted considering the profound transformation of the international community brought about by the decolonization process, and the special importance of property, archives and debts to all States. The Convention is applicable in the case of replacement of one State by another in the responsibility for the international relations over territory. It is however only applicable in the case of succession which has taken place in conformity with international law, and particularly the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.  The Convention considers the effect of succession on State property, archives and debts in the cases of transfer of part of the territory of a State, of newly independent States, of the unification of States, the separation of part or parts of the territory of a State and of the dissolution of a State. It also provides for a procedure for the settlement of disputes.