International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: July 13, 2020

About the Commission

Other activities

Relationship with other bodies

Several articles of the statute envisage the relationship which may be established between the Commission and various other bodies. The Commission may consider proposals or draft conventions submitted by principal organs of the United Nations other than the General Assembly, specialized agencies, or official bodies established by intergovernmental agreement to encourage the progressive development of international law and its codification (article 17, paragraph 1).1 In addition, the Commission may consult with: (a) any organ of the United Nations on any subject which is within the competence of that organ (article 25, paragraph 1); (b) any international or national organizations, official or non-official (article 26, paragraph 1);2 as well as (c) scientific institutions and individual experts (article 16 (e)).3 Furthermore, Commission documents on subjects within the competence of organs of the United Nations are circulated to those organs which may furnish information or make suggestions (article 25, paragraph 2). The statute also provides for the distribution of the Commission’s documents to national and international organizations concerned with international law (article 26, paragraph 2).

The Commission has received proposals from official bodies other than the General Assembly on only two occasions during the early years of its work. At its second and third sessions, in 1950 and 1951, the Commission was notified of resolutions adopted by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (resolutions 304 D (XI) of 17 July 1950 and 319 B III (XI) of 11 August 1950), in which the Council requested the Commission to deal with two subjects: the nationality of married women and the elimination of statelessness. The Commission dealt with these subjects in connection with the comprehensive topic of “Nationality, including statelessness”, which had already been selected for codification by the Commission in 1949.

The Commission has recommended that the General Assembly —and through it other bodies within the United Nations system — be encouraged to submit to the Commission possible topics involving codification and progressive development of international law. The Commission has further recommended that it should seek to develop links with other United Nations specialized bodies with law-making responsibilities in their field and, in particular, explore the possibility of exchange of information or even joint work on selected topics.4

On occasion, the Commission, or its Special Rapporteur, has had informal contacts with or received information from various entities, in relation to particular topics, including: the Food and Agriculture Organization on the law of the sea5 and shared natural resources;6 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on nationality including statelessness7 and nationality in relation to the succession of States;8 the International Committee of the Red Cross, in particular, on the draft code of crimes against the peace and security of mankind;9 the International Association of Hydrogeologists the Economic Commission for Europe, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization on shared natural resources;10 a group of experts on the law of the sea and on the protection of the atmosphere;11 the members of various United Nations Human Rights bodies on reservations to treaties;12 and the International Law Association on diplomatic protection, responsibility of international organizations and water resources.13

In some instances, the Commission has invited organizations concerned to submit relevant data and materials that could assist the Commission in determining its future work on a topic as well as comments and observations on the work in progress,14 including: relations between States and international organizations, the question of treaties concluded between two or more international organizations, reservations to treaties,15responsibility of international organizations,16 and protection of persons in the event of disasters.17

The Commission is also involved in an ongoing process of consultations, exchange of views and mutual information with scientific institutions and professors of international law, which keeps the Commission abreast of new developments and trends in scholarly research on international law. For example, members of the Commission participated in the United Nations Colloquium on the Progressive Development and Codification of International Law18 as well as the seminar on the work of the International Law Commission during its first fifty years, both of which were held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Commission.19

Throughout the years, the Commission has maintained a close relationship with the International Court of Justice.20 The Commission usually invites the President of the Court to give a presentation on the recent activities of the Court. The members of the Commission are given the opportunity to have an exchange of views with the President.

The Commission has also established and maintained cooperative relationships with the African Union Commission on International Law, the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee, the European Committee on Legal Cooperation and the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law, the Inter-American Juridical Committee. The Commission is informed by representatives of these Committees of their recent activities and the members of the Commission have the opportunity to exchange views with them. For its part, the Commission is often represented by one of its members at the sessions and meetings of those bodies. The Commission has recommended that relations with other bodies, such as the regional legal bodies, should be further encouraged and developed.21

For a number of years, the Commission has also held consultations with the International Committee of the Red Cross on topics under consideration by the Commission as well as issues of international humanitarian law.22

The General Assembly has requested the Commission to continue the implementation of the relevant provisions of its statute to further strengthen cooperation between the Commission and other bodies concerned with international law.23

1 The article further provides for the procedure that the Commission should follow if it deems it appropriate to proceed with the study of such proposals or drafts, including circulating a questionnaire to the bodies concerned and, if desirable, making an interim report to the organ which has submitted the proposal or draft.

2 The advisability of consultation by the Commission with intergovernmental organizations whose task is the codification of international law is specifically recognized in article 26, paragraph 4, of the statute of the Commission.

3 See Yearbook … 1999, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 620–627.

4 See Yearbook … 1996, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 148 (b) and (r), 165, 177–178 and 240.

5 See ibid., para. 238 (d).

6 See Yearbook … 2003, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 373 and 453.

7 See Yearbook … 1952, vol. I, SR. 155, para. 16.

8 See Yearbook … 1999, vol. II (Part Two), para. 621.

9 See ibid., para. 622.

10 See Yearbook … 2003, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 373 and 453; and Yearbook … 2004, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 80.

11 See Yearbook … 1954, vol. II, document A/2693, para. 63; Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventieth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/70/10), para. 49; and Official Records of the General Assembly, Seventy-first Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/71/10), para. 91.

12 See Yearbook … 2003, vol. II (Part Two), para. 453; Yearbook … 2004, vol. II (Part Two), para. 375; and Yearbook … 2005, vol. II (Part Two), para. 509; and Yearbook … 2006, vol. II (Part Two), para. 268.

13 Yearbook … 2003, vol. II (Part Two), para. 454; and Yearbook … 2004, vol. II (Part Two), para. 376.

14 The Commission has noted the fundamental and basic role that materials, comments and observations submitted by international organizations play in the codification methods of the Commission. See Yearbook … 1980, vol. II (Part Two), para. 191.

15 See Yearbook … 1971, vol. II (Part One), document A/8410/Rev.1, para. 15; Yearbook … 1978, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 148 and 150–153; and Yearbook … 1995, vol. II (Part Two), para. 489.

16 See Yearbook … 2003, vol. II (Part Two), para. 52; Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/59/10), para. 66 (calling for further contributions from international organizations); Yearbook … 2005, vol. II (Part Two), para. 196; Yearbook … 2007, vol. II (Part Two), footnote 440; Yearbook … 2008, vol. II (Part Two), footnote 559; Yearbook … 2009, vol. II (Part Two), footnote 9; and Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-sixth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/66/10 and Add.1), footnote 34 and para. 80.

17 Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/69/10), para. 53.

18 The proceedings of the Colloquium were published in “Making Better International Law: the International Law Commission at 50”, 1998, United Nations Sales Publication, No. 98.V.5.

19 The proceedings of the seminar were published in “The International Law Commission Fifty Years After: An Evaluation”. See also Yearbook … 1999, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 623–625.

20 This close relationship is, in part, due to the fact that a significant number of Judges of the International Court of Justice were former members of the Commission.

21 See Yearbook … 1996, vol. II (Part Two), paras. 148 (q) and 239. In 2010, the Commission noted with interest the establishment of the African Union Commission on International Law (AUCIL) and welcomed the willingness of AUCIL to establish cooperation with the Commission. See Yearbook … 2010, vol. II (Part Two), para. 404.

22 See Yearbook … 1999, vol. II (Part Two), para. 622, and subsequent reports of the Commission to the General Assembly.

23 See resolution 53/102 of 8 December 1998 and subsequent resolutions.