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Last update: July 15, 2015

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

Reservations to multilateral conventions

See also: Summary | Texts and Instruments


Studies undertaken by the Secretariat and Reports of the Secretary-General


Reports of the Working Group or Sub-Committee


Reports of the Special Rapporteur

  • Report on reservations to multilateral conventions, containing analysis of the debates in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly on the subject, the opinions of writers, examples of clauses in conventions regarding reservations, practice with regard to reservations, and a set of draft articles on reservations.
    • Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. J.L. Brierly (3rd session of the ILC (1951))

Reports of the Drafting Committee


Comments by Governments



  • 3rd session of the International Law Commission (1951)
    • Draft articles on reservations, annex to the Report of the Special Rapporteur
  • Memorandum presented by Mr. Gilberto Amado
  • Memorandum presented by Mr. Georges Scelle

Reports of the International Law Commission

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its third session, 16 May to 27 July 1951
    • The Commission undertook discussion on this topic on the basis of the report of the Special Rapporteur, as well as memoranda presented by Messrs. Amado and Scelle. The Commission completed its consideration of the item and transmitted its report containing its suggestions to the General Assembly. It stated that the criterion of compatibility of a reservation with the object and purpose of a convention — applied by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion on reservations to the Genocide Convention — would not be suitable for application to multilateral conventions in general; while no single rule uniformly applied could be wholly satisfactory, a rule suitable for application in the majority of cases could be found in the practice theretofore followed by the Secretary-General, with some modifications. It recommended further that clauses on reservations should be inserted in future conventions.
    • Discussion in plenary: 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd, 104th, 105th and 106th meetings (11 to 19 June 1951), 125th, 126th, 127th and 128th meetings (16 to 19 July 1951), and 133rd meeting (26 July 1951)

General Assembly Action


Final Outcome

International Law Commission (3rd session, 1951)

  • Final report containing its conclusions and suggestions on the question of reservations to multilateral conventions from the point of view of codification and the progressive development of international law.

General Assembly (6th session, 1951)

  • Resolution 598 (VI) of 12 January 1952
    • Endorsed the Commission's recommendation that clauses on reservations should be inserted in future conventions; and stated that the Court's advisory opinion should be followed in regard to the Genocide Convention. It asked the Secretary-General, in respect of future United Nations conventions, to act as depositary for documents containing reservations or objections thereto without passing on the legal effect of such documents.1
  • Resolution 1452 (XIV) of 7 December 1959
    • Requested the Secretary-General to follow the same practice with respect to United Nations conventions concluded before, as well as after, the Assembly's decision of 1952.

1 The Commission returned to the subject in the course of its preparation of the draft articles on the law of treaties and the question of treaties concluded between States and international organizations or between two or more international organizations. The Commission has also taken up the topic in the context of its work on the law and practice relating to reservations to treaties.