International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: June 22, 2023

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Ways and means for making the evidence of Customary International Law more readily available

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

In accordance with article 24 of its Statute, the Commission, at its first session, in 1949, began consideration of ways and means for making the evidence of customary international law more readily available. At its second session, in 1950, the Commission completed consideration of this topic and submitted a report to the General Assembly, containing specific ways and means suggested by the Commission.1

The Commission recommended that the widest possible distribution should be made of publications relating to international law issued by organs of the United Nations, particularly the Reports and other publications of the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Treaty Series, and the Reports of International Arbitral Awards. The Commission also recommended that the General Assembly should authorize the Secretariat to prepare the following publications:

In addition, the Commission recommended that the Registry of the International Court of Justice should publish occasional digests of the Court Reports; that the General Assembly should call to the attention of Governments the desirability of their publishing digests of their diplomatic correspondence and other materials relating to international law; and that the General Assembly give consideration to the desirability of an international convention concerning the general exchange of official publications relating to international law and relations.

Since these recommendations were made, the General Assembly has authorized the Secretary-General to issue most of the publications suggested by the Commission and certain other publications relevant to the Commission’s recommendations.2 The Governments of several Members are publishing or preparing digests of their materials relating to international law. Two conventions — the Convention concerning the Exchange of Official Publications and Government Documents between States and the Convention concerning the International Exchange of Publications — were adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1958.3

1 See Yearbook … 1950, vol. II, document A/1316, paras. 24–94.

2 See United Nations Juridical Yearbook (of which a provisional volume for 1962 and printed volumes for the following years have been issued); United Nations Legislative Series (26 volumes of which have been issued); List of Treaty Collections (published in 1955); Cumulative Index of the United Nations Treaty Series (of which No. 54, the latest one as of 31 December 2022, covers the Treaty Series, vols. 2851–2900); Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council (originally published in 1954, with supplements issued subsequently); Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs (originally published in 1955, with supplements issued later); and Reports of International Arbitral Awards (34 volumes of which have been issued). In addition, the Secretariat of the United Nations has issued Summaries of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders of the International Court of Justice (covering the periods 1948–1991, 1992–1996, 1997–2002, 2003–2007, 2008–2012 and 2013–2017).

3 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 398, p. 9, and vol. 416, p. 51.