International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: July 15, 2015

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Extended participation in general multilateral treaties concluded under the auspices of the League of Nations

See also: Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

By resolution 1766 (XVII) of 20 November 1962, the General Assembly requested the International Law Commission to study the question of participation of new States in certain general multilateral treaties, concluded under the auspices of the League of Nations, which by their terms authorized the Council of the League to invite additional States to become parties but to which States that had not been so invited by the League Council before the dissolution of the League were unable to become parties for want of an invitation. This problem had originally been brought to the attention of the Assembly by the International Law Commission. In the report on its fourteenth session, in 1962, the Commission had pointed out that certain difficulties stood in the way of finding a speedy and satisfactory solution to this problem through the medium of the draft articles on the law of treaties, and it therefore suggested that consideration should be given to the possibility of solving the problem more expeditiously by other procedures, such as administrative action by the depositary and a resolution of the General Assembly, to the terms of which the assent of all the States entitled to a voice in the matter might be obtained.1

In accordance with General Assembly resolution 1766 (XVII), the Commission resumed consideration of the question at its fifteenth session, in 1963. After examining the arrangements which were made in 1946 on the occasion of the dissolution of the League of Nations and the assumption by the United Nations of some of its functions and powers in relation to treaties concluded under the auspices of the League, the Commission reached the conclusion that the General Assembly appeared to be entitled, if it so desired, to designate an organ of the United Nations to assume and fulfil the powers which, under the participation clauses of the treaties in question, were formerly exercisable by the Council of the League. This procedure, which was endorsed by the Commission as a simplified and expeditious solution for achieving the object of extending participation in the treaties in question, was accordingly referred to by the Commission, in its report to the General Assembly, in listing various alternate methods which might be adopted. The Commission also observed in its report that a number of the treaties concerned might hold no interest for States and suggested that this aspect of the matter be further examined by the competent authorities. In addition, the Commission suggested that the General Assembly take steps to initiate the examination of those treaties with a view to determining what action might be necessary to adapt them to contemporary conditions.2

On the basis of the conclusions reached by the Commission, the General Assembly, in resolution 1903 (XVIII) of 18 November 1963, decided that the Assembly was the appropriate organ of the United Nations to exercise the power conferred on the League Council by twenty-one general multilateral treaties of a technical and non-political character concluded under the auspices of the League of Nations to invite States to accede to those treaties; it also placed on record the assent to that decision by those Members of the United Nations which are parties to the treaties concerned.

By the same resolution, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General: (a) to bring the terms of the resolution to the notice of any party not a Member of the United Nations; (b) to transmit the resolution to Member States which are parties to those treaties; (c) to consult, where necessary, with these States and the United Nations organs and specialized agencies concerned as to whether any of the treaties in question have ceased to be in force, have been superseded, have otherwise ceased to be of interest for accession by additional States, or require action to adapt them to contemporary conditions; and (d) to report to the Assembly at its nineteenth session, in 1964. Finally, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to invite “each State which is a Member of the United Nations or member of a specialized agency or a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, or has been designated for this purpose by the General Assembly, and which otherwise is not eligible to become a party to the treaties in question, to accede thereto by depositing an instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations”.

At its twentieth session, in 1965, the General Assembly considered a report of the Secretary-General3 submitted in pursuance of resolution 1903 (XVIII), and adopted, on 5 November 1965, resolution 2021 (XX) in which it recognized that nine treaties “listed in the annex to the present resolution may be of interest for accession by additional States” and drew the “attention of the parties to the desirability of adapting some of these treaties to contemporary conditions, particularly in the event that new parties should so request”.

1 See Yearbook … 1962, vol. II, document A/5209, pp. 168 and 169. (see Analytical Guide)

2 See Yearbook … 1963, vol. II, document A/5509, para. 50. (see Analytical Guide)

3 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Twentieth Session, Annexes, agenda item 88, document A/5759 and Add.l.