Bqe-recherche avancée


New players in international relations


Eric SUY

Emeritus Professor, Catholic University of Leuven. Professor Extraordinarius, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.

Formerly Under-Secretary-General and The Legal Counsel of the United Nations

This paper is reproduced from Transnational Associations, 3/2002, 162-169. © All rights reserved.


1. Public international law, as it is tought still today, emphasizes the prominent position of subjects of international law as the main actors in international relations and, therefore, in international law. The subjects are those entities which are the addressees of international legal rules or norms, the bearers of international obligations and rights. Traditional international law distinguishes between states and international organizations as subjects of international law. The latter have only recently been recognized as limited subjects of international law, and only to the extent that states, the primary subjects of international law, grant international rights to and impose international obligations on the intergovernmental organizations which, therefore, became subjects of international law by the grace of states which are and remain the original subjects of international law.

 2. The peculiarity and, indeed, the uniqueness of international law is and remains that the very subjects of this legal order, viz. the states, are also the entities that create international law, either through state conduct (practice) leading to custom, or through interstate agreements or treaties. Intergovernmental organizations, as subjects of international law, are created by interstate agreements or treaties called: covenant, charter, constitution, act, treaty, etc… It is important to emphasize that states remain the primary subjects of international law and that, without these primary subjects, there are no other subjects of international law, be they interstate organizations or other entities which have gradually emerged as limited subjects of international law.

 3. Gradually, and even before intergovernmental organizations became subjects of international law, entities other than states acquired the status of - albeit limited – subjects of international law. In the case of the Holy See and, to a more limited extent, of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta, their acceptance as subjects of international law was largely due to the fact that , at some point in history, they had been sovereign rulers over a given territory (the Papal states and Malta) and, therefore, full subjects of international law. Today, these entities remain important actors in the field of international relations. This is particularly true for the Holy See, although some confusion may persist because of the simultaneous existence of the Vatican State, a micro-state with a given territorial base. International law has also recognized belligerents as subjects for the very reason that they were (and still are) a force to be reckoned with, and that they may, through the fortune of arms, eventually become the legitimate rulers of the country. In other words, the status of subject of international law of these entities depends upon their acceptance and recognition by the original subjects of international law viz. the States, as important actors in interstate relations. Whereas intergovernmental organizations are accepted as subjects of international law by treaties between states as primary subjects, the new ‘entities’ acquired the status of subjects of international law through their own and specific role as actors which states ultimately recognized through practice.

 4. Recent times have seen other significant changes in the perception of the role of entities other than states and international organizations as important actors in interstate relations. These changes stem either from the Charter of the United Nations, or from the practice of the various United Nations principal organs. A most important group of actors are, of course, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which have a consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (article 71, UN Charter). The General Assembly of the United Nations has admitted observers to either the Organization or to the Assembly and/or its organs. The Security Council and the General Assembly dealt with topics and adopted resolutions concerning a variety of non-state actors such as liberation movements, terrorist organisations, individuals, and private enterprises.

We purpose to examine some of the most recent and salient developments concerning the role mainly of non-governmental organizations and the national liberation movements. In the light of this, the question will be dealt with to what extend the doctrine of state sovereignty has been affected.

The Evolution of the Role of Non-governmental organizations

5.   The Charter of the United Nations recognizes the important role of non-governmental organizations as non-state actors in Article 71 which runs as follows:

      “The Economic and Social Council may make suitable arrangements for

      consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned

      with matters within its competence. Such arrangements may be made

      with international organizations and, where appropriate, with national

      organizations after consultation with the Member of the United Nations


This is not the place to dwell upon the ‘arrangements’ for consultation with non-governmental organizations. Suffice it to say that the relationship between the United Nations and the NGOs has undergone important changes during the history of the Organization[2]. First, there is the number of organizations with consultative status which stands at approximately 2.000. Second, the procedure and the type of arrangements have recently been modified in order to reflect the changing relationship[3]. Third, some non-governmental organizations have also been granted a special status as observers with the General Assembly[4]. Fourth, at major international conferences called for by the United Nations General Assembly on topical issues, the

participation of non-governmental organizations in parallel and simultaneous meetings has largely contributed to the results of these conferences. NGOs were thus given a special opportunity for lobbying and exerting an influence on the delegations[5]. Fifth, frequently, states and intergovernmental organizations call on NGOs to participate in and even take the lead of humanitarian operations because of their special knowledge and experience. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Price to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1997 and to Médecins sans Frontières in 1999 is an eloquent example of the international recognition of the role and importance of humanitarian non-governmental organizations as prominent non-state actors[6].

6. Except for their admission to the status of consultative partners in the United Nations Charter and in constitutions of other intergovernmental organizations, such as Unesco and the Council of Europe, and except also for their authorized participation at international conferences, the role of NGOs as non-state actors in the formal decision-making-process, either in the legislative or in the executive organs of intergovernmental organizations, has still to be institutionalized. There is, of course, one notable exception in the constitution of the International Labour Organization which granted such an enviable position to representative groups of both workers and employers.

If non-governmental organizations, as the larger group of non-state actors, are gradually acquiring more weight, and as they have an increasing impact on the informal process of decision-making, there is every reason for granting those actors a more visible role whenever states will proceed to a revision of existing constitutions of intergovernmental organizations, including the Charter of the United Nations. To put it in the words of Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “our post-war institutions were built for an inter-national world, but we now live in a global world. Responding effectively to this shift is the core institutional challenge for world leaders today”[7].

The Contribution of NGOs to the development of International Law

7. It is obvious that non-governmental organizations dealing with international law, such as the Institut de Droit International and the International Law Association are likely to have a considerable impact on the future development of international law. Indeed, legal advisors of Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of intergovernmental organizations, international law professors and practitioners, judges in international and regional courts, members of the International Law Commission usually are also members of these learned societies, and as such they contribute, in their individual capacity, to the elaboration and the development of international law. Several similar associations in the field of international environmental and space law likewise contribute to the development of these branches of international law[8].

8. To the extent that other NGOs are important non-state actors, capable of influencing the conduct of states and governments, they may also play an important role in the formation and the development of international law. Whoever participated in the drafting of international conventions in the field of modern aspects of international law will be able to witness to the often driving force of NGOs in the international law making process. It is true that, hitherto, states and their representatives and negotiators are always the final and exclusive partners in the treaty-making process. But in some important instances, the conduct of states has been largely influenced by NGOs whose representatives are sometimes members of the official state delegation. In some instances, individuals at the helm of those NGOs were able to play a prominent personal role in influencing changes in international law. It is, of course, impossible to give a complete picture of those typical and topical contributions by NGOs. Here is a largely uncleared field for scientific research which will have to be based on the archives of both the relevant NOGs and of states.

I merely wish to refer briefly to the contribution of the International Catholic Child Bureau (ICCB) and of its then Director-General, the Rev. Canon Moerman, in the elaboration of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. When states, after difficult and protracted negotiations, adopted in 1988 a Convention on theRegulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources Activities, leading environmentalists, arguing that the entry into force of this convention would jeopardize the fragile ecosystem of the region, started a vigorous campaign against the ratification of the convention. Greenpeace and 'Commander' Cousteau, who in person visited the heads of state, prime ministers and ministers of foreign affaires of the 'consultative' parties, were instrumental in obtaining that those same states, led by Australia and France, eventually agreed on a fifty years mining ban. This was achieved in the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, adopted in Madrid on 4 October 1991.

Is it necessary to stress the prominent role of Henri Dunant in the drafting of the first Geneva Convention in 1864, and that of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the elaboration of the 1949 four Geneva Conventions ? Here again, the final text was adopted by states in an international conference. But the groundwork was done by experts under the direction of the ICRC. During an international conference which met from 1974 to 1977, two additional protocols were negotiated again under the aegis of the ICRC. The personal role and impetus of the conference's chairman, Jean Pictet, should also be emphasized as an example of a non-state actor's contribution to the development of international law[9].

In a remarkable and extremely well documented study, Ken Rutherford of Southwest Missouri State University, examines the contribution of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a conglomerate of about one thousand NGOs, to the elaboration of the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. One of his conclusions is that "(t)he landmine case provides a prologue to future NGO attempts at changing state behavior in certain issue-areas"[10].

9. In a somewhat broader context, the United Nations Security Council dealt with problems of international humanitarian law for the first time during the Iraq-Kuwait Conflict. Several resolutions condemn the violations of international humanitarian law by Iraq[11]. Thus, in Resolution 666 (1990), the Council reaffirms that Iraq remains fully responsible for the safety of third-state nationals "in accordance with international humanitarian law including, where applicable, the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949"[12] .

In the same resolution, the Council directs the Sanctions Committee that it should bear in mind that foodstuffs should be provided through the United Nations "in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross or other appropriate humanitarian agencies"[13].

In Resolution 670 (1990) of 25 September, the Security Council condemns Iraq's continued occupation of Kuwait and its holding of third-State nationals against their will, in flagrant violation i.a. of "international humanitarian law"[14]. In the same Resolution, the Council reaffirms that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, applies to Kuwait and that "Iraq is bound to comply fully with all its terms and in particular is liable under the Convention in respect of the grave breaches committed by it"[15].

On 18 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution concerning the situation of human rights in Kuwait which contains several references to the principles of international humanitarian law, the ICRC and the protection of the civilian population[16].

In the famous Resolution 687 (1991) the Council decides that "Iraq shall extend all necessary cooperation to the International Committee of the Red Cross" in furtherance of its commitment to facilitate the repatriation of all Kuwaiti and third-state nationals. The Council also invites the ICRC to keep the Secretary-General of the United Nations apprised of all activities undertaken in connection with facilitating this repatriation[17].

  1. This survey of the prominent role of the ICRC in the development and implementation of international humanitarian law should be completed by a reference to two recent events. Firstly, ever since the creation of the United Nations peace-keeping operations, the question has been raised whether the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols thereto are applicable to the United Nations Blue Helmets and to their operations. The official position of the Secretariat has always been that the general principles of humanitarian law were applicable to the peacekeeping operations, but not the Conventions and Protocols as such, because the United Nations was and is not a party to these legal instruments. On 6 August 1999, however, a somewhat different position was adopted when Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a Bulletin on Observance by United Nations forces of international humanitarian law[18]. This promulgation, without expressly referring to the Geneva Conventions and the Protocols, states that "(t)he fundamental principles and rules of international humanitarian law set out in the present bulletin are applicable to United Nations forces when in situations of armed conflict they are actively engaged therein as combatants, to the extent and for the duration of their engagement. They are accordingly applicable in enforcement actions, or in peacekeeping operations when the use of force is permitted in self-defence"[19] . This formal recognition of the applicability of international humanitarian law to certain types of U.N.operations is a step in the right direction, but it leaves many questions unanswered.                                                                                                                   Secondly, it is important to draw the attention to Security Council Resolution 1296 (2000) of 19 April 2000 which deals with the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

This Resolution is an important addition to existing international humanitarian law in that it confirms that "the committing of systematic, flagrant and widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in situations of armed conflict may constitute a threat to international peace and security " thus opening the possibility for the Council to take action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the

United Nations. Those few examples seem to confirm that the Security Council of the United Nations takes an active interest in the observance and the development of international humanitarian law in the light of the international and, especially, of the national armed conflicts in which the Organization becomes involved. There is no doubt in my mind that these recent developments have been brought about by the sustained action of the representatives of the ICRC in New York.

  1. NGOs are active not only in the process of developing international law and of its codification, but also, and perhaps more prominently so, in the verification of the implementation of international commitments by states. Although actions of NGOs as watchdogs have not been institutionalized, they are nevertheless sometimes highly visible thus contributing to a better implementation of the law. This is undeniably the case in the field of human rights where Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to name only these two, function as efficient controllers[20] . Similarly, NGOs sometimes play an effective role in the field of disarmament and arms control as well as in the proces of implementing international environmental law. This unofficial and informal verification by NGOs functions rather well, and any attempt to institutionalize this role may jeopardize the independence and neutrality of the NGOs and hence the quality and reliability of their findings.


National Liberation Movements, Belligerents and Factions in Internal Conflict

12.   During the process of decolonization, especially since 1970, the United Nations supported national liberation movements which existed in various countries and territories then still under colonial rule or under foreign domination by giving them some sort of recognition. The most visible form of such recognition was the decision by the United Nations General Assembly to grant the observer-status to these movements, either directly, which was the case in 1974 for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), or indirectly, in admitting as observers those liberation movements and organizations which had been recognized by the Organization of African Unity[21].

The recognition of the national liberation movements by the United Nations amounted to the promotion as proto-states. This, eventually, led to the sovereign independence of new states. This newly acquired status did not exclude, however, that competing liberation movements continued the struggle for internal domination once independence was a fact. This is still the drama in former colonies in Africa, such as Angola, where UNITA, once recognized as a national liberation movement in the struggle against the Portuguese colonial regime, continues to fight for domination in a civil war situation against the universally recognized government of the independent and sovereign state of Angola.

13. The refusal by UNITA to accept the verdict of free elections led the Security Council to adopt a series of resolutions under chapter VII of the United Nations Charter in which ‘sanctions’ were decided against UNITA [22]. This was the case in Resolution 864 (1993) which was the first one in which the Council imposed sanctions upon an entity which was not a state – and even not a proto-state – while holding this entity responsible for its illegal conduct. In subsequent resolutions, the Security Council, still acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, condemned the attitude and actions of UNITA[23]. It is submitted that the international community, represented by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, does no longer accept any liberation movement as representing the people under colonial yoke and foreign domination once independence has been achieved. Factions within an independent and liberated country which continue to use force in the struggle for political domination have no longer anything in common with the original liberation movement they once might have been. Theirs is the status of belligerents in an internal conflict or civil war. Sometimes, the international community intervenes in an effort of pacification which may lead to the acceptance, by all the parties involved, of a peace-agreement. The recent developments in Africa and in Central America prove the successes, but in some cases also the failures and weaknesses of such agreements. In some instances, the United Nations Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, has determined that the violation of those agreements to bring about law and order in a state, may be a threat to international peace and security, either in general, but mostly in the region.

14. This does not imply that the right of self-determination is denied. It simply means

that the right has been shifted from the external to the internal level [24], and that, consequently, the use of force which was recognized as legitimate in the struggle against colonialism, foreign occupation and apartheid, is no longer accepted in the exercise of the internal right of self-determination. The handling by the Security Council of the Kosovo question is a case in point.

It should be emphasized that the Council, in all its resolutions dealing with this crisis, expressly affirms the commitment of the international community to the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia"[25]. The Council further stresses the necessity for a negotiated settlement and expresses its support for an "enhanced status for Kosovo which would include a substantially greater degree of autonomy and meaningful self-determination"[26]. The Council also condemns the use of "excessive" force by Serbian police forces, "as well as all acts of terrorism by the Kosovo Liberation Army"[27]. While imposing an arms embargo, the Council decided that all States "shall prevent arming and training for terrorist activities there"[28]. When, after NATO's military intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 (1999), it decided "that a political solution to the Kosovo crisis shall be based on the general principles in annex 1 and as further elaborated in the principles and other required elements in annex 2". The demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups is one of these elements. One of the main responsibilities of the international civil presence includes: "(P)romoting the establishment, pending a final settlement, of substantial autonomy and self-government in Kosovo"[29]. The pattern followed by the Security Council is similar to solutions adopted in situations of civil strife in other countries, such as Sierra Leone, where the Council refuses to ackowledge the admissibility of the use of force by factions, and orders their demilitarization and disarmament while stressing the necessity for a political solution which would respect the unity of the State. In other words, internal self-determination should be peaceful, and the use of force, although a fact which has to be taken into account, cannot be condoned because it would affect the sovereignty of the State.

Other Transnational Actors in Uncivil and Civil Society

15. - In his already quoted report We the peoples: the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century[30] the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan discusses 'new vulnerabilities' which globalization has created to old threats. He emphasizes, in particular, "(c)riminal networks (which) take advantage of the most advanced technologies to traffic around the world in drugs, arms, precious metals and stones - even people. Indeed, these elements of "uncivil society" are constructing global conglomerates of illicit activities"[31]. This problem of organized international crime also covers other well known modern phenomena such as: piracy at sea, terrorism in all its aspects, bribery and corruption, money laundering, tax evasion through international havens and illegal immigration. The revolution in global communications already changes the way many people work and live, and some non-state actors take advantage of this revolution to undermine the fundamentals of state sovereignty. States and their governments are compelled nowadays to deal more and more with criminal challenges emanating from individuals and groups. The latter, in all their appearences, have indeed become powerful actors influencing international relations and the development of international law. States and their governments have become, to a large extent, the re-actors to those new challengers. The ever growing number of international agreements against all forms of terrorist activities, against money-laundering and the recently signed Convention against Organized Crime with its two Protocols clearly indicate that, in future, major parts of international law will deal with problems generated by non-state actors.


16. - It should, however, be emphasized that the course of international relations and of international law is not only influenced by elements of "uncivil society", but that elements of highly developed society have the same, and perhaps even a more important influence. Globalization, even if it still is a controversial term and phenomenon, has mainly to do with the communications revolution. Another aspect is the growing trend of transnational mergers and acquisitions giving rise to more and more powerful transnational corporations. Globalization is brought about, not by states or by governments, but by individual investors and inventors and by the companies they have created. States, therefore, tend to control the power and influence of these corporations which they sometimes view as a threat to their sovereign rights. But is state sovereignty really threatened by all those non-state actors ?

Non-State actors: a challenge to State sovereignty ?

17. States, intergovernmental organizations and belligerents are the traditional subjects of international law. But there are many more non-state actors which, without having formally obtained the status of subject of international law, play an important role in the conduct of international relations and, hence in the formation of international law. Most of these 'modern' actors are non-governmental organizations the importance of which has already been recognized in the law of international organizations by the possibility of granting them an appropriate, mostly consultative, status. Nowadays, NGOs have become much more influential, and the states rely upon their experience in order to formulate new policies and new rules.

Other 'entities' have appeared on the forefront of international relations. The international community of states has dealt with the issue of transnational corporations when, since the middle of the 1970s, an attempt was made in the United Nations to curb the activities of the TNCs by the elaboration of appropriate guidelines. The new era of globalization will, no doubt, see an intensified effort by states to regulate the activities of corporations which they may deem dangerous to the exercise of their sovereign rights and to their national interests.

Finally, individuals have become more and more the concern of international relations. International humanitarian law has, traditionally, been dealing with the conduct of combattants in armed conflicts. The development of international humanitarian law during the last quarter of the XXth century, and the growing concern of its implementation through the creation of international criminal courts and tribunals clearly point to the increasing role individuals may play as non-state actors. States are compelled to deal more and more frequently with the activities of individuals and of groups in a variety of fields which can be qualified as highly criminal and which are likely to affect the authority and the sovereignty of the states as major actors in international relations. Non-state actors are, therefore, a factor to be reckoned with while thinking about and preparing a possible but necessary restructuring of the international community, while at the same time uncivil and/àr criminal conduct of non-state actors must be addressed effectively at the international level. The voices of the Peoples of the United Nations should be heard and listened to more carefully. This trend already exists. But structural changes in the international community will be necessary allowing for the most beneficial contribution of the non-state actors to the peaceful development of international relations.

  1. Addressing the annual NGO conference organized by the UN Department of Public Information, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated on 28 August 2000: "You are our best defence against complacency, our bravest campaigners for honesty and our boldest crusaders for change". While ultimately, decisions about the level of NGO participation in the United Nations'work would be taken by the member states, he said: "I believe that in time, they will agree that our doors must be open". In his Millenium Report, which was published a few days later, the Secretary-General stated: "the international public domain - including the United Nations - must be opened further to the participation of the many actors whose contributions are essential to managing the path of globalization"[32]. In the otherwise rather disappointing Millenium Declaration, the heads of State and Government sound much more cautious when, in section VIII on Strengthening the United Nations, they resolve, as a last point, "to give greater opportunities to the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society, in general, to contribute to the realization of the Organization's goals and programmes"[33]. This remark shows the hesitation and reluctance of states to share their power with non-state actors.

And yet, the practice of participation by non-state actors in the various fields covered by the specialized organizations of the United Nations system can be described as useful, fruitful and rewarding. The member states of these organizations will gladly admit that the expertise of non-state actors is a welcome contribution to the work of the organizations. Those familiar with the working methods of the Commission of the European Union in preparing the various legal instruments which make up the 'acquis communautaire' can bear testimony to the important contribution of the non-state actors either as lobbyists or as consultants. The active participation of non-state actors in the elaboration of the law and policy does not per se go at the expense of state sovereignty. After all, the final decision-making rests with the states.

The foregoing obviously does not apply to non-state actors whose purpose is to challenge the authority of the state such as the liberation movements in a non- decolonisation context, international criminal organizations and other organized gangs. Similarly, the power and influence of global companies, the decisions of which may have farreaching consequences for the prosperity of peoples and countries, may affect the sovereignty of smaller and developing countries. It is, therefore, compelling that states remain vigilant against the excesses of globalization. Recent manifestations by the 'civil society' are there to remind us of the potential baleful influence of those corporations on state sovereignty.

  1. A final question should be addressed: given the growing impact of non-state actors on the behaviour and decision-making of states and of intergovernmental organizations, could an institutionalizing of this expanding relationship contribute to enhancing this cooperation ? Is there a need for regimentation ?

In the course of this study, we have indicated several times that, save for constitutional provisions on some form of relationship between international organizations and NGOs, the cooperation is based upon practice. States have always shown a tendency to keep the NGOs and their activities under some control. A minimal regulation is required, both at the national and international level, in order to ascertain that interested groups fulfil certain requirements such as legal personality, minimal membership, healthy financing, accountability, purposes fitting with those of the international organization with which they seek an affiliation. It is, therefore, normal and necessary, that intergovernmental organizations and their member states establish rules for the recognition of NGOs willing to enter into some form of relationship with them. The consultative or observer status will provide the NGO with well defined facilities and possibilities to air their concern, present their views and even exert pressure in order to promote and provoke action by the organs of the organizations and by their member states. The practice of the United Nations shows that there is some degree of flexibility allowing for a regular adjustment of this relationship. Formal arrangements institutionalizing the cooperation would, most probably, amount to freezing a relationship which is advantageous also for the member states[34]. The latter will, no doubt react, if they feel that the power and influence of the non-state actors, and of the NGOs in particular, become a threat to the exercise of their sovereign rights.

It would, however, be wrong to conclude that the acquisition of some status with an intergovernmental organization confers upon the NGO an international legal personality, even if the NGO is entitled to actively participate in the international decision-making process or otherwise in the activities of an intergovernmental organization. The fact that persons deployed by a humanitarian non-governmental organization may, under certain circumstances, be protected by the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel[35] does not confer upon them or upon the NGO concerned a status of even limited international legal personality. Also in this respect do states remain the ultimate decision makers.

It is generally recognized that the transfer, by states, of sovereign rights to intergovernmental organizations does not affect their sovereignty. The powers and competence of the state may be diminished, but the transfer is proof of their sovereignty.

Similarly, in allowing NGOs to participate in the decision-making process, states, directly or through intergovernmental organizations, do not give away sovereign rights. In many fields, states and international organizations can no longer do without the expertise of NGOs which have thus become privileged partners in international relations[36]. The growing rôle of non-state actors in international relations tells strongly in favor of a healthy concern for democratization of the international relations through the involvement of knowledgable, experienced and responsible non-state players.


[1]  For an exhaustive commentary and literature, see R. Lagoni, subArticle 71 in B. Simma, ed., Charta der Vereinten Nationen. Kommentar (1991) pp. 857-871, and also the English edition: The Charter of the United Nations-A Commentary (1995), pp. 901-915

2 Transnational Associations - Associations transnationales, the Review of the Brussels based Union of International Associations contains, in my view, the best series of studies dealing with the evolving status of non-governmental organizations in their relations with various intergovernmental organizations. For a most recent, thorough and comprehensive analysis of international non-state actors in the era of globalization, see W. Hummer, Internationale nichtstaatliche Organisationen im Zeitalter der Globalisierung-Abgrenzung, Handlungsbefugnisse, Rechtsnatur, in Berichte der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Völkerrecht, vol. 39 (2000) pp. 45-230.

3 The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations established, by its resolution 3 (II)(1946), a Committee on Non-governmental Organizations with a mandate to examine and report on the consultative relationship which ECOSOC should accord to NGOs and to recommend what action should be taken on submissions which those organizations may make to it. In resolution 1996/31, the Economic and Social Council adopted new criteria by which ‘arrangements’ on consultative status for NGOs may be established.

4Although the General Assembly has traditionally granted observer status to intergovernmental organizations, non-member states recognized by specialized agencies, and national liberation movements, NGOs, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies were granted observer status in  1990See in general: E. Suy, The Status of Observers in International Organizations, in Académie de droit international, Recueil des Cours vol  II-1978, pp. 75-179, and R.N. Sybesma-Knoll, The Status of Observers in the United Nations (1981). 

[5]  Thus, during the Millenium Forum, representatives of more than thousand NGOs gathered at the United Nations in New York during five days in May 2000 in order to formulate a collective vision for the hew century and the role of the United Nations and of civil society in the major issue areas of today. A Declaration proposing i.a. the creation and funding of a Global Civil Society Forum was presented to the world leaders gathered at the Millenium Summit which took place early September 2000.

[6] One may perhaps consider that most of the recipients of the Price also belong to the group of important non-state actors.

[7]  We the peoples: the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century. Report of the Secretary-General, G.A. Document A/54/2000, § 30.

[8] See the Yearbook of International Environmental Law (since 1989), and the works of the International Institute of Space Law.

[9] See: Studies and Essays on international humanitarian law and Red Cross principles, in honour of Jean Pictet   (1984).

[10] K. Rutherford, The landmine ban and NGOs: the role of communications technologies, in Transnational Associations (2/2000) pp.  60 - 73, at 73. This study focuses on the use of communications technologies in order to increase the NGOs opportunities for success in changing state behavior. See also ICBLs website at

[11] E. Suy, 'International Humanitarian Law and the Security Council Resolutions on the 1990-1991 Gulf Conflict' in A.J.M. Delissen and G.J. Tanja, eds., Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict. Challenges Ahead. Essays in Honour of Frits Kalshoven,  (1991) pp. 515-526.

[12]  The United Nations and the Iraq-Kuwait Conflict 1990-1996, The United Nations Blue Book Series, Vol. IX, Document 13 , pp. 172-173.

[13]  SC Res 666 (1990) , § 6

[14]  2nd preambular paragraph.

[15]  Operative § 13, Idem, document 16 pp. 175.

[16]  A/Res/45/170, Idem, document 20 pp. 178-179.

[17]  SC Res 687 (1991), section G, §§ 30-31, Idem, document 35 pp. 197.

[18] ST/SGB/1999/13, reprinted in International Review of the Red Cross, nr. 836, December 1999, 812-817.

[19] See the comments by A. Ryniker,  Respect du droit international humanitaire par les forces des Nations Unies, supra n. 19 pp. 795-805.

[20]  See on this aspect: P.R. Baehr, Mobilization of the Conscience of Mankind: Conditions of Effectiveness of Human Rights NGOs, in E. Denters and N. Schrijver, eds., Reflections on International Law from the Low Countries, in Honour of Paul de Waart  (1998) pp. 135-155.

[21]  This formula was used in order to avoid being trapped into the intricacies of having to deal with several liberation movements operating in the same territory.

[22]  P.H. Kooijmans, The Security Council and Non-State Entities as Parties to Conflicts, in K. Wellens, . ed., International Law: Theory and Practice. Essays in Honour of Eric Suy (1998) pp. 333-346.

[23] See also the SC Resolutions 1127 (1997) ,  1173 (1998) and 1229(1999).

24 On this distinction, see P.H.Kooijmans, Zelfbeschikkingsrecht. Naar een nieuwe interpretatie ? in N. Sybesma-Knoll & J. Van Bellingen , eds., Naar een nieuwe interpretatie van het Recht op Zelfbeschikking (1995) pp. 157 ff.  For a recent view on self-determination: Th. Christakis, Le droit à l'autodétermination en dehors des situations de décolonisation (1999).

[25] SC Res. 1160 (1998), SC Res. 1199 (1998) , SC Res. 1244 (1999).

[26] SC Res. 1160 (1998), operative § 5,  SC Res. 1199 (1998), preambula, repeated in SC Res. 1203 (1998)  and in SC Res. 1244 (1999), also in the preambula.

[27] SC Res. 1160 (1998), preambular § 3

[28] Idem, operative § 8, repeated in SC Res. 1186 (1998) preambular § 2 , in SC Res. 1199 (1998), preambular part, and in SC Res. 1203 (1998), preambular part.

[29] Operative § 11 (a). Our italics.

[30]  Doc. A/54/2000

[31]  Idem, § 34.

[32] We the Peoples. The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century. p. 13.

[33] A/RES/55/2 of 8 September 2000

[34]  See supra in paragraphs 6 and 11

[35]  Adopted on 9 December 1994 by GA Res 49 (59). See art. 1, (b), (iii).

[36] This privileged partnership of NGOs is also highly visible in national politics and decision-making.