United Nations General Assembly observers
In addition to its 193 member states, the United Nations welcomes many international organizations, entities, and non-member states (currently only two) as observers. Observer status is granted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution. The status of a Permanent Observer is based purely on practice, and there are no provisions for it in the United Nations Charter.
Observers have the right to speak at United Nations General Assembly meetings, vote on procedural matters, serve as signatories on working papers, and sign resolutions,[clarification needed] but not to sponsor resolutions or vote on resolutions substantive matters. Various other rights (e.g., to speak in debates, to submit proposals and amendments, the right of reply, to raise points of order and to circulate documents, etc.) are given selectively to some observers only. So far, the EU is the only international organisation to hold these enhanced powers.
There is a distinction between state and non-state observers. Non-Member States of the United Nations, which are members of one or more specialized agencies, can apply for the status of Permanent Observer state. The non-state observers are the international organizations and other entities.
- 1 Non-member states
- 2 Entities and International organizations
- 3 European Union
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Non-member sovereign states are free to submit a petition to join as a full member at their discretion. The petition is then evaluated by the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly. For example, Switzerland was a permanent observer state from 1948 to 2002, until becoming a full member on September 10, 2002. Currently, there are two observer non-member states: the Holy See and Palestine. They are both permanent observers, described as "Non-member States having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent observer missions at Headquarters".
|Non-member state||Date observer status was granted||Additional timeline and details|
|Holy See||April 6, 1964: became a permanent observer state
July 1, 2004 (A/RES/58/314): gained all the rights of full membership except voting and putting forward candidates
|Sovereign entity with statehood over the territory of the Vatican City.|
|State of Palestine||November 22, 1974 (A/RES/3237 (XXIX)): non-state observer status for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
December 9, 1988 (A/RES/43/160): right to circulate communications without intermediary
December 15, 1988 (A/RES/43/177): designation "Palestine"
July 7, 1998 (A/RES/52/250): right to participate in general debate and additional rights
November 29, 2012 (A/RES/67/19): observer state status
|October 28, 1974: PLO recognized as "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," by states of the seventh Arab summit (and later by over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations and by Israel).
November 22, 1974: PLO recognized as competent on all matters concerning the question of Palestine by the UN General Assembly in addition to the right of the Palestinian people in Palestine to national independence and sovereignty.
November 15, 1988: PLO unilaterally declared the State of Palestine.
May 4, 1994: PLO established the Palestinian National Authority territorial administration as result of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO itself, Israel, United States and Russia.
July 7, 1998: PLO has been assigned seating in the General Assembly Hall immediately after non-member States and before the other observers.
December 17, 2012: UN Chief of Protocol Yeocheol Yoon decides that "the designation of 'State of Palestine' shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents."
- The Cook Islands and Niue, both states in free association with New Zealand, are full members of several UN specialized agencies, and have had their "full treaty-making capacity" recognised by United Nations Secretariat.
- The Republic of China, or Taiwan, in addition to applying for full membership, has also applied variously for  status in the UN since 1991. Such requests have been consistently denied due to the UN's recognition of the People's Republic of China as the "legitimate representative of China to the United Nations"; this resulted from the 1971 replacement of the Republic of China with the People's Republic as the official representative of China.
- Other countries are recognized by the United Nations as not being self-governing and appear on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, but are represented in the UN by their respective administering member state.
Former non-member observer states
Sixteen former non-member states were also granted observer status. Fourteen of those states eventually became members of the United Nations. The other two constitute a single special case.[Note 1]
Most of the former non-member observer states accepted this status at a time when they had applied for full UN membership but were unable to attain it, due to the (actual or threatened) veto of one or more of the permanent members of the Security Council. The vetoes were later overcome either by changes in geopolitical circumstances, or by "package deals" under which the Security Council approved multiple new member states at the same time, as was done with a dozen countries in 1955 and with East and West Germany in 1973.
|State||Granted||Became full member||Time difference|
|Democratic People's Republic of Korea||1973||1991||18 years|
|Democratic Republic of Viet Nam||1975||[Note 1]—||— (observer for 1 year)|
|Federal Republic of Germany||1952||1973||21 years|
|German Democratic Republic||1972||1973||1 year|
|Republic of Korea||1949||1991||42 years|
|Republic of Viet Nam||1952||[Note 1]—||— (observer for 24 years)|
|Vietnam||1976 [Note 1]||1977||1 year|
Entities and International organizations
Many intergovernmental organizations and a few other entities (non-governmental organizations and others with various degrees of statehood or sovereignty), are invited to become observers at the General Assembly. Some of them maintain a permanent office in the United Nations headquarters in New York City, while others do not; however, this is the choice of the organization and does not imply differences in their status.
Regional organizations allowed by their member states to speak on their behalf
In the resolution adopted in May 2011 granting additional rights to the European Union the UNGA decided that similar arrangements may be adopted for any other regional organization that is allowed to speak on behalf of its member states.
|Organization or entity||Date observer status was granted||Entity type|
|European Union[note 1]||October 11, 1974 (A/RES/3208 (XXIX)): observer status
May 10, 2011 (A/RES/65/276): additional rights
|The only observer that operates through a hybrid system of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, giving it some state like qualities.|
|Organization or entity||Date observer status was granted|
|International Committee of the Red Cross||October 16, 1990 (A/RES/45/6)|
|International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies||October 19, 1994 (A/RES/49/2)|
|International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission||December 16, 2009 (A/RES/64/121)|
|Inter-Parliamentary Union||November 19, 2002 (A/RES/57/32)|
|International Olympic Committee||October 20, 2009 (A/RES/64/3)|
|Sovereign Military Order of Malta||August 24, 1994 (A/RES/48/265)|
Former observer entities
- The South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) as liberation movement in Namibia held observer status with the right to circulate communications without intermediary beginning in 1976. This terminated in 1990 when the Republic of Namibia attained independence and was granted full membership in the United Nations and SWAPO was transformed into a political party.
While the EU is an observer, it is party to some 50 international UN agreements as the only non-state participant. It is a full participant on the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Forum on Forests and the Food and Agriculture Organization. It has also been a full participant at certain UN summits, such as the Rio and Kyoto summits on climate change, including hosting a summit. Furthermore, the EU delegation maintains close relations with the UN's aid bodies. In 2011 the EU was granted enhanced powers in the General Assembly; the right to speak in debates, to submit proposals and amendments, the right of reply, to raise points of order and to circulate documents. These rights were also made open to other international organizations who requested them, if their members have given them the right to speak on their behalf.
- List of current Permanent Representatives to the United Nations
- UN ECOSOC observers
- Category:United Nations General Assembly observers
- Originally under the designation of European Community. The EC formally became EU in 2010 and was acknowledged by 2011.
- Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique became observer in 1978 and its observer status was transferred to its successor, the International Organization of la Francophonie in 1998.
- United Nations - About Permenant Observers
- Phillips, Leigh (3 May 2011) EU wins new powers at UN, transforming global body, EU Observer
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 314 session 58 (retrieved 2010-09-21)
- "About UN Membership". United Nations.
- UN site on Permanent Missions
- "Non-member States". United Nations.
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3237 session -1 (retrieved 2010-09-23)
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 160 session 43 (retrieved 2013-01-07)
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 177 session 43 (retrieved 2013-01-07)
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 250 session 52 (retrieved 2010-09-21)
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 19 session 67 (retrieved 2013-01-07)
- Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations: "since ... Vote in the United Nations General Assembly which accorded to Palestine Observer State Status, the official title of the Palestine mission has been changed to The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations."
- Israel-PLO Recognition-Exchange of Letters between PM Rabin and Chairman Arafat-Sept 9- 1993. Mfa.gov.il (1993-09-09). Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
- "At the threshold of peace Mutual recognition ends 3 decades of strife between Israel and PLO ISRAELI-PLO PEACE TALKS". Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- Madiha Rashid al Madfai, Jordan, the United States and the Middle East Peace Process, 1974-1991, Cambridge Middle East Library, Cambridge University Press (1993). ISBN 0-521-41523-3. p. 21:"On 28 October 1974, the seventh Arab summit conference held in Rabat designated the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and reaffirmed their right to establish an independent state of urgency."
- Geldenhuys, Deon (1990). Isolated states: a comparative analysis. Cambridge University Press. p. 155. ISBN 9780521402682.
- UN observers: Non-member States and Entities Palestine is listed immediately after non-member States (on the same page) and before the other observers (that are on the next page).
- Gharib, Ali (2012-12-20). "U.N. Adds New Name: "State of Palestine"". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
- "Organs Supplement" (PDF), Repertory of Practice (8), UN, p. 10
- The World today (PDF), UN
- "U.N. again throws out Taiwan bid for recognition". Reuters. 18 September 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2013.: "This time, Taiwan was not applying for membership, just to take part in unspecified U.N. 'activities'."
- "Taiwan drops annual U.N. bid as China relations warm". Reuters. 4 February 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- UN THE WORLD TODAY (PDF) showing UN member states (blue), non-member states (green and yellow), non-self-governing territories (red) and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (gray).
- Connie L. McNeely (1995). Constructing the nation-state: international organization and prescriptive action. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-0-313-29398-6. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- "Status of Palestine at the United Nations". Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- Admission of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to membership in the United Nations
- United Nations http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/INF/63/6&Lang=E
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 276 session 65 Participation of the European Union in the work of the United Nations
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 5 session 53 Observer status for the Association of Caribbean States in the General Assembly
- United Nations General Assembly, Session 58, Resolution 318, Cooperation between the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, accessed 11 October 2013
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 18 session 33 (retrieved 2010-09-23)
- United Nations General Assembly, Session 45, Resolution 6, Observer status for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
- United Nations General Assembly, Session 49, Resolution 2, Observer status for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
- United Nations General Assembly, Session 64, Resolution 121, Observer status for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
- United Nations General Assembly, Session 57, Resolution 32, Observer status for the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
- United Nations General Assembly, Session 64, Resolution 3, Observer status for the International Olympic Committee in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
- United Nations General Assembly, Session 48, Resolution 265, Observer status for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
- UNGA Resolution A/RES/31/152 Observer status for the South West Africa People's Organization
- Description of the European Union Delegation in New York, EU Delegation to the UN
- Phillips, Leigh (15 July 2010) EU reaches out for new powers at United Nations, EU Observer
- Full list of UNGA and ECOSOC observers with admission resolutions details, January 2010
- United Nations General Assembly
- United Nations missions in New York City
- Non-member States with Observer Status
- Intergovernmental Organizations and Other Entities with Observer Status
- UN Info Quest – Organizations granted observer status in the General Assembly
- Blue Book "Permanent Missions to the United Nations No. 298" dated March 2008