United Nations General Assembly observers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[1] The non-state observers are the international organizations and other entities.

Non-member observer states are arranged for seating in the General Assembly Hall immediately after the Member States and before the other observers.[3]

Non-member states[edit]

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.[4] 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".[5]

Non-member state[6] 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):[3] 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)):[7] non-state observer status for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
December 9, 1988 (A/RES/43/160):[8] right to circulate communications without intermediary
December 15, 1988 (A/RES/43/177):[9] designation "Palestine"
July 7, 1998 (A/RES/52/250):[10] right to participate in general debate and additional rights
November 29, 2012 (A/RES/67/19):[11] observer state status[12]
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).[13][14][15][16]
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.[10][17]
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."[18]

Former non-member observer states[edit]

Sixteen former non-member states were also granted observer status.[24][25] 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.[citation needed]

State Granted Became full member Time difference
 Austria 1952 1955 3 years
 Bangladesh 1973 1974 1 year
 Democratic People's Republic of Korea 1973 1991 18 years
 Democratic Republic of Viet Nam 1975 1977a[Note 1] — (observer for 1 year)
 Federal Republic of Germany 1952 1973 21 years
 Finland 1952 1955 3 years
 German Democratic Republic 1972 1973 1 year
 Italy 1952 1955 3 years
 Japan 1952 1956 4 years
 Kuwait 1962 1963 1 year
 Monaco 1956 1993 37 years
 Republic of Korea 1949 1991 42 years
 Republic of Viet Nam 1952 1976[Note 1] — (observer for 24 years)
 Spain 1955 1955 0 years
  Switzerland 1946 2002 56 years
 Vietnam 1976 [Note 1] 1977b 1977 1 year
  1. ^ a b c d On 30 April 1975 South Vietnam was overtaken by and on 2 July 1976 united with North Vietnam to form modern Vietnam, which was granted observer status in 1976[citation needed] before becoming a full member on 20 September 1977.[26]

Entities and International organizations[edit]

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.[27]

Regional organizations allowed by their member states to speak on their behalf[edit]

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.[28]

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):[28] additional rights
The only observer that operates through a hybrid system of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, giving it some state like qualities.

Intergovernmental organizations[edit]

Organization Date observer status was granted
African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States October 15, 1981 (A/RES/36/4)
African Development Bank October 28, 1987 (A/RES/42/10)
African Union (formerly the Organisation of African Unity) October 11, 1965 (A/RES/2011(XX))
15 August 2002 (General Assembly decision 56/475)
Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean October 17, 1988 (A/RES/43/6)
Andean Community of Nations October 22, 1997 (A/RES/52/6)
Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (formerly the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee) October 13, 1980 ( A/RES/35/2)
Asian Development Bank November 19, 2002 (A/RES/57/30)
Association of Caribbean States October 15, 1998 (A/RES/53/17) [29]
Association of Southeast Asian Nations Association of Southeast Asian Nations December 4, 2006 (A/RES/61/44)
Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization October 8, 1999 (A/RES/54/5)
 Caribbean Community October 17, 1991 (A/RES/46/8)
Central American Integration System October 19, 1995 (A/RES/50/2)
Collective Security Treaty Organization December 2, 2004 (A/RES/59/50)
Common Fund for Commodities November 23, 2005 (A/RES/60/26)
 Commonwealth of Independent States March 24, 1994 (A/RES/48/237)
Commonwealth Secretariat October 18, 1976 (A/RES/31/3)
Community of Portuguese Language Countries October 26, 1999 (A/RES/54/10)
Community of Sahelo-Saharan States December 12, 2001 (A/RES/56/92)
Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia December 6, 2007 (A/RES/62/77)
Council of Europe October 17, 1989 (A/RES/44/6)
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf December 6, 2007 (A/RES/62/78)
East African Community December 9, 2003 (A/RES/58/86)
Economic Community of Central African States December 12, 2000 (A/RES/55/161)
Economic Community of West African States December 2, 2004 (A/RES/59/51)
Economic Cooperation Organization October 13, 1993 (A/RES/48/2)
Eurasian Economic Community December 9, 2003 (A/RES/58/84)
Energy Charter Conference December 6, 2007 (A/RES/62/75)
Eurasian Development Bank December 6, 2007 (A/RES/62/76)
European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) December 14, 2012 (A/RES/67/102)
GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development December 9, 2003 (A/RES/58/85)
Hague Conference on Private International Law November 23, 2005 (A/RES/60/27)
Ibero-American Conference November 23, 2005 (A/RES/60/28)
Indian Ocean Commission December 4, 2006 (A/RES/61/43)
Inter-American Development Bank December 12, 2000 (A/RES/55/160)
International Centre for Migration Policy Development November 19, 2002 (A/RES/57/31)
International Conference on the Great Lakes Region of Africa December 16, 2009 (A/RES/64/123)
International Criminal Court September 13, 2004 (A/RES/58/318)[30]
International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) October 15, 1996 (A/RES/51/1)
International Development Law Institute December 12, 2001 (A/RES/56/90)
International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea December 11, 2008 (A/RES/63/133)
International Hydrographic Organization December 12, 2001 (A/RES/56/91)
International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance December 9, 2003 (A/RES/58/83)
International Organization for Migration October 16, 1992 (A/RES/47/4)
International Organization of la Francophonie [note 2] November 10, 1978 (A/RES/33/18)[31]
December 18, 1998 (General Assembly decision 53/453)
International Seabed Authority October 24, 1996 (A/RES/51/6)
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea December 17, 1996 (A/RES/51/204)
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (or the World Conservation Union) December 17, 1999 (A/RES/54/195)
Islamic Development Bank Group March 28, 2007 (A/RES/61/259)
Italian-Latin American Institute December 6, 2007 (A/RES/62/74)
Latin American Economic System (SELA) October 13, 1980 (A/RES/35/3)
Latin American Integration Association November 23, 2005 (A/RES/60/25)
Latin American Parliament October 13, 1993 (A/RES/48/4)
League of Arab States November 1, 1950 (A/RES/477 (V))
OPEC Fund for International Development December 4, 2006 (A/RES/61/42)
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development October 15, 1998 (A/RES/53/6)
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States December 2, 2004 (A/RES/59/52)
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe October 13, 1993 (A/RES/48/5)
Organization of American States October 16, 1948 (A/RES/253 (III))
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) October 10, 1975 (A/RES/3369 (XXX))
Pacific Islands Forum October 17, 1994 (A/RES/49/1)
Partners in Population and Development November 19, 2002 (A/RES/57/29)
Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean December 16, 2009 (A/RES/64/124)
Permanent Court of Arbitration October 13, 1993 (A/RES/48/3)
Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States December 6, 2007 (A/RES/62/73)
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation December 2, 2004 (A/RES/59/48)
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation December 2, 2004 (A/RES/59/53)
Southern African Development Community December 2, 2004 (A/RES/59/49)
South Centre December 11, 2008 (A/RES/63/131)
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria December 16, 2009 (A/RES/64/122)
University for Peace December 11, 2008 (A/RES/63/132)
World Customs Organization (formerly the Customs Cooperation Council) March 23, 1999 (A/RES/53/216)

Other entities[edit]

Organization or entity Date observer status was granted
International Committee of the Red Cross October 16, 1990 (A/RES/45/6)[32]
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies October 19, 1994 (A/RES/49/2)[33]
International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission December 16, 2009 (A/RES/64/121)[34]
Inter-Parliamentary Union November 19, 2002 (A/RES/57/32)[35]
International Olympic Committee October 20, 2009 (A/RES/64/3)[36]
Sovereign Military Order of Malta August 24, 1994 (A/RES/48/265)[37]

Former observer entities[edit]

European Union[edit]

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.[39] 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,[40][2] if their members have given them the right to speak on their behalf.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Originally under the designation of European Community. The EC formally became EU in 2010 and was acknowledged by 2011.
  2. ^ 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.


  1. ^ a b United Nations - About Permenant Observers
  2. ^ a b Phillips, Leigh (3 May 2011) EU wins new powers at UN, transforming global body, EU Observer
  3. ^ a b United Nations General Assembly Resolution 314 session 58 (retrieved 2010-09-21)
  4. ^ "About UN Membership". United Nations. 
  5. ^ UN site on Permanent Missions
  6. ^ "Non-member States". United Nations. 
  7. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3237 session -1 (retrieved 2010-09-23)
  8. ^ a b United Nations General Assembly Resolution 160 session 43 (retrieved 2013-01-07)
  9. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 177 session 43 (retrieved 2013-01-07)
  10. ^ a b United Nations General Assembly Resolution 250 session 52 (retrieved 2010-09-21)
  11. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 19 session 67 (retrieved 2013-01-07)
  12. ^ 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."
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "At the threshold of peace Mutual recognition ends 3 decades of strife between Israel and PLO ISRAELI-PLO PEACE TALKS". Retrieved 6 April 2010. 
  15. ^ 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."
  16. ^ Geldenhuys, Deon (1990). Isolated states: a comparative analysis. Cambridge University Press. p. 155. ISBN 9780521402682. 
  17. ^ 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).
  18. ^ Gharib, Ali (2012-12-20). "U.N. Adds New Name: "State of Palestine"". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  19. ^ "Organs Supplement" (PDF), Repertory of Practice (8), UN, p. 10 
  20. ^ The World today (PDF), UN 
  21. ^ "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'."
  22. ^ "Taiwan drops annual U.N. bid as China relations warm". Reuters. 4 February 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  23. ^ 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).
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ "Status of Palestine at the United Nations". Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  26. ^ Admission of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to membership in the United Nations
  27. ^ United Nations http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/INF/63/6&Lang=E
  28. ^ a b c United Nations General Assembly Resolution 276 session 65 Participation of the European Union in the work of the United Nations
  29. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 5 session 53 Observer status for the Association of Caribbean States in the General Assembly
  30. ^ United Nations General Assembly, Session 58, Resolution 318, Cooperation between the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, accessed 11 October 2013
  31. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 18 session 33 (retrieved 2010-09-23)
  32. ^ 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
  33. ^ 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
  34. ^ 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
  35. ^ United Nations General Assembly, Session 57, Resolution 32, Observer status for the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
  36. ^ United Nations General Assembly, Session 64, Resolution 3, Observer status for the International Olympic Committee in the General Assembly, accessed 11 October 2013
  37. ^ 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
  38. ^ UNGA Resolution A/RES/31/152 Observer status for the South West Africa People's Organization
  39. ^ Description of the European Union Delegation in New York, EU Delegation to the UN
  40. ^ Phillips, Leigh (15 July 2010) EU reaches out for new powers at United Nations, EU Observer

External links[edit]