United Nations General Assembly Sixth Committee

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The United Nations General Assembly Sixth Committee (Legal) is one of the main committees of the United Nations General Assembly. The Sixth Committee is the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly.


The UN General Assembly has an express mandate to promote the progressive development of public international law. Article 13 of the UN Charter establishes, in particular, that the “General Assembly shall initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of: (…) encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification. Subsequent practice has interpreted this provision as a broad authorization to elaborate new treaties on the widest range of issues, to adopt them, and to recommend them to states for their subsequent signature, ratification, and accession.[1] While international law-making negotiations take place in a variety of specialized bodies of the United Nations, depending on their actual subject-matter, those negotiations related to general international law are usually held at the Sixth Committee.[2]

Composition and method of work

The Sixth Committee has universal membership, that is, all member states of the United Nations are de jure members of the Sixth committee. Non member states with observer status in the General Assembly such as Switzerland before its ascension to the UN, and the Holy See may attend and participate in the discussions. The Sixth Committee is led by a chairman assisted by three vice-chairmen and a rapporteur. The chairman must conduct the formal meetings, propose the program of work, and solve any procedural hurdles that may rise. The Bureau seeks to ensure that the negotiations conclude with a positive outcome.[3]

The Sixth Committee meets every year from late September to late November, in parallel with the General Assembly’s annual session. At the beginning of the session, the General Assembly assigns to the Sixth Committee a list of agenda items to be discussed. Those items usually include the annual reports of the International Law Commission, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the Ad Hoc Committee established by Resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 on Terrorism, the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization and the Host Country Committee, as well as the item Measures to Eliminate International terrorism.[4] Following a formal discussion and the negotiation of any proposals, any recommendation adopted by the Sixth Committee is then submitted to the Plenary of the General Assembly for its final adoption. If a particular issue is of great technical complexity, the Sixth Committee may refer it to the International Law Commission or it may create a special subsidiary body to discuss it.[5] The Sixth Committee follows a "mixed decision-making rule, where consensus is preferred but were a vote is still possible,"[6] that is, that while the Committee may take its decisions by voting, most resolutions are adopted though without a formal vote, by acclamation, unanimity, or consensus.

Treaties and resolutions negotiated at the Sixth Committee

The following treaties and resolutions have been negotiated, as a whole or in part, at the Sixth Committee:

Since 2000 the Sixth Committee has been elaborating a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to complement the existing counter-terrorism instruments. That proposed treaty has not yet been adopted.

See also


  1. ^ The Charter of the United Nations: a commentary, (München: C. H. Beck Verlag, 1995), pp. 265 – 266; Paul C. Szasz, The Security Council Starts Legislating, 96 American Journal of International Law, (2002) p. 901.
  2. ^ United Nations General Assembly Rules of Procedure, art. 98; Alan Boyle and Christine Chinkin, The Making of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) pp. 116 – 117.
  3. ^ United Nations General Assembly Rules of Procedure, arts. 105-106; Robbie Sabel, Procedures at International Conferences, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) pp. 73-95.
  4. ^ https://www.un.org/ga/sixth/
  5. ^ Herbert W. Briggs, The International Law Commission (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1965); Alan Boyle and Christine Chinkin, The Making of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) p. 170.
  6. ^ C.F. Diaz-Paniagua, Negotiating terrorism: The negotiation dynamics of four UN counter-terrorism treaties, 1997-2005, City University of New York (2008) p. 37.

External links

  • Official website
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