The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations was adopted by the General Assembly on October 24, 1970, during a commemorative session to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations.
The following statement was made by Mr. Edvard Hambro (Norway), President of the General Assembly, following the adoption of the Declaration: “As a man of law, I am particularly happy to have just announced the adoption of the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. This marks the culmination of many years of effort for the progressive development and codification of the concepts from which basic principles of the Charter are derived. The Assembly will remember that, when we first embarked upon these efforts, many doubted that it would be possible to obtain a result which would be acceptable to all the various political, economic and social systems represented in the United Nations. Today, those doubts have been overcome. In a sense, however, the work has just begun. We have proclaimed the principles; from now on we must strive to make them a living reality in the life of States, because these principles lie at the very heart of peace, justice and progress”.
In the course of the Sixth Committee’s consideration of the item “Future work in the field of the codification and progressive development of international law”, at the sixteenth session of the General Assembly in 1961, twelve delegations put forward a proposal by which the General Assembly would inter alia decide to include a question entitled “Consideration of principles of international law relating to peaceful coexistence of States” in the provisional agenda of its following session, in 1962.
Pursuant to an amendment made at the Sixth Committee, the expression “peaceful coexistence of States” in the twelve power draft resolution was replaced with “friendly relations and co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”. On December 18, 1961, on the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 1686 (XVI), in which it decided to place on the provisional agenda of its seventeenth session the question entitled “Consideration of principles of international law concerning friendly relations and co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”.
At its seventeenth session, following the discussion of the question in the Sixth Committee, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 1815 (XVII) of December 18, 1962, by which it recognised the paramount importance of seven principles of international law concerning friendly relations and co-operation among States and resolved to undertake a study of those principles with a view to their progressive development and codification.
It decided accordingly to place the same item on the provisional agenda of its eighteenth session in order to study four of those principles and to decide what other principles were to be given further consideration at subsequent sessions and the order of their priority. Finally, the Assembly invited Member States to submit in writing any views or suggestions that they may have on this item.
At its eighteenth session, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 1966 (XVIII) of December 16, 1963, by which it decided to establish a Special Committee on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States (also known as “the 1964 Special Committee”) composed of Member States to be appointed by the President of the General Assembly, which would draw up a report containing, for the purpose of the progressive development and codification of the four principles so as to secure their more effective application, the conclusions of its study and its recommendations.
The Special Committee met in Mexico City, from August 27, to October 2, 1964, and its report was considered by the General Assembly in the framework of the Sixth Committee, at its twentieth session, in 1965. In the introduction to its report, the Committee indicated that it had established a Drafting Committee of 14 members entrusted with the task of preparing a text presenting the points of consensus as well as the various proposals and views for which there was support.
By Resolution 2103 (XX) of December 20, 1965, the Assembly took note of the report and decided to reconstitute the Special Committee to complete consideration and elaboration of the seven principles set forth in its Resolution 1815 (XVII), and to submit a comprehensive report on the results of its study to the Assembly at the twenty-first session, with a view to adopt a declaration containing an enunciation of these principles.
From 1966 to 1969, the Special Committee met on annual basis, submitting reports to the General Assembly. From its twenty-first to twenty-fourth sessions, following consideration by the Sixth Committee, the General Assembly took note of these reports and requested the Special Committee to continue its study of the matter.
At the twenty-fourth session, in 1969, the General Assembly took a number of decisions relating to the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, and inter alia invited the Special Committee to expedite its work with a view to facilitating the adoption of an appropriate document by the General Assembly during a commemorative session to be held the following year.
Prior to the 1970 session of the Special Committee, informal consultations were held in Geneva. During the 1970 session, the Special Committee decided to dispense with the general debate which at earlier sessions had preceded the consideration of the principles referred to it. Instead, consultations, which were coordinated by the Chairman of the Special Committee, were held at an informal level. The basis for the consultations was the draft prepared by the Drafting Committee as adopted by the Special Committee in 1969. After considering the outcome reached at the informal meetings, the Drafting Committee adopted a report containing a draft declaration on all seven principles.
Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations
The draft Declaration was considered by the General Assembly at its twenty-fifth session in 1970. The item was once again allocated to the Sixth Committee, which considered it from September 23 to 28, 1970. Following this debate, sixty-four States sponsored a draft resolution, which contained the text of the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations in an annex. The draft resolution was adopted without objection by the Sixth Committee on September 28, 1970.
According to the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations” embraces the right of all peoples “freely to determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development”, as well as the duty of every State “to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter”.
It further added that “the establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State, or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people constitute modes of implementing the right of self-determination”, thus stressing, as the critical issue, the methods of reaching the decision and not the result.