Appendix 5.1 of the International Associations Statutes Series vol 1, UIA eds (1988)
On 21 November 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies (which came into force on 2 December 1948). By 31 December 1982 the Convention had been signed by 91 countries. The text is reproduced below (1). This Convention, like that of the Convention on the Priviliges and Immunities of the United Nations (1946), has been frequently used since then as a model whenever a new intergovernmental organization is created and is invited by a government to establish the headquarters in its territory. This is especially true of smaller intergovernmental bodies, which have to define a "headquarters agreement" with the state in question (possibly as an annex to their constitution). In other cases, custom has led to the widespread adoption of many of the United Nations practices as summarized in that Convention. These were to a large extent historically based on diplomatic privileges, although the traditional diplomatic principle of reciprocity had to be modified in the case of representatives accredited to an organization, rather than to a host state. (2, p.35-38)
The creation of regional intergovernmental organizations has also given rise to treaties concerning privileges and immunities, especially in the case of the Council of Europe (3), the Organization of American States, and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (4). All have articles reminiscent of the United Nations model. The Council of Europe is of special interest in that it goes even further than the United Nations model.
Many of the articles of the Convention are indicative of points which need to be borne in mind when clarifying the relationship between an international NGO and the government in whose territory the headquarters are located, as may be seen by comparison of the articles of the different draft conventions in [Appendix 4]. Of special interest are those articles in this Convention covering points which are either ignored or treated in a summary fashion in such proposals.
Convention on the privileges and immunities on the specialized agencies
Approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 21 November 1947
[Whereas] the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted on 13 February 1946 a resolution contemplating the unification as far as possible of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the United Nations and by the various specialized agencies; and
[Whereas] consultations concerning the implementation of the aforesaid resolution have taken place between the United Nations and the specialized agencies;
[Consequently,] by resolution 179(II) adopted on 21 November 1947, the General Assembly has approved the following Convention, which is submitted to the specialized agencies for acceptance and to every Member of the United Nations and to every other State member of one or more of the specialized agencies for accession.
Art. I: Definitions and scope
In this Convention:
(i) The words "standard clauses" refer to the provisions of articles II to IX.
(ii) The words "specialized agencies" mean:
(a) The International Labour Organization;
(b) The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations;
(c) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization;
(d) The International Civil Aviation Organization;
(e) The International Monetary Fund;
(f) The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development;
(g) The World Health Organization;
(h) The Universal Postal Union;
(i) The International Telecommunications Union; and
(j) Any other Agency in relationship with the United Nations in accordance with Articles 57 and 63 of the Charter.
(iii) The word "Convention" means, in relation to any particular specialized agency, the standard clauses as modified by the final (or revised) text of the annex transmitted by that agency in accordance with sections 36 and 38.
(iv) For the purposes of article III, the words "property and assets" shall also include property and funds administered by a specialized agency in furtherance of its constitutional functions.
(v) For the purposes of articles V and VII, the expression "representatives of members" shall be deemed to include all representatives; alternatives, advisers, technical experts and secretaries of delegations.
(vi) In sections 13, 14, 15 and 25, the expression "meetings convened by a specialized agency" means meetings: (1) of its assembly and of its executive body (however designated), and (2) commission provided for in its constitution; (3) of any international conference convened by it; and (4) of any committee of any of these bodies.
(vii) The term "executive head" means the [principal executive official] of the specialized agency in question, whether designated "Director-General" or otherwise.
Each State party to this Convention in respect of any specialized agency to which this Convention has become applicable in accordance with section 37 shall accord to, or in connexion with, that agency the privileges and immunities set forth in the standard clauses on the conditions specified therein, subject to any modification of those clauses contained in the provisions of the final (or revised) annex relating to that agency and transmitted in accordance with sections 36 or 38.
Art. II: Juridical personality
The specialized agencies shall possess juridical personality. They shall have the capacity (a) to contract, (b) to acquire and dispose of immovable and movable property, (c) to institute legal proceedings.
Art. III: Property, funds and assets
The specialized agencies, their property and assets, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process except in so far as in any particular case they have expressly waived their immunity. It is however, understood that no waiver of immunity shall extend to any measure of execution.
The premises of the specialized agencies shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the specialized agencies, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.
The archives of the specialized agencies, and in general all documents belonging to them or held by them, shall be inviolable, wherever located.
Without being restricted by financial controls, regulations or moratoria of any kind:
(a) The specialized agencies may hold funds, gold or currency of any kind and operate accounts in any currency;
(b) The specialized agencies may freely transfer their funds, gold or currency from one country to another or within any country and convert any currency held by them into any other country.
Each specialized agency shall, in exercising its rights under section 7 above, pay due regard to any representations made by the Government of any State party to this Convention in so far as it is considered that effect can be given to such representations without detriment to the interests of the agency.
The specialized agencies, their assets, income and other property shall be:
(a) Exempt from all direct taxes; it is understood, however, that the specialized agencies will not claim exemption from taxes which are, in fact, no more than charges for public utility services;
(b) Exempt from customs duties and prohibitions and restrictions on imports and exports in respect of articles imported or exported by the specialized agencies for their official use; it is understood, however, that articles imported under such exemption will not be sold in the country into which they were imported except under conditions agreed to with the Government of that country;
(c) Exempt from duties and prohibitions and restrictions on imports and exports in respect of their publications.
While the specialized agencies will not, as a general rule, claim exemption from excise duties and from taxes on the sale of movable and immovable property which form part of the price to be paid, nevertheless when the specialized agencies are making important purchases for official use of property on which such duties and taxes have been charged or are chargeable, States parties to this Convention will, whenever possible, make appropriate administrative arrangements for the remission or return of the amount of duty or tax.
Art. IV: Facilities in respect of communications
Each specialized agency shall enjoy, in the territory of each State party to this Convention in respect of that agency, for its official communications, treatment not less favourable than that accorded by the Government of such State to any other Government, including the latter's diplomatic mission in the matter of priorities, rates and taxes on mails cables, telegrams, radiograms, telephotos, telephone and other communications, and press rates for information to the press and radio.
No censorship shall be applied to the official correspondence and other official communications of the specialized agencies.
The specialized agencies shall have the right to use codes and to dispatch and receive correspondence by courier or in sealed bags, which shall have the same immunities and privileges as diplomatic couriers and bags.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the adoption of appropriate security precautions to be determined by agreement between a State party to this Convention and a specialized agency.
Art. V: Representatives of members
Representatives of members at meetings convened by a specialized agency shall, while exercising their functions and during their journeys to and from the place of meeting, enjoy the following privileges and immunities:
(a) Immunity from personal arrest or detention and from seizure of their personal baggage, and in respect of words spoken or written and all acts done by them in their official capacity, immunity from legal process of every kind;
(b) Inviolability for all papers and documents;
(c) The right to use codes and to receive papers or correspondence by courier or in sealed bags;
(d) Exemption in respect of themselves and their spouses from immigration restrictions, aliens' registration or national service obligations in the State which they are visiting or through which they are passing in the exercise of their functions;
(e) The same facilities in respect of currency or exchange restrictions as are accorded to representatives of foreign Governments on temporary official missions;
(f) The same immunities and facilities in respect of their personal baggage as are accorded to members of comparable rank of diplomatic mission.
In order to secure for the representatives of members of the specialized agencies at meeting convened by them complete freedom of speech and complete independence in the discharge of their duties, the immunity from legal process in respect of words spoken or written and all acts done by them in discharging their duties shall continue to be accorded, notwithstanding that the persons concerned are no longer engaged in the discharge of such duties.
Where the incidence of any form of taxation depends upon residence, periods during which the representatives of members of the specialized agencies at meetings convened by them are present in a member State for the discharge of their duties shall not be considered as periods of residence.
Privileges and immunities are accorded to the representatives of members, not for the personal benefit of the individuals themselves, but in order to safeguard the independent exercise of their functions in connexion with the specialized agencies. Consequently, a member not only has the right but is under a duty to waive the immunity of its representatives in any case where, in the opinion of the member, the immunity would impede the course of justice, and where it can be waived without prejudice to the purpose for which the immunity is accorded.
The provisions of sections 13, 14 and 15 are not applicable in relation to the authorities of a State in which the person is a national or of which he is or has been a representative.
Art. VI: Officials
Each specialized agency will specify the categories of officials to which the provisions of this article and of article VIII shall apply. It shall communicate them to the Governments of all States parties to this Convention in respect of that agency and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The names of the officials included in these categories shall from time to time be made known to the above-mentioned Governments.
Officials of the specialized agencies shall:
(a) Be immune from legal process in respect of words spoken or written and in all acts performed by them in their official capacity;
(b) Enjoy the same exemptions from taxation in respect of the salaries and emoluments paid to them by the specialized agencies and on the same conditions as are enjoyed by officials of the United Nations.
(c) Be immune, together with their spouses and relatives dependent on them, from immigration restrictions and alien registrations;
(d) Be accorded the same privileges in respect of exchange facilities as are accorded to officials of comparable rank of diplomatic missions;
(e) Be given, together with their spouses and relatives dependent on them, the same repatriation facilities in time of international crises as officials of comparable rank of diplomatic missions;
(f) Have the right to import free of duty their furniture and effects at the time of first taking up their post in the country in question.
The officials of the specialized agencies shall be exempt form national service obligations, provided that, in relation to the State of which they are nationals, such exemption shall be confined to officials of the specialized agencies whose names have, by reason of their duties, been placed upon a list compiled by the executive head of the specialized agency and approved by the State concerned.
Should other officials of specialized agencies be called up for national service, the State concerned shall, at the request of the specialized agency concerned, grant such temporary deferments in the call-up of such officials as may be necessary to avoid interruption in the continuation of essential work.
In addition to the immunities and privileges specified in sections 19 and 20, the executive head of each specialized agency, including any official acting on his behalf during his absence form duty, shall be accorded in respect of himself, his spouse and minor children, the privileges and immunities, exemptions and facilities accorded to diplomatic envoys, in accordance with international law.
Privileges and immunities are granted to officials in the interests of the specialized agencies only and not for the personal benefit of the individuals themselves. Each specialized agency shall have the right and duty to waive the immunity of any official in any case where, in its opinion, the immunity would impede the course of justice and can be waived without prejudice to the interests of the specialized agency.
Each specialized agency shall co-operate at all times with the appropriate authorities of member States to facilitate the proper administration of justice, secure the observance of police regulations and prevent the occurrence of any abuses in connexion with the privileges, immunities and facilities mentioned in this article.
Art. VII: Abuses of privilige
If any State party to this Convention considers that there has been an abuse of a privilege or immunity conferred by this Convention, consultations shall be held between that State and the specialized agency concerned to determine whether any such abuse has occurred and, if so, to attempt to ensure that no repetition occurs. If such consultations fail to achieve a result satisfactory to the State and the specialized agency concerned, the question of whether an abuse of a privilege or immunity has occurred shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice in accordance with section 32. If the International Court of Justice finds that such an abuse has occurred, the State party to this convention affected by such abuse shall have the right, after notification to the specialized agency in question, to withhold from the specialized agency concerned the benefits of the privilege or immunity so abused.
1. Representatives of members at meetings convened by specialized agencies, while exercising their functions and during their journeys to and from the place of meeting, and officials within the meaning of section 18, shall not be required by the territorial authorities to leave the country in which they are performing their functions on account of any activities by them in their official capacity. In the case, however, of abuse of privileges of residence committed by any such person in activities in that country outside his official functions, he may be required to leave by the Government of that country provided that:
2. (I) Representatives of members, or persons who are entitled to diplomatic immunity under section 21, shall not be required to leave the country otherwise than in accordance with the diplomatic procedure applicable to diplomatic envoys accredited to that country.
(II) In the case of an official to whom section 21 is not applicable, no order to leave the country shall be issued other than with the approval of the Foreign Minister of the country in question, and such approval shall be given only after consultation with the executive head of the specialized agency concerned; and, if expulsion proceedings are taken against an official, the executive head of the specialized agency shall have the right to appear in such proceedings on behalf of the person against whom they are instituted.
Art. VIII: Laissez-passer
Officials of the specialized agencies shall be entitled to use the United Nations [laissez-passer] in conformity with administrative arrangements to be concluded between the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the competent authorities of the specialized agencies, to which agencies special powers to issue [laissez-passer] may be delegated. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall notify each State party to this Convention of each administrative arrangements so concluded.
States parties to this Convention shall recognize and accept the United Nations laissez-passer issued to officials of the specialized agencies as valid travel documents.
Applications for visas, where required, from officials of specialized agencies holding United Nations [laissez-passer], when accompanied by a certificate that they are travelling on the business of a specialized agency, shall be dealt with as speedily as possible. In addition, such persons shall be granted facilities for speedy travel.
Similar facilities to those specified in section 28 shall be accorded to experts and other persons who, though not the holders of United Nations laissez-passer have a certificate that they are travelling on the business of a specialized agency.
The executive heads, assistant executive heads, heads of departments and other officials of a rank not lower than head of department of the specialized agencies, travelling on United Nations [laissez-passer] on the business of the specialized agencies, shall be granted the same facilities for travel as are accorded to officials of comparable rank in diplomatic missions.
Art. IX: Settlement of disputes
Each specialized agency shall make provision for appropriate modes of settlement of:
(a) Disputes arising out of contracts or other disputes of private character to which the specialized agency is a party;
(b) Disputes involving any official of a specialized agency who by reason of his official position enjoys immunity, if immunity has not been waived in accordance with the provisions of section 22.
All differences arising out of the interpretation or application of the present Convention shall be referred to the International Court of Justice unless in any case it is agreed by the parties to have recourse another mode of settlement. If a difference arises between one of the specialized agencies on the one had, and a member on the other had, a request shall be made for an advisory opinion on any legal question involved in accordance with Article 96 of the Charter and Article 65 of the Statute of the Court and the relevant provisions of the agreements concluded between the United Nations and the specialized agency concerned. The opinion given by the Court shall be accepted as decisive by the parties.
Art. X: Annexes and application to individual specialized agencies
In their application to each specialized agency, the standard clauses shall operate subject to any modification set forth in the final (or revised) text of the annex relating to that agency, as provided in sections 36 and 38.
The provisions of the Convention in relation to any specialized agency must be interpreted in the light of the functions with which that agency is entrusted by its constitutional instrument.
Draft annexes 1 to 9 are recommended to the specialized agencies named therein. In the case of any specialized agency not mentioned by name in section 1, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit to the agency a draft annex recommended by the Economic and Social Council.
The final text of each annex shall be that approved by the specialized agency in question in accordance with its constitutional procedure. A copy of the annex as approved by each specialized agency shall be transmitted by the agency in question to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and shall thereupon replace the draft referred to in section 35.
The present Convention becomes applicable to each specialized agency when it has transmitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations the final text of the relevant annex and has informed him that it accepts the standard clauses, as modified by this annex and undertakes to give effect to sections 8, 18, 22, 23, 24, 31, 32, 42 and 45 (subject to any modification of section 32 which may be found necessary in order to make the final text of the annex consonant with the constitutional instrument of the agency) and any provisions of the annex placing obligations on the agency. The Secretary-General shall communicate to all Members of the United Nations and to other States members of the specialized agencies certified copies of all annexes transmitted to him under this section and of revised annexes transmitted under section 38.
If, after the transmission of a final annex under section 36, any specialized agency approves any amendments thereto in accordance with its constitutional procedure, a revised annex shall be transmitted by it to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The provisions of this Convention shall in no way limit or prejudice the privileges and immunities which have been, or may hereafter be, accorded by any State to any specialized agency by reason of the location in the territory of that State of its headquarters or regional offices. This Convention shall not be deemed to prevent the conclusion between any State party thereto and any specialized agency of supplemental agreements adjusting the provisions of this Convention or extending or curtailing the privileges and immunities thereby granted.
It is understood that the standard clauses, as modified by the final text of an annex sent by a specialized agency to the Secretary-General of the United nations under section 36 (or any revised annex sent under section 38), will be consistent with the provisions of the constitutional instrument then in force of the agency in question, and that if any amendment to that instrument is necessary for the purpose of making the constitutional instrument so consistent, such amendment will have been brought into force in accordance with the constitutional procedure of that agency before the final (or revised) annex is transmitted.
The Convention shall not itself operate so as to abrogate, or derogate from, any provisions of the constitutional instrument of any specialized agency or any rights or obligations which the agency may otherwise have, acquire, or assume.
Art. XI: Final provisions
Accession to this Convention by a Member of the United Nations and (subject to section 42) by any State member of a specialized agency shall be effected by deposit with the Secretary-General of the United Nations of an instrument of accession which shall take effect on the date of its deposit.
Each specialized agency concerned shall communicate the text of this Convention together with the relevant annexes to those of its members which are not Members of the United Nations and shall invite them to accede thereto in respect of that agency by depositing an instrument of accession to this Convention in respect thereof either with the Secretary-General of the United Nations or with the executive head of the specialized agency.
Each State party to this Convention shall indicate in its instrument of accession the specialized agency or agencies in respect of which it undertakes to apply the provisions of this Convention. Each State party to this Convention may by a subsequent written notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations undertake to apply the provisions of this Convention to one or more further specialized agencies. This notification shall take effect on the date of its receipt by the Secretary-General.
This Convention shall enter into force for each State party to this Convention in respect of a specialized agency when it has become applicable to that agency in accordance with section 37 and the Stateparty has undertaken to apply the provisions of the Convention to that agency in accordance with section 43.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall inform all Members of the United Nations, as well as all members of the specialized agencies, and executive heads of the specialized agencies, of the deposit of each instrument of accession received under section 41 and of subsequent notifications received under section 43. The executive head of a specialized agency shall inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the members of the agency concerned of the deposit of any instrument of accession deposited with him under section 42.
It is understood that, when an instrument of accession or a subsequent notification is deposited on behalf of any State, this State will be in a position under its own law to give effect to the terms of this Convention, as modified by the final texts of any annexes relating to the agencies covered by such accessions or notifications.
1. Subject to the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3 of this section, each State party to this Convention undertakes to apply this Convention in respect of each specialized agency covered by its accession or subsequent notification, until such time as a revised convention or annex shall have become applicable to that agency and the said State shall have accepted the revised convention or annex. In the case of a revised annex, the acceptance of States shall be by a notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which shall take effect on the date of its receipt by the Secretary-General.
2. Each State party to this Convention, however, which is not, or has ceased to be, a member of a specialized agency, may address a written notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the executive head of the agency concerned to the effect that it intends to withhold from that agency the benefits of this Convention as from a specified date, which shall not be earlier than three months from the date of receipt of the notification.
3. Each State party to this Convention may withhold the benefit of this Convention from any specialized agency which ceases to be in relationship with the United Nations.
4. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall inform all members States parties to this Convention of any notification transmitted to him under the provisions of this section.
At the request of one-third of the States parties to this Convention, the Secretary-General of the United Nations will convene a conference with a view to its revision.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit copies of this Convention to each specialized agency and to the Government of each Member of the United Nations.
1. Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies / Convention sur les privilèges et immunités des Institutions specialisées. United Nations Treaty Series 1/521 (Approved 21 November 1947)
2. Raymond Spencer Rodgers. Facilitation Problems of International Associations. Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1960
3. General Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe / Accord général sur les privilèges et immunités du Conseil de l'Europe. European Treaty Series ETS 2 (Signed Paris, 2 Sept 1949), together with Supplementary Agreement (ETS 4, signed 1950), Protocols (ETS 10, signed 1952; ETS 28, signed 1959; ETS 36, signed 1961)
4. Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Organization of American States. Done 15 May 1949.
5. Agreement concerning the Legal Status and Privileges of International Specialized Organizations for Economic Cooperation (translated from Russian original). United Nations Treaty Series 1/9343 (Signed Warsaw, 9 Sept 1966), also United Nations Treaty Series 1/21888 (Signed Budapest, 5 Dec 1980)