International Associations Statutes Series

Draft Convention on Facilitating Activity of International NGOs

G P Speeckaert

By G P Speeckaert, Union of International Associations

Appendix 4.10 of the International Associations Statutes Series vol 1, UIA eds (1988)

In the light of earlier proposals and further consultations with international NGOs in Brussels, Geneva, London, New York and Paris, a draft convention was prepared by the Union of International Associations aiming to facilitate the activity of international non-governmental organizations. The draft was transmitted to the Director-General of UNESCO with the request that it be examined to determine whether it could be used, following further amendments, as the basis of a Convention or Recommendation which could be adopted by Member States on the occasion of the UNESCO General Conference.

UNESCO submitted the question to the Administrative Committee on Coordination (of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations) which examined the matter at its 29th and 30th Sessions (October 1959 and October 1960). The conclusion was that there was little possibility of arriving at general acceptance of a convention of this kind by member states, although some countries agreed to study the matters further. On the occasion of the 6th Conference of International Organizations for the Joint Study of Activities Planned in the Field of Agriculture in Europe (Paris, 1960), convened by FAO, a resolution was unaimously adopted. It recalled the concern expressed at the 5th Conference on the subject of obtaining legal status for international non-governmental organizations and requested FAO to inform the Administrative Committee on Coordination of its support for the draft Convention submitted to UNESCO. No further action was taken by the ACC or UNESCO. The text of the draft submitted to UNESCO is as follows (1).

Draft Convention aiming at facilitating the work of international non-governmental organizations

The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations;

Recognizing that useful work is carried out by international non-governmental organizations;

Taking into account the fact that, in addition to activities relating to the achievement of their own aims, a large number of international non-governmental organizations undertake many supplementary services of consultation and publicity benefiting inter-governmental organizations;

Considering that, in contrast to the status and operating facilities granted to inter-governmental organizations through international conventions, international non-governmental organizations are still in an uncertain juridical position and their international activities are often impeded by legal and administrative difficulties;

Eager to permit their access to more favourable legal status, thus facilitating their operations;

Desiring to bear witness in a practical way to the appreciation that Governments have for the value of international non-governmental organizations' contributions to the work of international co-operation and of rapprochement between peoples;

Affirming its will to respect fully the necessary independence of international non-governmental organizations;

Adopts this ........ day of .... 196., the following Convention:

Art. 1

The contracting States undertake to grant the benefits laid down in the present Convention to any international non-governmental organization which fulfils the following conditions:

(a) is an association of persons and/or associations, composed of representatives belonging to at least six countries;

(b) has an international and non-commercial aim;

(c) has an international activity;

(d) has an internationally composed administration and a permanent secretariat;

(e) derives its funds substantially from not only one country;

(f) either has its activities recognized in one of the contracting States or enjoys consultative status with an inter-governmental institution;

(g) has activities in harmony with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(h) in case of doubt, has been recognized as an international non-governmental organization by the Commission referred to in [Article IX.]

Art. II

The organizations referred to in [Article I] shall enjoy in the territories of the Contracting States such rights as are accorded them in the country or countries in which they have been constituted. Nevertheless, each Contracting State may limit such rights to those granted within its territory to the most favoured category of organizations of the same character. Contracting States reserve the power to grant more favorable treatment to the organizations referred to in [Article I] than may follow from the preceding undertaking.

Art. III

Within the territory of each Contracting Party such organizations shall be allowed the most favorable treatment allowed to national non-profit making organizations under common law, in particular as regards carrying on their activity, collecting subscriptions, the acquisition and ownership of real and personal property to the extent required for their operations, the acceptance of gifts and legacies and as regards taxation.

Art. IV

Contracting States shall endeavour to facilitate to the maximum the operations and activities of organizations referred to in [Article I]. They will, in particular, give specially favorable consideration to requests for the issue of passports, visas and foreign currency to the organizations' staff or delegates when travelling on duty or to their members or representatives appointed to attend meetings they are organizing or which are taking place under the auspices of the United Nations, or other inter-governmental organizations.

Art. V

The Contracting States shall endeavour to allow the organizations referred to in [Article I] to enjoy the most liberal procedures, at as favorable a rate of exchange as possible, for the transfer from one country to another and for the free utilization of subscriptions and other funds belonging to them and intended solely to cover their operating expenses and the financing of their activity.

This provision shall also apply to a transfer of funds necessitated by the termination of the activity of such organization in the territory of one of the Contracting States.

Art. VI

Contracting States shall endeavour to exempt organizations referred to in [Article I] from such restrictions relating to foreign labour as are laid down in their national laws and to avoid double taxation of foreign personnel.

Art. VII

The benefit of the facilities provided for in the following international Conventions drawn up by Unesco may be extended to theOrganizations referred to in [Article I].

  • agreement on the importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials,
  • agreement aiming at facilitating the circulation of audio-visual material of an educational, scientific and cultural character,
  • international instrument relating to international circulation of persons,
  • international convention on the international exchange of publications,
  • international convention on copyright.


Each Contracting State shall send a list of international non-governmental organizations recognized by such State to Unesco and to the Union of International Associations, which is responsible for maintaining a Register of such organizations. The inter-governmental institutions shall send a list of organizations to which they have granted consultative status.

Art. IX

A Commission shall be set up through the Union of International Associations to check whether organizations recognized by a Contracting State conform to the conditions listed in [Article I].

It shall be coomposed of fifteen persons, from at least seven different countries, chosen by the Executive Council of the Union of International Associations in agreement with Unesco.

Each inter-governmental institution which has establish official relations with international non-governmental organizations shall have the right to send observers.

The Commission shall itself draw up rules of procedures. An affirmative vote shall require a two-thirds majority of votes cast.

Art. X

The list of organizations recognized as conforming to the conditions laid down in [Article I] shall be transmitted by the Union of International Associations to Unesco and to each Contracting State, as well as subsequent additions and suppressions.

Art. XI

Contracting States shall pass this list and such addenda to the competent national authorities, in order that the organizations may be granted the best possible treatment compatible with legislation in force, concerning the movement of persons, the employment of foreign labour, the transmission of documents by post, the transfer of capital etc.

Art. XII

Concerning complaints, arbitration, appeals, authority with powers of decision, sanctions....

Art. XIII and following

Customary provisions concerning deposit, ratification and denunciation of the Convention....

Projet de convention visant à faciliter l'activité des organisations internationales non gouvernementales

La Conférence Générale de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'Education, la Science et la Culture, réunie...

Reconnaissant que les organisations internationales non gouvernementales exercent une activité utile;

Tenant compte du fait qu'à celles propres à la réalisation de leurs objectifs, maintes organisations internationales non gouvernementales joignent de multiples prestations de consultation et d'information au bénéfice des organisations intergouvernementales;

Constatant que comparativement aux statuts et facilités de travail accordés aux organisations intergouvernementales par voie de conventions internationales, les organisations internationales non gouvernementales se trouvent dans une situation juridique encore incertaine et que des difficultés légales et administratives entravent souvent leurs activités internationales;

Soucieux de permettre leur accès à un régime juridique plus favorable et de faciliter ainsi leur fonctionnement;

Désirant témoigner d'une façon concrète de la compréhension qu'ont les Gouvernements de la valeur de la contribution apportée par les organisations internationales non gouvernementale à l'oeuvre de la coopération internationale et du rapprochement entre les peuples;

Affirmant sa volonté de respecter pleinement l'indépendance nécessaire des organisations internationales non gouvernementales;

Adopte ce jour de................196..., la présente Convention:

Art. 1

Les Etats adhérents s'engagent à accorder le bénéfice des dispositions de la présente Convention aux organisations internationales non gouvernementales répondant aux conditions suivantes:

(a) être un groupement de personnes ou d'associations et composé de représentants appartenant au moins à six pays;

(b) avoir un but international et non commercial;

(c) avoir une activité internationale;

(d) avoir des organes directeurs de composition internationale et un secrétariat permanent;

(e) avoir un financement qui ne soit pas assuré essentiellement par un pays seulement;

(f) bénéficier ou de la reconnaissance de son activité dans un des Etats adhérents ou des arrangements consultatifs auprès d'une institution intergouvernementale;

(g) avoir une activité en harmonie avec les principes de la Charte des Nations Unies et de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l'Homme;

(h) en cas de contestation, avoir été reconnue comme organisation internationale non gouvernementale, par la Commission prévue à l'article IX.

Art. II

Les organisations visées à l'article 1er jouissent sur les territoires des Etats Adhérents des droits qui leur sont reconnus dans le pays ou elles ont été constituées. Néanmoins, chacun des Etats adhérents peut limiter ces droits à ceux qu'il accorde sur son territoire à la catégorie la plus favorisée des organisations de la même nature. Les Etats adhérents se réservent la faculté d'accorder aux organisations visées à l'article 1 un traitement plus avantageux que celui qui résulte de l'engagement précédent.

Art. III

Elles recevront sur le territoire de chaque Partie contractante le bénéfice du traitement de droit commun le plus favorable, accordé aux associations nationales à but non lucratif, notamment en ce qui concerne l'exercice de leur activité, la perception des cotisations, l'acquisition et la possession des biens meubles et immeubles dans la mesure correspondant au fonctionnement des organisations, le bénéfice des dons et legs et les impositions fiscales.

Art. IV

Les Etats adhérents s'efforceront de faciliter, dans la mesure du possible, le fonctionnement et l'activité des organisations visées à l'Article 1er. Ils examineront, en particulier, avec une faveur spéciale, toute demande tendant notamment à la délivrance des passeports, de visas et de devises, à l'occasion des voyages qui seraient entrepris par le personnel ou les délégués des organisations en cause pour les besoins du service ou par leurs membres ou représentants désignés pour assister aux réunions qu'elles organiseront ou qui seront organisées sous les auspices des Nations Unies ou d'une autre institution intergouvernementale.

Art. V

Les Etats adhérents s'efforceront de faire bénéficier les organisations visées à l'article 1er, pour le transfert de pays à pays et la libre utilisation des cotisations et autres fonds leur appartenant et destinés exclusivement à couvrir les dépenses de leur fonctionnement et le financement de leur activité, du régime le plus libéral et d'un taux de change aussi avantageux que possible.

Cette disposition s'appliquera également au transfert de fonds nécessité par la cessation de l'activité de ces organisations sur le territoire d'un des Etats adhérents.

Art. VI

Les Etats adhérents s'efforceront de ne pas appliquer aux organisations visées à l'Article 1er les restrictions concernant la main-d'oeuvre étrangère édictée par leur législation et d'éviter à leur personnel étranger la double taxation d'impôts.

Art. VII

Le bénéfice des facilités prévues par les Conventions internationales suivantes établies par l'Unesco pourront être étendues aux organisations visées à l'Article 1er:

  • Accord pour l'importation d'objets de caractère éducatif, scientific et culturel,
  • Accord visant à faciliter la circulation du matériel visuel et auditif de caractère éducatif, scientifique et culturel,
  • Instrument international relatif à la circulation internationale des personnes,
  • Convention internationale concernant les échanges internationaux et publications,
  • Convention internationale sur le droit d'auteur.


Chaque Etat adhérent communiquera la liste des organisations internationales non gouvernementales reconnues par lui, à l'Unesco, ainsi qu'à l'Union des Associations Internationales qui est chargée d'en tenir un Registre. Les Institutions Intergouvernementales communiqueront la liste des Organisations bénéficiant d'arrrangements consultatifs auprès d'elles.

Art. IX

Une Commission sera créée par les soins de l'Union des Associations Internationales, en vue de vérifier si les organisations reconnues dans un Etat adhérent répondent aux autres conditions énumérées à l'Article 1er.

Elle sera composée de quinze personnalités de sept pays différents au moins, choisies par le Comité de Direction de l'Union des Associations Internationales, avec l'accord de l'Unesco.

Peuvent y participer de droit, comme observateur, un représentant de chacune des Institutions intergouvernementales qui ont établi des relations officielles avec les organisations internationales non gouvernementales.

La Commission établira elle-même son règlement de procédure. Les votes seront pris à la majorité des 2/3 des voix exprimées.

Art. X

La liste des organisations reconnues comme répondant aux conditions visées à l'Article 1er sera transmise par l'Union des Associations Internationales à l'Unesco et à chaque Etat adhérent, de même que les additions et suppressions qui y seront apportées par la suite.

Art. XI

Les Etats adhérents communiqueront cette liste et ces addenda aux autorités nationales compétentes, afin qu'en ce qui concerne la circulation des personnes, l'emploi de la main-d'oeuvre étrangère, la transmission postale des documents, les transferts de capitaux, etc.. leur soit réservé le meilleur régime compatible avec la législation en vigueur.

Art. XII

Concernant les plaintes, arbitrage, recours, instance ayant le pouvoir de décisions, sanctions.

Art. XIII et suivants

Contenant les précisions habituelles concernant le dépôt, la ratification et la dénomination de la Convention.


Article VIII requires states to send a list of recognized international NGOs to UNESCO and to the Union of International Associations which is held responsible for maintaining a register of such organizations. In Article XIX]a Commission is set up through the UIA in agreement with UNESCO. Rodgers points out that since states have only indirect control over the composition of the Commission it is doubtful whether they would be willing to accept such a system. Other possibilities had been considered, including a tri-partite Commission composed of international NGOs, intergovernmental organizations and representatives of states. A further difficulty lies in the fact that individual international NGOs might not give the required support to the draft since it would place the UIA-UNESCO Commission in judgement over them. (2, p. 140)

Rodgers points out that consideration had also been given at one of the preliminary meetings to the possibility that the United Nations should sponsor the treaty instead of UNESCO. The minutes state that: ["...On this point participants were in general agreement with the views already expressed unofficially by some members of the United Nations Secretariat, that is to say, that the United Nations procedure would be very lengthy and that it would be better to introduce the project through UNESCO."] (2, p. 139)


1. Union of International Associations. Projet de convention / Draft convention. [International Associations], 11, 1959, July, pp. 496-498 (French), pp. 510-513 (English).

2. Raymond Spencer Rodgers. Facilitation Problems of International Associations. Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1960.