We all heard of the United Nations and its key terms. But, most of us are not fully aware of the definition of key UN terms. Given below is the list of key UN terms with their definitions.
Accede/Accession: Accession is an act by which a State (country) signifies its agreement to be legally bound by the terms of a particular treaty. It has the same legal effect as ratification, but is not preceded by an act of signature. The formal procedure for accession varies according to the national legislative requirements of the State. To accede to a human rights treaty, the appropriate national organ of a State – Parliament, Senate, the Crown, Head of State or Government, or a combination of these – follows its domestic approval procedures and makes a formal decision to be a party to the treaty. Then, the instrument of accession, a formal sealed letter referring to the decision and signed by the State’s responsible authority, is prepared and deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General in New York.
Adoption: Adoption is the formal act by which the form and content of a proposed treaty text are established. Treaties negotiated within an international organization like the United Nations are usually adopted by a resolution of a representative organ of the organization whose membership more or less corresponds to the potential participation in the treaty in question (the United Nations General Assembly, for example).
Article: International legal instruments generally include a Preamble (stating the reasons for and underlying understandings of the drafters and adopters of the instrument) and a series of ‘articles’, which lay out the obligations of those States choosing to be bound by it and procedural matters involving the treaty. The term ‘provision’ is often used as an alternative when referring to the content of particular articles.
Charter: The term ‘charter’ is used for particularly formal and solemn instruments, such as the treaty founding an international organization like the United Nations (‘The Charter of the United Nations’).
Convention: A ‘convention’ is a formal agreement between States. The generic term ‘convention’ is thus synonymous with the generic term ‘treaty’. Conventions are normally open for participation by the international community as a whole, or by a large number of States. Usually the instruments negotiated under the auspices of an international organization are entitled conventions (e.g. the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989).
Declaration: The term ‘declaration’ is used for various international instruments. International human rights declarations are not legally binding; the term is often deliberately chosen to indicate that the parties do not intend to create binding obligations but merely want to declare certain aspirations. However, while the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights for example was not originally intended to have binding force, its provisions have since gained binding character as customary law.
Deposit: After a treaty has been concluded, the written instruments which provide formal evidence of a State’s consent to be bound are placed in the custody of a depository. The texts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols designated the Secretary-General of the United Nations as their depository. The depository must accept all notifications and documents related to the treaty, examine whether all formal requirements are met, deposit them, register the treaty and notify all relevant acts to the parties concerned.
Entry into Force: A treaty does not enter into force when it is adopted. Typically, the provisions of the treaty determine the date on which the treaty enters into force, often at a specified time following its ratification or accession by a fixed number of states. For example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force on 2 September 1990—the 30th day following the deposit of the 20th State’s instrument of ratification or accession. A treaty enters into force for those states which gave the required consent.
Optional Protocol: The term ‘protocol’ is used for an additional legal instrument that complements and add to a treaty. A protocol may be on any topic relevant to the original treaty and is used either to further address something in the original treaty, address a new or emerging concern or add a procedure for the operation and enforcement of the treaty—such as adding an individual complaints procedure. A protocol is ‘optional’ because it is not automatically binding on States that have already ratified the original treaty; States must independently ratify or accede to a protocol.
Ratify/Ratification: ‘Ratification’ is an act by which a State signifies an agreement to be legally bound by the terms of a particular treaty. To ratify a treaty, the State first signs it and then fulfils its own national legislative requirements. Once the appropriate national organ of the country – Parliament, Senate, the Crown, Head of State or Government, or a combination of these – follows domestic constitutional procedures and makes a formal decision to be a party to the treaty. The instrument of ratification, a formal sealed letter referring to the decision and signed by the State’s responsible authority, is then prepared and deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General in New York.
Signature: ‘Signature’ of a treaty is an act by which a State provides a preliminary endorsement of the instrument. Signing does not create a binding legal obligation but does demonstrate the State’s intent to examine the treaty domestically and consider ratifying it. While signing does not commit a State to ratification, it does oblige the State to refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.
State party: A ‘State party’ to a treaty is a country that has ratified or acceded to that particular treaty, and is therefore legally bound by the provisions in the instrument.
Treaty: A ‘treaty’ is a formally concluded and ratified agreement between States. The term is used generically to refer to instruments binding at international law, concluded between international entities (States or organizations). Under the Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties, a treaty must be (1) a binding instrument, which means that the contracting parties intended to create legal rights and duties; (2) concluded by states or international organizations with treaty-making power; (3) governed by international law and (4) in writing.
Source: UNICEF, available at: http://www.unicef.org/crc/files/Definitions.pdf