Who represents Member States in the United Nations?
Last Updated: Apr 02, 2024     Views: 8320

Member States select people to represent them at United Nations meetings and conferences. The individuals selected present credentials to the UN to show that they are legitimate representatives of their country. The credentials are issued by the Head of State or Government or by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The credentials are considered by the UN body to which the credentials are submitted, in accordance with its rules of procedure.

Permanent Representatives are ambassadors appointed by their state or government to represent the country at UN headquarters. They are the head of the Permanent Mission of their country to the United Nations. The Permanent Mission usually has a staff, including a Deputy Permanent Representative, who also attend meetings and may have specialized roles, such as working on the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly, or as advisor on political affairs. Some Member States maintain large permanent missions, while others may have a smaller delegation to the UN. View the current Blue Books online for information about the Permanent Missions to the UN in New York, Geneva and Vienna.

The General Assembly usually adopts a resolution on the report of the Credentials Committee each session. The Credentials Committee receives a memorandum by the Secretary-General concerning the credentials of representatives of Member States. The memorandum of the Secretary-General is not issued as a public document. The meetings of the Credentials Committee are closed and no meeting records are issued. The report of the Credentials Committee contains information about the membership and chair of the committee, as well as the recommendation of the Credentials Committee to the plenary and a concise summary of any positions stated in the meetings. Rules 27-29 of the General Assembly Rules of Procedure concern credentials. According to A/RES/396 (V) of 14 December 1950, the attitude adopted by the General Assembly on questions of representation "should be taken into account in other organs of the United Nations and in the specialized agencies".

The Secretary-General submits a report to the Security Council each time new credentials are presented by a member of the Council. Rules 13-17 of the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council concern representation and credentials.

Credentials for other meetings are submitted in accordance with the rules of procedure of the body.

Questions related to the representatives of UN Member States have been addressed over time. Some resources for researching this topic include:

  • "Recognition by the United Nations of the representation of a Member State”, A/RES/396 (V) of 14 December 1950

  • "The Practice of the United Nations, the specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency concerning their status, privileges and immunities: study prepared by the Secretariat”, A/CN.4/L.118 and Add.1-2 in Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1967, vol. 2, page 154

  • “Practice of the General Assembly with regard to the examination of credentials submitted by Member States”, legal opinion of the Secretariat in UN Juridical Yearbook 1985, page 128

  • “Practice of the United Nations in cases of challenged representation of a Member State—General Assembly resolution 396 (V) of 14 December 1950”, legal opinion of the Secretariat in UN Juridical Yearbook 1997, page 465

  • Rules of procedure of the General Assembly : comments on some procedural practices”, prepared by the Secretariat in response to A/RES/60/286, 2006, contains additional legal opinions on the topics of representation and credentials

  • “Selected legal opinions of the secretariats of the United Nations and related intergovernmental organizations”, Chapter VI of the UN Juridical Yearbook, can be searched online for additional legal opinions on this topic.

  • Repertory of Practice of UN Organs, Article 9

  • Select non-UN Sources:

    • Denza, Eileen. Diplomatic Law: Commentary on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. (LSA 341.7 D417ac and online by subscription)

    • Higgins, Rosalyn, Philippa Webb, Dapo Akande, Sandesh Sivakumaran, James Sloan, and Lassa F. L. Oppenheim. Oppenheim's International Law: United Nations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, sections 8.71-8.80 concern representation (Ref 341.13 0621 and online by subscription)

    • Salmon, Jean. "Credentials", Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Oxford University Press, 2008 (LSA 341(03) E562 and online by subscription)

    • Salmon, Jean. "Representatives of States in International Relations", Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Oxford University Press, 2007 (LSA 341(03) E562 and online by subscription)

    • Schermers, Henry G, and Niels Blokker. International Institutional Law: Unity Within Diversity, 6th rev. ed. Leiden: Brill Nijhoff, 2018, sections 239-264 concern representation and credentials. (LSA 341.1 S328 and online by subscription)

    • Sievers, Loraine, and Sam Daws. The Procedure of the UN Security Council. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, pages 152-157 concern credentials (Ref 341.13 B1593 and online by subscription)

    • Simma, Bruno, and Nikolai Wessendorf. The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.


Disclaimer: answers are prepared by library staff using resources available at the time of writing. This site may include links and references to third-party databases, websites, books and articles, this does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.


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