Diplomatic Observers

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Diplomatic Observers


individuals or groups dispatched by a state or by an international organization to observe the work of international conferences, organizations, or specialized agencies or to oversee the implementation of international treaties and the decisions of international organizations.

Diplomatic observers are used when states are interested in the work of certain international conferences, organizations, and specialized agencies of which they are not members. As a rule, they have the right to attend all open sessions and to receive all documentation issued by the conference or organization. Sometimes diplomatic observers are given the right to speak on questions under discussion and to introduce their own proposals. Observers do not vote, do not participate in the selection of internal bodies of conferences or organizations, and do not sign final acts or other documents that have been produced, although their attendance is ordinarily cited in such documents.

A distinction is made between temporary diplomatic observers, sent only for the duration of a given international conference or session of an international organization, and permanent diplomatic observers. In each instance, the conference or organization defines the conditions under which diplomatic observers are allowed to work, as well as the observers’ rights and personal status. For exanple, the charter of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) provides that the council may invite nonmember states to join in the work of its specialized agencies. Conditions under which the representatives of non-member countries may participate in COMECON are determined through individual agreements with these countries.

The practice of establishing permanent diplomatic observer missions was initiated by the League of Nations and was subsequently adopted by the United Nations. Permanent diplomatic observer missions from Switzerland (established in 1946), South Korea (1949), Monaco (1956), and the Vatican (1964) are located in New York. Austria, Italy, Finland, the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, and Japan also had such missions before their admission as UN members. In accordance with established practice, permanent diplomatic observers at the UN may participate in sessions of the General Assembly and its committees and receive UN documentation, but may not speak or vote. Similar opportunities are also available to permanent diplomatic observers at specialized agencies of the UN.

The military observers who oversee and verify agreements among belligerents over a cease-fire, a truce, a troop withdrawal, or a demarcation of positions have special status under the contemporary practice of international relations. These observers function under the direction of an observer control organ, which can be a mixed commission formed by the states that are party to the agreement, an international control commission, or a specially created UN body. The 1973 Paris Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam provided for the creation of a quadripartite joint military commission that included representatives of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the United States, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, and the Saigon administration, as well as for an International Commission of Control and Supervision, consisting of Hungary, Indonesia, Canada, and Poland.

Military observer groups may also be created by decision of the UN Security Council. Their functions relate mainly to observation, factual accounting of incidents, and presentation of reports to the Security Council. Such military observers have been used to observe adherence to armistice conditions in Palestine (1949) and between India and Pakistan (1965).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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