ASIAN-AFRICAN LEGAL CONSULTATIVE ORGANIZATION (AALCO)
The Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO), originally known as the Asian Legal Consultative Committee (ALCC), was constituted on 15 November 1956. It is considered to be a tangible outcome of the historic Bandung Conference, held in Indonesia, in April 1955. Seven Asian States, namely Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, and the United Arab Republic (now Arab Republic of Egypt and Syrian Arab Republic) are the original Member States. Later, in April 1958, in order to include participation of countries of the continent of Africa its name was changed to Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC). At the Fortieth Annual Session, held at the Headquarters of AALCC in New Delhi, in 2001, the name of the Committee was changed to Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO). It might seem to be a minor change in nomenclature. However, it has great symbolic significance reflecting the growing status of the Organization and the place it has secured among the family of international organizations.
B. Statutes and Statutory Rules of the Organization
Initially, AALCO was established as a non-permanent Committee for a term of five years. The five year term was further extended on four occasions until 1981, when at its Colombo Session, it was decided to place the Organization on a permanent footing. That decision necessitated revision of the original Statutes and Statutory Rules, the revised versions of which were adopted in 1987 and 1989 respectively. Alive to keeping the constituent instruments of the Organization in tune with the changing times and newer hopes and aspirations of its Members, the Member States, at the Forty-Third Annual Session of the Organization at Bali, Republic of Indonesia, in June 2004 accorded their unanimous approval to a new and revised Text of Statutes. The new Text of Statutes is in consonance with the constituent instruments of other intergovernmental Organizations. Consequently, the Statutory Rules are also revised.
C. Member States
Forty-seven countries comprising almost all the major States from Asia and Africa are presently the Members of the Organization. These countries are: Arab Republic of Egypt; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; Cameroon; Cyprus; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; The Gambia; Ghana; India; Indonesia; Iraq; Islamic Republic of Iran; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Malaysia; Mauritius; Mongolia; Myanmar; Nepal; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; People’s Republic of China; Qatar; Republic of Korea; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Somalia; South Africa, Sri Lanka; State of Palestine; Sudan; Syria; Tanzania; Thailand; Turkey; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Republic of Yemen.
D. Procedure for Membership
Membership of the Organization is open to all Asian and African States desirous of participating in the Organization in accordance with its Statutes and Statutory Rules (Article 2(3) of the Statutes). Any such State desirous of membership has to address a written communication to the Secretary-General of the AALCO intimating its desire to participate in the Organization and stating its acceptance of the Statutes and Statutory Rules. The communication when received is circulated among the Member Governments with a request for submission of their comments within a period of six weeks. Unless objections are received from not less than one-third of the total membership of the Organization, the State concerned is thereafter declared admitted as a Member State.
E. Purposes and Objectives
The purposes and objectives of the Organization as stipulated in Article 1 of the Statutes is as under:
The basic functions and purposes of the Organization as enlisted above give effect to the way in which subjects/topics were considered by the Organization and formed over the years the Work Programme of AALCO. Thus, there are three ways in which a matter is placed on the Work Programme of AALCO: (a) reference by a Member State; (b) Suo moto initiative of the Secretary-General; and (c) Follow-up of the work of the International Law Commission. In order to carry out these basic functions and purposes of the Organization, the Secretariat prepares a study on the topic, which forms the background material for deliberations at the Annual Sessions.
F. Annual Sessions of the Organization
The plenary organ of the AALCO is its Annual Session (Article 4 of the Statutes). The Annual Sessions are usually hosted by a Member State on the basis of rotation between the two regional groups, Asia and Africa, to the extent possible. The Member-States are represented by high ranking diplomats and legal experts in the Annual Session. In addition, many Observer delegations representing governments and international organizations from across the globe participate in the deliberations. The Organization has been able to forge close links with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Law Commission (ILC) over the years. It has become customary that judges of the ICJ and members of the ILC actively participate in the Organization’s Annual Sessions. Till date, fifty six such Annual Sessions have taken place.
The Organization has been examining international law matters, which are being actively deliberated in the United Nations especially the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly.
Various topics covered over the years include: (The topics in Italics are on the current work programme of the Organization)
(i) Topics on the agenda of the International Law Commission
(ii) International Economic Trade Law and related Matters
(iii) Law of Treaties
(iv) Diplomatic Law
(v) Oceans and Law of the Sea
(vi) Human Rights, Refugees and International Humanitarian Law
· Status and treatment of refugees
· Bangkok Principles on the Status and Treatment of Refugees
· Violation of International Law in Palestine and Other Occupied Territories by Israel and Other International Legal Issues related to the Question of Palestine
· World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 1993
· Human Rights in Islam
· Legal Protection of Migrant Workers
· Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols to the Conventions
· Establishing Cooperation against trafficking in women and children
(vii) Environment and Sustainable Development
( viii ) International Criminal Law
· International Criminal Court: Recent Developments
· International Corruption
· Transnational Organized Crime
· Violent Extremism and Terrorism (Legal Aspects)
(ix) Other Topics
G. Permanent Headquarters of the AALCO
Pursuant to the Headquarters Agreement between the Government of India and AALCO which was signed on 26 April 2000, New Delhi is the seat of the Permanent Headquarters of AALCO (Article 2(1) of the Statutes). The Headquarters is located in Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri in New Delhi.
The Secretariat of the Organization is located at its Permanent Headquarters in New Delhi and is headed by an elected Secretary-General (Article 3 of the Statutes). The present Secretary-General, Professor Dr. Kennedy Gastorn, is from Tanzania. Deputy Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General who are senior officers of Member Governments sent on secondment assist the Secretary-General. Presently, the Governments of People’s Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, and Japan have deputed their senior officials to the Secretariat. The regular staff of the Secretariat includes officers in professional and administrative categories. The Organization also maintains Permanent Observer Missions to the United Nations at New York and Vienna.
I. Co-operation with the United Nations, its Agencies and other International Organizations
The AALCO’s activities have been broadened from time to time to keep pace with the needs and requirements of its Member Governments. This is especially true in the fields of international trade law matters and economic relations. The AALCO, as the only intergovernmental organization representing Asia and Africa, has also oriented its activities to complement the work of the United Nations in several areas. Acknowledging Organization’s growing status and functions, the UN General Assembly by a Resolution, adopted at its thirty-fifth Session in 1980 decided to accord AALCO Permanent Observer Status at the United Nations. Following that, an item on “Co-operation between the United Nations and the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization” is placed biannually on the agenda of the UN General Assembly. The Organization has established close relations with the United Nations, its Agencies and several intergovernmental Organizations and concluded formal co-operation agreements with many of them (Article 6 of the Statutes). These include: United Nations (UN), International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations University (UNU), United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), League of Arab States, Commonwealth Secretariat, Council of Europe, the Hague Conference of Private International Law and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) now known as the African Union (AU). These agreements provide for mutual consultation, exchange of documentation, representation and organization of joint meetings.
It may be emphasized that these co-operation agreements provide useful basis for organizing joint meetings and seminars on topics of mutual interest to these Organizations. They provide the funds for the participation of the resource persons and experts, who substantially enrich the deliberations at the AALCO meetings.
Every year, a Meeting of AALCO’s Legal Advisers is convened in New York, during the UN General Assembly Session. Legal Advisers of Non-Member States and representatives of United Nations and its Agencies also attend this Meeting.
The Organization’s finances are met primarily from three sources, namely (i) the annual budget to which contributions are made by all Member States; (ii) voluntary contributions including contribution in the form of deputation of officers; and (iii) special budget for specific purpose such as for the Arabic Fund.
All Member States are committed to contribute towards the annual budget, which is shared on the basis of an agreed formula. The contributions based are on a scale related to the economic situation of each Member State. The Member States from Arabic speaking countries also make an additional contribution towards the Arabic budget, which goes towards translation of documents into Arabic and for interpretation during the Annual Session. All other contributions are on a voluntary basis.
K. AALCO’s Regional Arbitration Centres
One of the major achievements of AALCO in its programme in the economic field was the launching of its Integrated Scheme for Settlement of Disputes in the Economic and Commercial Transactions in 1978. Pursuant to that Scheme, it was decided to establish Regional Arbitration Centres under the auspices of AALCO, which would function as international institutions with the objectives to promote international commercial arbitration in the Asian-African regions and provide for conducting international arbitrations under these Centres.
Five such Centres have been established so far, which are located at Cairo (Arab Republic of Egypt), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Lagos (Nigeria), Tehran (Islamic Republic of Iran) and Nairobi (Kenya). The respective hosts Governments recognize their independent status like an international organization and have accorded privileges and immunities to these Centres.
AALCO provides its expertise and assistance to its Member States in the appointment of arbitrators and other matters related to the conduct of arbitration. Its centers provide the opportunities for training of arbitrators as well. The Directors of the Centres present their reports on the functioning of the Centres at the Annual Sessions.
L. Training Facility
AALCO Secretariat provides facilities for training of officials from the Member States engaged in international law matters. It can be through short-term attachment with the Secretariat or participating in the training course organized by the Secretariat. At AALCO’s Forty-First Session held in Abuja in July 2002, it was decided to rename the Data Collection Unit in the Secretariat as the Centre for Research and Training. The activities of the Centre, besides research on international law matters, include expanding the training facilities in the Secretariat with a view to disseminate information on its activities and the recent developments in international law, AALCO’s website has been greatly improved. All important documents and reports of AALCO have been placed on its website: http://www.aalco.int (English and Arabic versions are available).
M. Legal Assistance
AALCO is committed to extend to its Member States legal assistance in drafting Model Legislations or draft Constitutions or Bilateral Agreements upon the request of any Member States.
The Secretariat publishes reports of AALCO’s Annual Sessions and Seminars and other meetings convened under its auspices from time to time. The first issue of the “Yearbook of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization” was brought out in 2004, in a different form and format. It maintains continuity with the earlier editions of the Report.
With a view to contributing towards a better knowledge and understanding of international law, which can influence the discourse of the global policy debates, AALCO has been publishing “Quarterly Bulletin” since 1976. In the year 1997 its name and periodicity were changed to “AALCO Bulletin” brought out bi-annually, till the year 2001. The Secretariat felt the need to restructure the format and mode of this publication and after careful discussions and study, a totally overhauled publication in the new title, i.e.; “AALCO Quarterly Bulletin” was launched by with Volume 1, Issue No. 1 dated January-March, 2005 and was published until 2011.
Beginning from 2012, the name of the Bulletin was changed to AALCO Journal of International Law. To provide guidance to the editorial board on matters of content and policy, AALCO established an “International Advisory Board”. The Advisory Board is composed of scholars and legal practitioners from the Asian-African region who have made outstanding contributions to international law. The AALCO Journal of International Law contains articles by academicians, practitioners, government experts, and students, on a wide range of legal topics within the field of international law. It also incorporates a section on current developments that discuss the legal significance of important recent events in international law. From time-to-time the AALCO Journal also focuses on specific themes.
Further, the Secretariat regularly conducts “Special Studies” on the topics mandated by the Member States in Annual Sessions and releases reports based on such research. The most recent studies include “Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction: An Asian African Perspective”, “Unilateral and Secondary Sanctions” and “A Study on the Statehood of Palestine under International Law”.