The UN and international law

Most of the universal, multilateral treaties of the past 60 years can be directly attributed to the United Nations (UN). Human rights treaties illustrate the crucial role of the UN in this respect.

Two UN bodies dedicate themselves especially to the development and codification of international law:

  • the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly, which is composed of all General Assembly Member States, focuses exclusively on legal issues
  • the International Law Commission, which is composed of 34 independent experts, including the Swiss national Lucius Caflisch, develops draft regulations on matters of international law

More than 550 treaties have been deposited with the UN.

Switzerland’s commitment

Switzerland has traditionally endorsed the principle that international relations are to be governed by law, not force. Its steadfast participation within the UN in the development and codification of international law has earned Switzerland considerable respect. For example, Switzerland provided crucial support to the efforts in order to establish the International Criminal Court. Several Swiss nationals have also held positions in the UN's legal bodies: Carla Del Ponte was Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague until 2007; Nicolas Michel was Head of the UN's Office of Legal Affairs between 2004 and 2008.