Language used in COP decisions

Legal assistance paper

All reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time the advice was produced (please refer to the date produced below). However, the materials have been prepared for informational purposes only and may have been superseded by more recent developments. They do not constitute formal legal advice or create a lawyer-client relationship. You should seek legal advice to take account of your own interests. To the extent permitted any liability is excluded. Those consulting the database may wish to contact LRI for clarifications and an updated analysis.

Date produced: 10/02/2015

Can you provide me with some general guidance on the language used in COP decisions, their legal implications and meaning?

Understanding Decision Text

Most resolutions have two components:

  •  Preambular text: Sets the context but has limited legal authority
  •  Operative text: Is the legally binding component, though words may be used to dilute or negate the legally binding nature of the decision

Preambular Text

In preambular text, the first word usually ends in ‘ing

Affirming: Agreeing on this

Bearing in mind: Giving thought to

Calling for: Asking for action from governments

Concurring: Agreeing with some other decisions

Conscious: Aware of (not an ‘ing’ word)

Considering: Thinking about it but not intending to do anything

Desiring: Wishing to do something

Developing: Something that will happen in the future

Endorsing: Giving legal support to a previous decision or action

Encouraging: Hoping that someone will do something

Enhancing: Developing something further

Establishing: Creating something

Expressing concern: Strong diplomatic language to express annoyance

Maintaining: Supporting business as usual

Noting: Acknowledging something with little concern

Promoting: Giving publicity to

Reaffirming: Agreeing on a decision already made

Recalling: Reminding ourselves of a previous decision or action

Recognising: Acknowledging something

Stressing: Giving significance to an issue

Taking into consideration: Acknowledging something but likely to ignore it

Operative text

Agrees: Everyone supports the decision

Calls on: Strong encouragement to do something

Decides: A legally binding conclusion

Declares: Announcing a resolution to something

Encourages: Similar to Urges but not so strong

Endorses: Gives legal support to

Emphasises: Gives importance without deciding on anything

Expresses its appreciation to: Thanks someone

Notes: Only gives recognition to

Requests: Asks someone to do something

Supports: Gives support to something, usually done by someone else

Takes note of: Notes without support or endorsement

Urges: Advocating action but without the authority to enforce the action

Welcomes: Shows non-legally binding support for something