Meaning of Governing Body

Legal assistance paper

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Date produced: 01/09/2015

What is the “governing body” mentioned in the ‘co-chairs’ tool’?


The co-chairs’ tool envisages the adoption of a core agreement (part 1, draft agreement) as a new international treaty. It, therefore, provides for a new decision-making body comprising all Parties to the new agreement: “the governing body”. In the section on definitions (section B of Part 1 of the draft agreement in the co-chairs’ tool) “governing body” is defined as “the governing body to this agreement”. This means a body defined in the new agreement as having the ultimate authority to take decisions under the new agreement.

Depending on scope, composition and mandate, the terminology to describe such a body (or bodies) in international treaties varies: for example, the governing body of the International Maritime Organization is the Assembly which meets every two years (in between Assembly sessions, a Council, consisting of 40 Member States elected by the Assembly, acts as the governing body). In international treaties, such a body may be termed the “Conference of the Parties” (e.g. UNFCCC, Biodiversity Convention, World Health Organisation FCTC), “Meeting of the Parties” (Kyoto Protocol), or “Meeting of States Parties”. The term “governing body” is rarely used. One example of this is the International Labour Organization: the “Governing Body” is the executive body of the ILO. It meets three times a year takes decisions on ILO policy, decides the agenda of the International Labour Conference, adopts the draft Programme and Budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference, and elects the Director-General.

So “governing body” is the same as the Meeting of the Parties to the new agreement. The use of different terms in the current text is confusing, however, and should be addressed in further drafting process. It is likely that the intention behind the use of term is to avoid confusion with the Meeting of the Parties under Kyoto Protocol – However, section L of Part 1 of the co-chairs’ tool on Procedural and Institutional Provisions suggests that the same terminology as that used under the KP will be used in the new Agreement:

43.1.[The Conference of the Parties, the supreme body of the Convention, shall serve as the meeting of the Parties to this agreement.]

For further debate on alternatives for governance arrangements for the new agreement, see the note by UNFCCC Secretariat’s Legal Affairs programme, in particular section II, available at