A country becomes a Party when it lodges with the depositary its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Convention.
What does ratification, acceptance, approval or accession mean?
Ratification, acceptance, approval, accession and the like are the means by which a State establishes its consent to be bound by a treaty on the international plane (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969, article 2 (b)).
The common feature of these treaty actions is that the deposit of the relevant instruments with the depositary, in this case the UN Secretary-General, binds the State concerned at international law. Therefore, the depositary, prior to effecting the deposit of a treaty action, must be satisfied that a State´s intention, as expressed in its instrument, is clear in this respect. Since the UN Secretary-General is the depositary of over 500 multilateral conventions and the vast majority of them are open to participation by the international community in general, the Secretary-General has had to develop a uniform practice to determine the validity of such instruments, both to safeguard his integrity and to protect the interests of other States parties.
Steps to Become a Party to the Convention
Step 1. Prepare analyses/collect documentation: The lead ministry/authority for the Rotterdam Convention (e.g., a ministry involved in negotiating or implementing the Convention) may wish to prepare a cost-benefit analysis of becoming a Party to the Rotterdam Convention including any legislative or administrative actions that will be necessary for its implementation, and to collect all relevant documentation. This information would be shared with those authorities involved in the steps below.
Step 2. Contact authority for issuing ratification instruments/identify who would sign: The lead ministry/authority would consult with their Government authority responsible for drafting ratification instruments for international agreements. This is normally a legal unit within the ministry of foreign affairs. The responsible authority would identify who at the national level would, as a rule, take a decision on or approve of ratification/accession of the Convention. The decision or approval would provide the basis for the issuance of an instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession for the Rotterdam Convention. The instrument must be signed by the head of State, head of Government or minister of foreign affairs.
Step 3. Identify/undertake processes that lead to endorsement of ratification/accession: The office/administration of supreme national authority entitled to decide on ratification/ accession would be contacted to identify appropriate steps that would lead to the endorsement of ratification/accession. Assuming that there is the political will to proceed, the supreme national authority would indicate the necessary documentation and decision-making processes that would have to be completed before the instrument can be signed and deposited. In addition to obtaining necessary approvals within the administration of the head of State or head of Government, or parliamentary debate, such processes may include passing law, a judiciary review, or evaluation at different state levels.
Step 4. Determine if any declarations are needed: As part of the above decision-making process, the Government will need to determine whether any declarations need to be made with submission of the instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
Step 5. Prepare and sign instrument(s): Following the completion of the domestic legislative procedures, where necessary, for the approval of the Convention, the Government office responsible for doing so will prepare the instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession and any instruments of declaration. In the practice of many countries, this responsibility belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The authority entitled to do so will then sign the instrument(s).
Step 6. Lodge instrument(s) with the Depositary: An instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Convention becomes effective only when it is deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations at United Nations Headquarters in New York. This is customarily done through the Permanent Mission of the relevant State to the United Nations in New York. The date of deposit is normally recorded as that on which the instrument is received at Headquarters. States are advised to deliver such instruments to the Treaty Section of the United Nations directly to ensure that the action is promptly processed (contact information provided below). The individual who delivers the instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession does not require full powers. In addition to delivery by hand, instruments may also be mailed or faxed to the Treaty Section. If a State initially faxes an instrument, it must also provide the original as soon as possible thereafter to the Treaty Section. It is also recommended that, where feasible, States provide courtesy translations in English and/or French of instruments in other languages submitted for deposit with the Secretary-General. This facilitates the prompt processing of the relevant actions.
The following fact sheet contains all the above-mentioned information and the contact details of the Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations in New York. You can download it here in English, French and Spanish.