International law consists of rules and principles which govern the relations and dealings of nations with each other. Most of the time a distinction is made between Public International Law and Conflict of Laws (sometimes referred to as Private International Law)

Public International Law is concerned with the relations between States or the relations between states and individual nationals of other states. Some topics in public international law include human rights, international criminal law, the law of the sea, law of space and the environment etc...

Conflict of Laws (or Private International law in civil systems) is the body of conventions, model laws, and other instruments that regulate private relationships across national borders. Some topics in conflict of laws include international trade and international dispute resolution.

Treaties are international agreements negotiated between sovereign powers and constitute one of the major sources of international law. Article 38(1) of the International Court of Justice Statute indicates that international law consists of or has its basis in international conventions (treaties), international custom, and general principles of law.

Treaties can be referred to by a number of different names: international conventions, international agreements, covenants, final acts, charters, protocols, pacts, accords, and constitutions for international organizations. Usually these different names have no legal significance in international law. Treaties may be bilateral (two parties) or multilateral (between several parties) and a treaty is usually only binding on the parties to the agreement. An agreement "enters into force" when the terms for entry into force as specified in the agreement are met. Bilateral treaties usually enter into force when both parties agree to be bound as of a certain date.

For some treaties, a country is legally bound at the moment the treaty is signed by an authorized party. However, for the vast majority of treaties there is a subsequent step generally called "ratification". It is the act by which a county makes clear its intent to be legally bound by the treaty. Once in force, treaties are binding upon all parties signatory to it.

Reference Materials and Compilations

The Major International Treaties of the Twentieth Century: a History and Guide with Texts, edited by J.A.S. Grenville and Bernard Wasserstein. 2001. KZ 172.8.M2
International Legal Materials Vol.1 (1962) onwards K1.I663 and Online
Encyclopedia of the United Nations and international agreements / Edmund Jan Osmancyzk ; edited by Anthony Mango JX 1977.O7
Basic documents in international law  Edited by Ian Brownlie. (2002) KZ 3092.B2
Blackstone's Statutes : international law documents / edited by Malcolm D. Evans KZ 3092.B5
Flare Index to Treaties

A searchable database of basic information on over 1,500 of the most significant multilateral treaties from 1856 to the present, with details of where the full text of each treaty may be obtained in paper and, if available, electronic form on the Internet.

E-Resources: Databases and Web Portals: Inter-Governmental Organisations

African Union

Originally founded as the Organization of African Unity, the website for African Union contains the texts of its treaties plus lists of countries which have signed, acceded or ratified the treaties.

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe's official treaty web site available in French, German, Italian and Russian through the links in its upper navigation banner. Contains the texts of all Council of Europe treaties in Html and Word format, as well as the explanatory reports.

European Union

From this page you can access the basic legal texts on which the European Union and the European Communities are founded: the founding Treaties (original versions and later updates), the amending Treaties, the Accession Treaties for each of the six enlargements, plus other essential documents.

NATO: Basic Texts

Contains "the basic texts of the Alliance: from the Treaty and its protocols to the Partnership for Peace documents".

Organisation of American States

The official treaty website for the OAS contains the text of OAS treaties and is navigable by year, subject or alphabetically and also contains signatory and ratification information.

UN Treaty Collection

Contains a number of different databases including: Status of Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General; United Nations Treaty Series (14 December 1946 - January 2005);  League of Nations Treaty Series (5 July 1920 - 3 October 1944); and Texts of Recently Deposited Multilateral Treaties. Plus photos of signing ceremonies, treaty handbook, and treaty reference guide including a glossary of treaty terms and more.

Hague Conference on Private International Law

With nearly 70 Members representing all continents, the Hague Conference on Private International Law is a global inter-governmental organisation. Contains the text of all the treaties adopted by the conference.

E-Resources: Databases and Web Portals: General Collections

Recommended siteAvalon Project

Located at Yale the Avalon project is a cross-disciplinary (though US-oriented) website which gives a greater international relations context to treaties over the last several hundred years. Their goal is to "mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government".

Heiros Gamos

Includes links to treaties, supra-national organisations and information/news on national regimes.

Recommended siteLaw Library of Congress: Guide to Law Online: Treaties

Contains treaty links with sections on sites texts and legal guides.

Recommended siteLex Mercatoria

Comprehensive and key site including links to various related topics such as; international economic law; arbitration; e-commence; private international law, human rights, criminal law, environmental law etc. Each section includes a list of treaties.

Multi-Laterals Project

From Fletcher Law School, Tufts University.

Trilingual legal search engine with access to public law, particularly human rights and humanitarian law. Contains over 250 conventions analysed article by article and includes status information (entry into force, ratification, reservations).

WorldLII: International Treaties and Agreements

Treaty links from the World Legal Information Institute.

E-Resources: Databases and Web Portals: Specialised Collections

Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions Project

The Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP) project provides data regarding the content of military alliance agreements signed by all countries of the world between 1815 and 2003.

Ariga: Peace Historic documents and agreements

A collection that relates to the Arab-Israeli peace process from 1900 to the present. Documents include the Balfour Declaration (1917), Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), Camp David (1978) and the Arab (Saudi) Peace Initiative (2002).

Its aim is to enhance the implementation of the human rights legal standards of the United Nations and to increase access to these documents by making materials associated with the treaty system available in electronic and user-friendly form.


ECOLEX is operated jointly by FAO, IUCN and UNEP and is a comprehensive, global source of information on environmental law. Contains treaties and some national laws.

Food and Agriculture Organization

Contains the text and status of FAO treaties.

International Committee of the Red Cross: International Humanitarian Law

Contains the text of 100 treaties and other texts (including law protecting the victims of war and law governing the conduct of hostilities, from 1856 to the present). The treaties are set out both in the form of their full text and of their individual articles. They are arranged according to subject and in chronological order.

International Maritime Organization

Promoting safety at sea and the prevention of pollution, provides a good description of the history and procedures of adopting IMO maritime conventions- click on the 'Legal' tab.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Provides the text, ratification, status and reservation information for all UN human rights treaties.

UNCTAD Investments Instruments Online

For the past decade, UNCTAD has been actively monitoring and analysing the increase in the number of bilateral treaties (BITs) for the promotion and protection of foreign investments. A Compilation of about 1,800 available BITs is now accessible via the search engine.


The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law has the texts of the conventions they have drawn up since 1964 that have been adopted by their member states, as well as a status section with signatures, ratifications, declarations and reservations.


Provides a variety of legal instruments including conventions, declarations and resolutions back to 1948.

WHO International Digest of Health Legislation

The International Digest of Health Legislation contains a selection of national and international health legislation. Texts of legislation are summarized in English or mentioned by their title. Where possible, links are provided to other websites that contain full texts of the legislation in question. You can query the database by: selecting a country; selecting a subject; selecting a volume; selecting an issue; looking for a specific keyword.

WIPO Treaties

Provides the text and detailed information on all 24 treaties administered by WIPO and the WIPO Convention.

World War I Document Archive

Contains documents relation to WWI from pre-1914 to 1918

WTO: Legal Texts

Most of the WTO agreements are the result of the 1986-94 Uruguay Round negotiations, signed at the Marrakesh ministerial meeting in April 1994. There are about 60 agreements and decisions totalling 550 pages. Negotiations since then have produced additional legal texts such as the Information Technology Agreement, services and accession protocols. New negotiations were launched at the Doha Ministerial Conference in November 2001.


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