Considering the fundamental role of treaties in international relations and recognizing the importance of treaties as a  source of  international law, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties was adopted in 1969. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties regulates the conclusion and entry into force of treaties, the application and interpretation of treaties as well as the amendment, invalidity and termination of treaties. According to Article 2 of this multilateral agreement, a 'treaty’ means 'an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.’ A treaty concluded between one or more States and one or more international organizations, or between international organizations, can also be referred to as a treaty. According to Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, 'international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states' must be applied by the Court, when deciding disputes that are submitted to it. From this one can conclude that treaties are one of the principal sources of public international law.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the Law of Treaties. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's classification index code 131. Law of Treaties and subject heading (keyword) Treaties are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Reference works


Leading articles

Periodicals, serial publications, special issues

New titles

1. Judicial Review and International Rule-making
Judicial Review and International Rule-making / Frank Vibert. - The Hague : Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher. - Page 51-60 In: The Law of the Future and the Future of the Law: Volume II / Sam Muller, Stavros Zouridis, Morly Frishman and Laura Kistemaker (editors), ISBN 9788293081807: (2012), Page 51-60. - 2012
Keywords: International organizations, Legislative power, Public international law, Judicial review,

2. Les conditions d'application de la "clausula rebus sic stantibus"
Les conditions d'application de la "clausula rebus sic stantibus" / Aymeric Heche In: Revue belge de droit international = ISSN 0035-0788: vol. 47, issue 1, page 322-354. - 2014
Keywords: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (Vienna, 23 May 1969), Treaties, Rebus sic stantibus, Law of treaties,

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  • Gardiner, R., Treaty Interpretation, Second Edition, Oxford, United Kingdom, Oxford University Press, 2015.


    This book explains the rules for interpretation of treaties and gives examples of their application in national and international jurisdictions. The rules of treaty interpretation codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties now apply to virtually all treaties which may be encountered in an international context and also within national legal systems where treaties have an impact on a large and growing range of matters. The rules of treaty interpretation differ somewhat from typical rules for interpreting legal instruments and legislation within national legal systems. Lawyers, and also some administrators, diplomats, and officials at international organizations, are increasingly likely to encounter issues of treaty interpretation which require not only knowledge of the relevant rules of interpretation, but also how these rules have been, and are to be, applied in practice. Now that the codified rules of treaty interpretation have been in force for some twenty-five years, there is a considerable body of case law on their application. This case law, combined with the history and analysis of the rules of treaty interpretation, provides a basis for understanding this most important task in the application of treaties internationally and within national systems of law.

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  • Merkouris, P., Article 31(3)(c) VCLT and the Principle of Systems Integration: Normative Shadows in Plato's cave, Leiden, Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2015.


    In Article 31(3)(c) VCLT and the Principle of Systemic Integration: Normative Shadows in Plato’s Cave the author tackles a provision on treaty interpretation that has risen in prominence, Article 31(3)(c) VCLT. This article, which enshrines the principle of systemic integration, and its exact scope has become and continues to be a hotly debated subject in academic and judicial circles.
    Through an examination of both its written and unwritten elements, the author argues that the ‘proximity criterion’ is the optimal way of understanding and utilizing this provision, that conflict resolution principles may be of use within Article 31(3)(c) and finally, that the principle of systemic integration is indispensable not only for interpreting treaty provisions but customary international law as well.

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  • Bianchi, A., D. Peat, M. Windsor (eds.), Interpretation in International Law, Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press, 2015.


    The relevance of interpretation to the academic study and professional practice of international law is self-evident. As new insights on the practice and process of interpretation abound in other disciplines, international law and international lawyers have largely remained wedded to a rule-based approach, focusing almost exclusively on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Such an approach neglects interpretation as a distinct and admittedly broader field of theoretical inquiry. Interpretation in International Law brings together established and emerging international legal scholars to interrogate interpretation as a central concept in international law. The edited collection is creatively structured around the metaphor of the game, which captures and illuminates all the constituent elements of an act of interpretation. The object of the game of interpretation is to persuade one's audience that your own interpretation of the law is the correct one. The rules of play are known and complied with by the players, even though which cards to play is left to the skills and strategies of the individual players. There is also a meta-discourse about the game of interpretation 'playing the game of game-playing' which involves reflection about the nature of the game, its underlying stakes, and who gets to decide by what rules one should play. Through a series of diverse contributions, Interpretation in International Law reveals interpretation as an inescapable feature of all areas of international law. It will be of interest and utility to all international lawyers whose work touches upon theoretical or practical aspects of interpretation.

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  • Tams, C.J., A. Tzanakopoulos, A. Zimmerman (Eds.), Research Handbook on the Law of Treaties, Cheltenham, UK, Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar, 2014.


    Offering a unique conceptual approach to the Law of Treaties this insightful Research Handbook not only sets out the foundational issues, but identifies tensions within the field, including formalism vs flexibility, integrity vs flexibility, and uniformity vs specialisation, to name a few. It seeks to define and re-define the dimensions in which Treaty law operates, tracing its fault-lines and the challenges it faces, such as breaches, regime-collisions, state succession and armed conflict. Representing a broad range of jurisdictional and ideological perspectives, the Research Handbook provides a diverse and stimulating approach to international treaties.

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  • McInerney, T.F., Strategic Treaty Management: Practice and Implications, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    497 D 32

    While little recognized in international law scholarship, multilateral treaties in diverse fields have begun to apply strategic management techniques to make them more effective and responsive. This examination of those practices and their interplay with associated international organizations considers the application of strategic management across treaties' planning, financing, implementation, and evaluation activities. The study leads to a new appreciation of the intricacies of multilateral treaty activities and a better understanding of their operations within complex webs of networked international institutions. In considering different approaches to steering treaties through this dispersed global governance landscape, Thomas F. McInerney draws on current strategic management literature to explore the utility of nonlinear, emergent models of strategy and gain insights from strategy as practice research. While recognizing strategic management's potential value in facilitating more flexible applications of multilateral agreements, he also emphasizes the need to maintain their normativity as international legal obligations.

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  • Bjorge, E., The Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    Bjorge, E., The Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014.

    If an old treaty regulating 'commerce' or forbidding 'degrading treatment of persons' is to be interpreted decades after its conclusion, does 'commerce' or 'degrading treatment of persons' have the same meaning at the time of interpretation as they had when the treaty was concluded? The evolutionary interpretation of treaties has proven one of the most controversial topics in the practice of international law. Indeed, it has been seen as going against the very grain of the law of treaties, and has been argued to be contrary to the intention of the parties, breaching the principle of consent. This book asks what the place of evolutionary interpretation is within the understanding of treaties, at a time when many important international legal instruments are over five decades old. It sets out to place the evolutionary interpretation of treaties on a firm footing within the Vienna rules of interpretation, as codified in Articles 3133 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The book demonstrates that the evolutionary interpretation of treatiesin common with all other types of interpretationis in fact based upon an objective understanding of the intention of the parties. In order to marry intention and evolution, the book argues that, on the one hand, evolutionary interpretation is the product of the correct application of Articles 3133 and, on the other, that Articles 3133 are geared towards the objective establishment of the intention of the parties. The evolutionary interpretation of treaties is therefore shown to represent an intended evolution.

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  • The Peace of Christmas Eve

    Peace is an elusive thing. For many, the attraction of the Christmas season is the momentary fulfillment of that dream, the wonderful moment of ‘Peace on Earth’. For one night, it seems possible. As Christmas approaches, we experience a sense of ‘Peace on Earth’. A few times in history, this sense of peace at Christmas had real impact on human affairs. A little known example is the the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1814, ending a war, the War of 1812, between the United States and the British Empire and their allies.

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See also

More Research guides on Public International Law

PPL keywords