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Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

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Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
Signed 23 May 1969
Location Vienna
Effective 27 January 1980
Condition Ratification by 35 states[1]
Signatories 45
Parties 114 (as of April 2014)[2]
Depositary UN Secretary-General
Languages Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish[1]
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties at Wikisource

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) is a treaty concerning the international law on treaties between states. It was adopted on 22 May 1969[3] and opened for signature on 23 May 1969.[1] The Convention entered into force on 27 January 1980.[1] The VCLT has been ratified by 114 states as of April 2014.[2] Some countries that have not ratified the Convention recognize it as a restatement of customary law and binding upon them as such.


The VCLT was drafted by the International Law Commission (ILC) of the United Nations, which began work on the Convention in 1949.[3] During the twenty years of preparation, several draft versions of the convention and commentaries were prepared by special rapporteurs of the ILC.[3] James Brierly, Hersch Lauterpacht, Gerald Fitzmaurice and Humphrey Waldock were the four special rapporteurs.[3] In 1966, the ILC adopted 75 draft articles which formed the basis for the final work.[4] Over two sessions in 1968 and 1969, the Vienna Conference completed the Convention, which was adopted on 22 May 1969 and opened for signature the following day.[3][4]

Content and effects

The Convention codifies several bedrocks of contemporary international law. It defines a treaty as "an international agreement concluded between states in written form and governed by international law," as well as affirming that "every state possesses the capacity to conclude treaties." Most nations, whether they are party to it or not, recognize it as the preeminent "Treaty of Treaties"; it is widely recognized as the authoritative guide vis-à-vis the formation and effects of treaties.


The scope of the Convention is limited. It applies only to treaties concluded between states, so it does not cover agreements between states and [5] The Convention does not apply to agreements not in written form.[5]

State parties to the convention

As at April 2014, there are 114 state parties that have ratified the convention,[2] and 15 states have signed but have not ratified the convention. These countries are: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Zambia.[2] In addition, the Republic of China (Taiwan), which is currently only recognized by 21 UN member states, signed the Convention in 1970 prior to the United Nations General Assembly's vote to transfer China's seat to the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1971. The PRC subsequently acceded to the Convention.[2] 66 UN member states have neither signed nor ratified the Convention.

Vienna formula

International treaties and conventions contain rules about what entities could sign, ratify or accede to them. Some treaties are restricted to states that are members of the UN or parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice. In rare cases there is an explicit list of the entities that the treaty is restricted to. More commonly the aim of the founding signatories is that the treaty is not restricted to particular states only and so a wording like "this treaty is open for signature to States willing to accept its provisions" is used (the so-called "All States formula"[7]).

When a treaty is open to "States", for the [9]

Some treaties that utilize it include provisions that in addition to these States any other State invited by a specified authority or organization (commonly the United Nations General Assembly or an institution created by the treaty in question) can also participate, thus making the scope of potential signatories even broader.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, pg. 1
  2. ^ a b c d e "Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties".  
  3. ^ a b c d e, Law of treaties, International Law Commission, last update: 30 June 2005. Consulted on 7 December 2008.
  4. ^ a b  
  5. ^ a b c Article 3 of the Convention.
  6. ^ Articles 2 and 5 of the Convention
  7. ^ All States are defined as all UN member states and states about which there are individual statements of inclusion by the UN Secretary-General or other UN organ. Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs Supplement No. 8; page 10, UN THE WORLD TODAY (PDF).
    The United Nations Secretary-General has stated that when the "any State" or "all States" formula is adopted, he would be able to implement it only if the General Assembly provided him with the complete list of the States coming within the formula, other than those falling within the "Vienna formula". UN Office of Legal Affairs
  8. ^ The UN Secretary-General or some other competent authority defined in the treaty in question, e.g. Switzerland for the Geneva Conventions – see special cases.
  9. ^ UN Legal Affairs the so-called "Vienna formula".

External links

  • Convention Text
  • Introductory note by Karl Zemanek, procedural history note and audiovisual material on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties in the Historic Archives of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
  • Lectures by Annebeth Rosenboom entitled Practical Aspects of Treaty Law: The Depositary Functions of the Secretary-General and Practical Aspects of Treaty Law: Treaty Registration under Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations (both lectures also available in French) in the Lecture Series of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
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