My Compilation of On-line Treaty Databases

by Duncan Hollis

In 1973, Hans Blix and Jirina Emerson edited the Treaty Maker’s Handbook to help newly emerging States appreciate, post-decolonization, the intricacies of treaty-making as a matter of both domestic and international law. One of the work’s lasting legacies was the inclusion of sample provisions drawn from existing treaties on various treaty topics such as participation, entry into force, reservations, and amendments. The volume became a staple among treaty negotiators, and continues to be used today even as it becomes increasingly dated.

With due credit given to Blix and Emerson, one of the key features of my forthcoming book — The Oxford Guide to Treaties is a new set of treaty clauses. The volume includes 350 clauses taken from an array of existing treaties on 23 different treaty issues, such as the various ways treaty clauses may define a treaty’s object and purpose, delineate territorial and extraterritorial application, identify a treaty’s relationship to other treaties, or authorize simplified amendment procedures.

I found some of these clauses the old fashioned way, using multi-volume hard-bound sets of books like those edited by Bevans or UST (the US Treaty Series). But, far more often, I did my research on-line. As a result, I’ve now become a bit of a connoisseur of treaty databases. For years, a new major, multilateral treaty meant a new web-site dedicated to that treaty, which invariably includes its text and other relevant documentation (Final Acts, Records of the Meeting of the Parties, etc.). Bilateral treaties have long been much harder to track down. Today, however, States and International Organizations (IOs) are increasingly making all their treaty commitments publicly available on the Internet. In some cases, these treaties are organized in multiple ways, not just chronologically, but also by party, specific treaty features, or even, in a few cases, with full-text search capabilities. As a result, almost every treaty now ends up on a web-site somewhere. This development is a welcome one for both practitioners and scholars. Practitioners can now easily access texts that may implement the relative rights or duties of their clients (whether States, IOs, corporations or individuals) while scholars can get a better sense of the full panoply of modern treaty practice, whether for purposes of isolating specific practices or testing propositions as part of the new empiricism in international law.

In a future post, I plan to offer my unabashed (but admittedly unscientific) review of some of the major treaty databases, including the good, the bad, and (sometimes) the ugly. For now, I wanted to pass along a listing of public treaty databases, figuring folks might appreciate having them all collected in one locale.  I’ve not listed databases where you have to pay to get the treaty text (I’m looking at you IMO) because I question why a treaty text negotiated among nation states cannot be publicly available at least in some form on-line.  I’ve also limited my listing to those sites in English, not because they’re better, but because my facility in non-English texts is less than ideal.  I would, however, welcome comments on additional databases with which readers are familiar in the hopes that this post might become a common repository for those interested in doing treaty research of one form or another. Following the jump, I’ve listed alphabetically (and with hyperlinks!) 24 treaty databases readers may wish to consider visiting in their future practice or research:

African Multilateral Organizations, Treaties, Conventions and Declarations

African Union: OAU/AU Treaties, Conventions, Protocols & Charters

The Australian Treaties Database

Belgium – Treaties

Canada Treaty List

Council of Europe: Treaty Office

ECOLEX: Gateway to Environmental Law; Treaties

European Union: European Commission Treaties Office Database

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Treaties

Hague Conference on Private International Law: Conventions

International Committee of the Red Cross: International Humanitarian Law – Treaties and Documents

International Labour Organisation: ILOLEX: Database of International Labour Standards

Japan: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Treaty

Kenya: Treaty Database

Organization of American States: Treaties and Agreements

Tractatenblad (Dutch Treaty Series)

United Kingdom Treaties

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: Investment Instruments Online

United Nations: Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General

United Nations Treaty Series (including the League of Nations Treaty Series)

United States: Reporting International Agreements to Congress Under Case Act (Texts of Agreements)

United States: Treaties and other International Acts Series (TIAS)

Word Intellectual Property Organization: WIPO-Administered Treaties

World Trade Organization: Legal Texts

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for doing this.  It is an act of kindness which is greatly appreciated.

  2. Terrific!  Thanks very much.

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