The Oxford Guide to Treaties: An Opinio Juris Symposium
I’m extraordinarily pleased to be able to announce that today marks the start of the Opinio Juris symposium on my recently-edited volume, The Oxford Guide to Treaties (you can buy your copy here and there’s even a discount for Opinio Juris readers!).
The Oxford Guide provides a current and comprehensive guide to treaty law and practice. It does this in two parts. First, it presents 25 chapters written by the world’s leading treaty-experts, exploring the world of treaties in five areas: (i) what a treaty is and who can make them; (ii) how a treaty is made (including the treaty-making process, signature, provisional application, deposit, registration, and reservations); (iii) how treaties are applied (including their territorial reach, third party rights and obligations, amendments, domestic application, succession, treaty bodies and conflicts); (iv) the rules on treaty interpretation generally and with respect to treaties on human rights and international organizations; and (v) how to avoid or exit a treaty commitment (including questions of validity, remedies for breach, exceptional circumstances, and termination). Second, the book pairs these explanations of existing rules and practice with examples of how modern treaties are drafted. Thus, the last section of the book includes 350 treaty excerpts on 23 treaty topics ranging from how to deal with multiple language treaty texts to the use of simplified amendment procedures (for those looking for a longer introduction to the project, see here).
Since the book is consciously treatise-like in its coverage, this symposium has opted for a slightly different format than the norm. In lieu of comments on the book’s thesis, over the next few days we will use The Oxford Guide’s coverage as a launching pad for a discussion of some of the most pressing treaty questions confronting international lawyers. The current schedule is (roughly) as follows:
(1) Today will focus on a discussion of reservations and other unilateral statements, with particular attention to the International Law Commission’s Guide to Practice on Reservations to Treaties
(2) Tomorrow, we will turn to treaty interpretation, particularly the phenomenon of evolutionary or “dynamic” interpretation; and, after a weekend respite,
(3) Monday, we will discuss the variety of functions treaties perform, such as their increasing “publicness”, the role of non-state actors in modern-treaty making, as well as any final comments that participants care to make.
In terms of participants, I’m pleased to have a truly distinguished group of experts participating in this on-line symposium. Several of them are returning to the fold in the sense that they already contributed their time and expertise to The Oxford Guide itself, including Ed Swaine (who wrote the chapter on Reservations); Geir Ulfstein (who wrote on treaty bodies and regimes); Richard Gardiner (who wrote on the Vienna Rules on treaty interpretation); Catherine Brölmann (who wrote on interpreting constitutive treaties of International Organizations); Başak Çalı (who wrote on human rights treaty interpretation); and Christian Tams (who co-authored with Bruno Simma the chapter on remedies for treaty breaches)
In addition, I’m honored to have a group of very distinguished outside experts lend their voices to the conversation. I’m particularly pleased (and grateful) to have Harold Koh, the Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State, offer some thoughts on treaty reservations. I’d also like to welcome three other commentators — Jean Galbraith, Marko Milanovic and David Stewart — and thank them for making the time to participate in these discussions. I’m hopeful that one or more of my fellow Opinio Juris contributors may weigh in from time to time as well.
Altogether, we’ve got a set of really interesting topics and a great bench of experts to discuss them. I, for one, am really looking forward to the conversation.