Researching international law, including the treaties between nations, can be intimidating. Treaty research requires you to use specialized terminology and parse through layers of drafting, approval, ratification, and other legal concepts that don’t translate directly from research within a single jurisdiction.
Fortunately, there are some excellent tools to help you access primary treaty sources. One of these, the United Nations Treaty Collection, is a free and open-access source of treaty information. Article 102 of the United Nations Charter requires that the Secretariat register and publish all treaties and agreements entered into by member states. The United Nations Treaty Collection offers downloadable versions of all agreements and ratification status, organized to help you make sense of different areas of international law.
Within the United Nations Treaty Collection, there are two treaty databases. The MTDSG database contains all multilateral treaties deposited with the UN Secretary General (plus all of those treaties previously deposited with the League of Nations); the UNTS database contains bilateral and multilateral treaties registered with and published by the UN Secretariat. You can search or browse the collections to find agreements by topic, participating nations, date of entry, and other criteria. The database contains key dates and member-state ratification information, as well as full-text copies of each treaty. There is also a Cumulative Index, which allows researchers to search treatise chronologically or by subject matter. It also includes helpful definitions of treaty terminology and a glossary of treaty actions.
You can find a link to the United Nations Treaty Collection on our Research Resources page.
Written by Genevieve Tung.