Updated March 31, 2011.
Prepared by Cheryl Nyberg; updated by Lori Fossum (2011).
Agreements between countries are called agreements, conventions, protocols, and treaties. Treaties may be bilateral (between two countries) or multilateral (between more than two countries).
This guide identifies print and online sources, including free and commercial databases. LexisNexis and Westlaw are restricted to users with individual IDs or passwords. HeinOnline, LLMC Digital, and LexisNexis Academic are UW restricted.
Many sources describe the nature of treaties and the treaty-making process One of the most convenient and authoritative sources is:
United Nations, Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Section,
KZ1302.T73 2001 at Classified Stacks
Describes the process of treaty-making, including depositing a multilateral treaty with the Secretary-General, key events in the treaty process, registering and filing a treaty. Includes a glossary.
Here are some questions to consider before you begin treaty research.
Remember that law reviews are an excellent source of information. Conduct a search in the journals and law reviews databases on LexisNexis or Westlaw using the information and keywords associated with the treaty. Many times that search will quickly reveal citations to the official publications that contain the text of the treaty.
ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law: Treaties provides an overview of significant online treaty resources and research strategies. Includes a list of other countries and international organizations online treaty materials.
Duke University School of Law Library, Treaties
New York University, Hauser Global Law School Program, GlobaLex, An Introduction to Sources for Treaty Research
New York University School of Law Library, International Treaties is a collection of links to treaty sources on the Internet.
Treaties in Force is the State Dep't list of treaties and other international acts to which the United States is a party.
U.S. State Dep't, Office of the Legal Adviser, Treaty Actions covers bilateral and multilateral treaties to which the U.S. is a party. Covers from 1999.
U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Pending Treaties provides information on the status of treaties submitted to the Senate for advice and consent, from 2008.
Thomas, Treaties provides status information on treaties submitted to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent. Covers from 90th Congress, 1967 (earlier dates incomplete).
United States Treaty Index: 1776-2000 Consolidation. KZ235.C87 1991 at Reference Area
Multi-volume set includes subject, country, chronological, and geographical indexes. Updated twice a year by the Current Treaty Index. KZ235.C872 at Reference Area
Hein's United States Treaties and Other International Agreements Current Service. Index, KZ235.32.U65 at Reference Area; microfiche, KZ235.32.U65 at Reference Area Microfiche
Updates the United States Treaty Index. Includes microfiche of treaties and agreements not yet published in TIAS.
Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General. Annual.
KZ171.M86 current at Reference Area
United Nations list of signatures, ratifications, accessions, reservations, and objections.
The United Nations Treaty Series Cumulative Index covers 1987-2009, with more volumes to come.
FLARE Index to Treaties
A searchable database of treaty information. Covers more than 1,500 multilateral treaties, with three or more parties, since 1856.
Multilateral Treaty Calendar: 1648-1995. KZ118.W55 1998 at Reference Area
World Treaty Index, 2d ed. 5 vols. KZ173.R63 1983 at Reference Area
Useful, although dated. Online (Beta) version: Once fully complete, the World Treaty Index will feature every known international agreement in the 20th Century.
Multilateral Treaties: Index and Current Status. KZ118.B69 1984 at Reference Area
Useful because it includes important treaties regardless of participants. Supplemented periodically.
United Nations Diplomatic Conferences
Documents and proceedings relating to twelve conferences during which treaties were negotiated. Covers from 1958 (Law of the Sea) to 1998 (Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court.
Many treaty collections are known by their acronyms. The following list identifies the most commonly encountered acronyms and abbreviations.
Bevans = C. Bevans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776-1949.
ILM = International Legal Materials
LNTS = League of Nations Treaty Series
TIAS = Treaties and Other International Acts Series
UNTS = United Nations Treaty Series
UST = United States Treaties and Other International Agreements
Frequently-Cited Treaties and Other International Instruments, from the University of Minnesota Law Library, may be used as a quick source for finding some treaty citations.