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Treaties & Other International Agreements

Online and print sources for locating treaties.

Introduction

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 sources for the text of treaties, print and online sources, from free and commercial sources (to which the UW Libraries and/or the Gallagher Law Library subscribe).

The focus is on locating treaties and agreements to which the U.S. is a party, although several sources cover bilateral and multilateral treaties to which the U.S. is not a party.

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Beginning the Treaty Research Process

Here are some questions to consider before you begin treaty research.

  • Is the U.S. a party to the treaty? If the answer is yes, begin research with the sources like Treaties in Force. If the answer is no, use other sources like the United Nations Treaty Collection or the Multilateral Treaty Calendar.
  • Do you know if the treaty is bilateral or multilateral?
  • Do you know the name of the treaty?
  • Do you know the approximate date the treaty was open for ratification or adoption? Consult the Multilateral Treaty Calendar.
  • Are you looking for a citation to a published source or for the latest status information?

Remember that law reviews are excellent sources of information. Search the law review databases on Lexis Advance or WestlawNext using keywords associated with the treaty. Often that search will quickly reveal citations to the official publications that contain the text of the treaty.

Many individual treaties and treaty collections are readily available on the Internet. Look for text and status at the websites of  government agencies, international and nongovernmental organizations, and educational institutions--these are generally more trustworthy than other sites.

Definitions

U.S. Treaty Process

The Congressional Research Service created graphics illustrating the steps in the making of treaties and executive agreements.

Steps in the Making of a Treaty to Which the U.S. Is a Party

Steps in the Making of an Executive Agreement