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Treaties & Other International Agreements

Sources for locating treaties.

Introduction

Agreements between countries can be called treaties, agreements, conventions, and protocols. Treaties can be bilateral (between two countries) or multilateral (between more than two countries).

This guide identifies sources for the text of treaties. The focus is on locating treaties and agreements to which the U.S. is a party, but 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?

Many treaties are available online. Look for text on 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