What is a Treaty and the types of treaty?

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What is a Treaty and the types of treaty?

A treaty is a set of agreements or contracts on the higher level of issues that involve two or more companies, governments, kings, or any kind of organizations. A treaty can be built on anything that might create disputes and imbalance among the participants of the treaty.

Basics of a Treaty

To understand the basics of a treaty it’s important to know first what an agreement is. An agreement is the initial stage of a treaty, contract, covenant or convention. It consists of points of concurrence between two or more parties, the rights and responsibilities and the terms and conditions to which all the parties have mutually agreed. The agreement is enforceable by the law which governs the law related to it depending on its legality and enforceability.

A treaty, on the other hand, is a set of agreed terms on a bigger level. It’s an agreement between the nations and the governments. So when the nations states enter into an agreement which results from the multitude of negotiations whereby they decide the rights and responsibilities that are binding on them under the international law, it’s called a treaty.


A treaty is always express, i.e. it is written. A treaty cannot be implied and if there is one it wouldn’t be enforceable.  

Treaty as a Source of International Law

Treaty is regarded as one of the primary sources of international law. When there’s a treaty between two states, the rights and liabilities governed by that very treaty become the law for both the states.

The sources of international law are listed below:

  • Treaties and conventions
  • Customs
  • General principles of law
  • Precedents
  • Juridical works

Binding Nature

The international law of treaty stems from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, which gives universal guidelines on the treaties and their enforceability. The treaties are interpreted under the international law. 

Read Also: What are the basic human rights?

Types of Treaty

Treaties are classified into two types:

  1. Bilateral treaties
  2. Multilateral treaties

Bilateral treaties

When a treaty is between two states, it is called a bilateral treaty. It binds both the states towards the obligations mentioned therein agreed between both of them.

A bilateral treaty is also called a bipartite treaty. The most common example of this treaty is the Camp David Accords that were signed in 1978 between Israel and Egypt. Since the Accords comprised only two states, therefore, they made a bilateral treaty.

Multilateral treaties

They are the treaties which are entered into by a number of states. A single state signing the same treaty separately with more than one state doesn’t make it enter into a multilateral treaty. A multilateral treaty is a single treaty which is signed by many states. For example, Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a multilateral treaty signed between 189 States.  The UNCLOS is another instance which is the United Nations Convention of the Law of Sea and there are many more.

Arbitration Clause

In most of the treaties, there’s an arbitration clause which mentions the forum of arbitration in case the treaty is breached by any of the parties. The violation of a treaty is reported to the arbitration tribunal or the International Court of Justice before which the aggrieved state takes their prayer of relief.

Is a Treaty signed only between the States?

The law of treaties is governed by the international law but it’s not mandatory that only state nations can be parties to a treaty. It can be signed between the states and aboriginal people as well.

Facts about Treaty:

  • The first Nation to Nation treaty in modern times known as the “Great Peace of Montreal” was a peace treaty that was signed between New France and the 40 First Nations of North America on August 4, 1701.
  • From 1760 to 1923, the British Empire signed more than 56 land treaties with the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia, the United States, and Africa.
  • Most of the treaties were written in the language of the more powerful nation.
  • Every treaty is always different from the others in contexts and agreements.
  • The treaties of the ancient world were very simple but the modern treaties are much complex and sometimes they go over 1,000 pages.
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