Legal Treaties: Meaning & Significance

One of the characteristics of state sovereignty is the ability to enter into treaties and agreements with other nations. In matters of international relations, trade, the environment, communications, ecology, or finance, no state can isolate itself from the rest of the world. Since the end of World War II, this has become increasingly true. Independent states are now interdependent as a result of globalization's emergence and the great strides achieved in communication and information technologies. Every state has signed and is now signing treaties, whether they are multilateral or bilateral, that have a significant influence on its economy as well as the social and political lives of its people.

What is the meaning of Legal Treaties?

The term "treaty" refers to any written international agreement between States that is regulated by international law, regardless of whether it is comprised of one, two, or more linked documents. Treaties are commonly known by the terms convention, agreement, protocol, pact, and charter.

Significance of Legal Treaties

The significance of legal treaties are −

A treaty is an "international agreement," which implies it does not only apply to one state and is not only a local arrangement.
A treaty must be written and cannot be a verbal agreement between two governments.
"International law" governs a treaty. This indicates that parties to a treaty consent to bind themselves in law to the terms of the treaty. A state is said to be legally bound when it consents to being held accountable under international law for breaching its treaty obligations.
A treaty may include one or more legal documents. Writings or other indications of purpose that are used to establish a legal agreement are known as "legal instruments."

Types of Treaties

Depending on the parties involved and the subject being discussed, treaties might differ significantly. Here, we want to concentrate on the number of treaty parties since the number of distinct states that sign a treaty might have an impact on how the treaty functions. Two types of treaties exist:

Bilateral Treaty

Only two nations or parties can enter into bilateral agreements, which are closely connected to contracts between private individuals. A bilateral agreement is reached between two states when they want to advance or control interests or issues that are specifically important to them. Therefore, bilateral agreements only impose small obligations. Extradition agreements, for instance, are often bilateral agreements.

Multilateral Treaty

States sign multilateral treaties—agreements that involve more than two parties and are the result of negotiations. Some of these agreements just act as extended forms of bilateral treaties, not adding any new concepts or norms to the body of international law. Multiple-party coalitions like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Often referred to as "lawmaking treaties," multilateral agreements that have as their main objective the codification of already existing law or the development of new legal principles controlling a specific subject area. A notable example of a lawmaking treaty is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other human rights agreements.

Major Legal Treaty

The major legal treaty that has binding force is −

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969

An international agreement called the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties governs agreements between governments. The "Treaty on Treaties" lays forth detailed rules, practices, and recommendations for how agreements are described, created, modified, interpreted, and generally used. An international treaty is a written agreement that reflects the approval of the parties to international law on the formation, modification, or termination of their rights and duties. The VCLT is seen as a codification of state practice and customary international law with regard to treaties.

The convention came into being on January 27, 1980, after being approved and made available for signing on May 23, 1969. By the beginning of 2018, 116 states had ratified it.

The VCLT is recognized as one of the most significant pieces of treaty law and continues to be a reliable source of information in conflicts involving treaty interpretation.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

A significant international human rights pact, the ICCPR offers a number of civil and political rights guarantees. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are collectively referred to as the "International Bill of Human Rights." According to the ICCPR, nations that have ratified it are required to defend and uphold fundamental human rights, including the right to life and human dignity; equality before the law; freedom of speech, assembly, and association; freedom of religion and privacy; freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention; gender equality; the right to a fair trial; the right to family life and family unity; and the rights of minorities. Governments are required under the Covenant to enact administrative, judicial, and legislative procedures that will safeguard the rights guaranteed by the treaty and offer an adequate remedy. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Covenant in 1966, and it went into effect in 1976. The Covenant has been ratified by 172 nations as of December 2018.

 Making of a Legal Treaty

Making of a Treaty involves four basic steps 

  • Negotiation and drafting

  • Authentication and adoption

  • Expressing consent; and

  • Entry into force

Parties to a Treaty

There are two types of parties to a treaty 

State Party

A state party is required to abide by a treaty that it has ratified, signed, and agreed to.

Third States

The term "third state" refers to a state that is not a signatory to the convention. According to Article 34 of the Convention, a third state is exempt from any rights or responsibilities under a treaty. If a treaty includes language extending responsibilities to a third party, that party must have expressly consented to the extension of duties to them. If the parties to a treaty intend to provide rights to a third state, a group of states to which it belongs, or all states, such rights should be granted to the third state, with the approval of the third state. Last but not least, according to the conventional norm of international law, the terms of a treaty are enforceable even by third parties.


Bilateral and multilateral written agreements are used for the creation of new international legal standards. For political reasons, states are decreasingly less willing to rely on customary international law for the regulation of legal matters. New technology and growing international exchange have established the need for an ever more precise and flexible international law, a need not satisfactorily met by customary law. Therefore, a treaty that has a binding effect will suffice for all the requirements in the modern arena. All types of international agreements, including conventions, pacts, general acts, charters, laws, declarations, covenants, protocols, and agreements, are referred to as "treaties."

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What's the purpose of a legal treaty?

Ans: Legal treaties are pacts made by and between countries. Wars, territorial disputes, and even the establishment of new nations have all been resolved via the employment of treaties.

Q2. What is the difference between an agreement and a treaty?

Ans: A treaty is an agreement between two or more parties that can be bilateral or multilateral. Typically, only the parties to the agreement are bound by the terms of the treaty. When the conditions for entrance into force outlined in the agreement are satisfied, the agreement "enters into effect."

Q3. Why are treaties crucial to the law?

Ans: A treaty establishes duties and rights for both parties. By signing the treaty, the First Nation and the Crown both received benefits and agreed to specific duties.