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What is a Treaty?

  • An agreement between states (inter-state) or between states and international organizations, intended to be governed by international law.
  • May also be known as an agreement, covenant, protocol, convention, pact, statute, or convention.
  • Can address a wide range of topics. 
  • Treaties involving varying numbers of parties are referred to in varying ways:
    • Bilateral: negotiated between two states;
    • Plurilateral: negotiated between a limited number of states, but more than two; and
    • Multilateral: negotiated by several states.
  • According to Article 2(1)(a) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, " 'treaty' means an international agreement concluded between two or more States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation".

Note: Increasingly in Canada, treaties are referred to as international treaties to distinguish them from treaties with Indigenous peoples.


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