These are the main sites I will talk about. International law page provides access to most of the UN sites related to international law. It is important to note, however, that much of the work of the UN has legal aspects that may or may not be findable through this portal. For example, peacekeeping missions have Status of Forces agreements that are not usually available; matters relating to human rights law may sometimes be found on the Human Rights website.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the UN and has six main committees that deal with particular topics. The sixth committee deals with legal matters. The International Law Commission is another subsidiary of the General Assembly and it works on the progressive development and codification of international law, which roughly translates as discussion of topics of interest to the field, with an eye towards drafting multilateral treaties. UNCITRAL is another subsidiary of the General Assembly and it works on the the modernization and harmonization of rules on international business. The International Court of Justice is a principal organ of the UN, established by the Charter and works to settle legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by the United Nations and specialized agencies. Other UN tribunals have been established for specific purposes.
There is a wealth of information here about all aspects of treaty law. The two main sections are the Status of Treaties and the UN Treaty Series. These were two separate publications and they have semi-separate areas of the website. This website is still under development. Many of the problems that we encountered just after the launch have been resolved, but others are still being worked out. The site work best in browsers other than Internet Explorer.
The Status of Multilateral Treaties deposited with the Secretary General provides information about signature, accession, ratification and any reservations or declarations. Organized by topic, arranged in chapters. If you are not certain which chapter, use the INDEX search to look by title. Remember that this is for Multilateral Treaties only.
The INDEX search is a phrase search for the title, so it is necessary to know the title. Search example: Rome Statute
When you click on the title you will get the full details related to the Status of the treaty
The table lists the countries party to the treaty, the date of signature or ratification. After the table, any declarations and reservations are listed, then end notes, which include other notifications by states.
Searches for Keywords that are not phrases in the title will not find the treaty.
It is possible to use the Advanced Search to find the Treaty by keywords of the title, but this will not give you the status. Once you find the exact title or the Chapter of the MTDSG, you can use this information to get back into the Status.
The Advanced Search results actually take you out of the Status area, and into the Treaty Series area, which will give the full text of the treaty, and list the signatures, accessions and ratifications, but will not give the text of any declarations, reservations, etc. There are 2 options: Take the title and paste it into the INDEX search Identify the Chapter and Number and browse to the correct place in the Status area
The UN Treaty Series provides access to the full text of all treaties registered with the United Nations. Where as the Status of Multilateral Treaties only provides access to Multilateral Treaties, the UNTS also includes any bilateral treaties registered with the UN.
The Advanced Search of the UN Treaty Series allows you to create complex searches using various fields. Search example: Treaty– English title: Rwanda tribunal (match all the words) All Participants: Rwanda and United Nations (match all of these words)
Search result list provides basic information. Click on the treaty title for full details and access to the full-text.
The full record provides access to the full text in all authentic languages of the treaty.
This website provides access to a wealth of information related to the UN’s activities with regard to international law. The Audiovisual Library is the crown jewel of this site, and we will come back to it in detail, but let me first give an overview of the various sources. If you are looking for the legislative history or the travaux preparatoires for a treaty, this is the place to come. The central part is devoted to the many bodies that work on developing international law. The 6 th committee and the International Law Commission are permanent committees that deal with a variety of topics. The Ad Hoc committees are established to examine a particular question and are expected to dissolve after consideration of the topic is closed. In practice, this usually means the committee drafts a convention and then forwards it to the General Assembly, through the 6 th committee, for adoption. Another way a convention might be drafted is through a Diplomatic Conference. One the right in the yellow box, you see the Publications related to the codification and progressive development of international law– toward the end is the link to the Official Records of Diplomatic Conferences. The official records usually include the meeting records of the conference, as well as any documents submitted to the conference.
The Office of Legal Affairs made a big effort to build the International Law Commission website. It was created several years ago and the content continues to grow. Here you can search the documents and publications of the ILC, as well as get research guidance from the online version of the Analytical Guide to the Work of the ILC and the research guide. Other legal bodies also have websites, but none are quite as extensive as the ILC’s at this point.
The official records of Diplomatic Conferences usually include the meeting records of the conference, as well as any documents submitted to the conference. It is possible to browse to the conference of interest to you, or to search the full text. From this page, the search will be across all conferences. If you click on one of the conferences, the search will be on all or selected volumes of the conference.
For each of the publications, it is possible to search a variety of ways. For example, the Juridical Yearbook, one can search all of the yearbooks, a selected year, or by chapter. As the yearbook has the same chapter structure each year, this can focus the search. For example, we can search just Chapter 6, the legal opinions of the UN and related organizations. It is also possible to search across all years of the Bibliography. The bibliography has been published as Part 4 of the Juridical Yearbook since the beginning, and although the content and structure has changed some over time, it provides a great source for historic research on international law topics.
The Audiovisual Library of International Law is a bit different from all the other sites we have shown so far. So far, everything we have shown is UN-produced content and the sites provide access to the official documentation and publications of the organization. The Audiovisual Library of International Law has a broader scope. As part of the Programme of Assistance in the teaching, study, dissemination and wider appreciation of international law, this website aims to provide access to people of all nations to scholarly research on international law. As the UN plays such a central role in international law, much of the content relates to the UN’s work, but the real aim is much broader. There are three parts of the AVL: historic archives, the lecture series, and the research library.
Organized by topic, the historic archives provide access to the work of the UN in the codification and progressive development of international law. For each legal instrument drafted under the auspices of the UN, there is an introduction written by a legal scholar, a procedural history with links to the related documents. In addition, there is audio visual material for each instrument, including film footage, audio recordings and photos.
Lecture series contains video lectures by leading international law scholars and practitioners on a variety of topics.
In addition to the lecture, each scholar also prepares a list of related materials. This is a great way to learn about a new topic and find out key publications, legal instruments and jurisprudence related to the topic. Lectures are in one or sometimes 2 of the 6 languages of the UN. They are not translated to all languages.
The Research Library section of the AVL provides links to web-base resources. There are 4 sections: treaties, jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals; UN publications and documents; and selected scholarly writings. The links provide access to UN sites as well as national treaty collections and other international organizations. Under scholarly writings and research, there is a list of journals on international law available for free online.
Legal websites of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library