Reflections on the treaty as a law-making instrument

Alan Boyle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In this chapter we will explore the impact of multilateral treaty-making on the international law-making process. The catalytic effect of multilateral treaties on customary international law is their most obvious and well-known law-making characteristic. Less well noticed is the foundation they provide for evolving regulatory regimes – framework or umbrella treaties to which are added successive additional treaties, protocols, implementation agreements, regional agreements, and subsidiary rules, including treaty annexes and binding decisions of the parties, or non-binding soft law that may nevertheless have legal effect pursuant to Article 31(3)(a) VCLT. But if the use of multilateral treaties for law-making purposes has undoubtedly been refined in the past forty years, other developments have also begun to supplement ‘the only and sadly overworked instrument with which international society is equipped’. At one end of the spectrum, soft law instruments now play a noticeably larger role than before. At the other, the UN Security Council’s forays into international law-making provide another indicator that there are alternatives to multilateral treaty making.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication40 Years of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
EditorsAlexander Orakhelashvili, Sarah Williams
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)1905221436, 9781905221431
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • treaties
  • Vienna Convention
  • law
  • making

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