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International Legal Research: Treaties: Multilateral, Bilateral and Subject Collections

Locating the Text of a Treaty

A. If you aren't sure if a treaty exists, or you don't have a citation or an exact title, gather information:

  • Parties or participants (countries)
  • Subject or topic of treaty
  • Popular name of a treaty
  • Date of signing, ratification, or entry into force
  • Place of signature
  • Bilateral or multilateral
  • Sponsoring organization
  • Note: If the U.S. is a party, begin with Treaties in Force

Then, start your search with a secondary source:

  • Run a search in Primo for a book or article on your subject.
  • Search the catalog of the Peace Palace Library.

B. Other strategies include the following:

  • Try a Google search, but update your research in a traditional database
  • Search the UN Treaty Collection
  • Search HeinOnline's World Treaty Library or UN Law Collection

Multilateral Treaty Collections

There are several reliable databases containing treaties from the United Nations Treaty Series (1946-present). Hein's databases also include historical treaty collections.  

Bilateral Treaties (US is Not a party)

Bilateral treaties where the United States is not one of the parties can be located using the following strategies:

  1. If you have enough detailed information about a treaty dated 1995 to present, try a general web search.
  2. Try one of the full-text treaty indexes, such as the UN Treaty Series or Hein's World Treaty Index.
  3. The best resources for full-text bilateral treaties are national treaty collections and official gazettes. Find a Research Guide to an individual nation via Globalex or the Foreign Law Guide to locate their treaty collection or gazette. The sources below may also be of help.

Multilateral Treaties by Subject or Organization

Many international organizations and non-governmental organizations maintain treaty collections by region and by topic. Fortunately, several of the legal research guides listed below, have organized these collections.

Also look for Research Guides on specific international law subjects, such as Environmental. Law, Human Rights Law, and Private International Law for treaty collections by subject.

Note: Many of these guides will suggest beginning your research in the EISIL treaty database. Unfortunately, EISIL is getting a long-overdue revision and is currently not available.

More Treaty Research Guides