The Law of Treaties

The Law of Treaties

An Introduction

Robert Kolb

Permeating all facets of public international law, the modern law of treaties is a fundamental aspect of governance in the ‘democratized’ world. In this contemporary introduction, Robert Kolb provides a refreshing study that is both legally analytical and practical. Written in a highly readable style, the book explores the key topics through concise chapters, which are organized into two parts. The first of these gives a structured overview of the law of treaties along with practical examples. The second provides a critical engagement with the underlying issues and discusses the multi-dimensional problems raised by legal regulations, explored through specific case studies.

Chapter XIII: Conclusion

Robert Kolb

Subjects: law - academic, public international law, politics and public policy, international relations


The law of treaties is one of the oldest branches of public international law. Today, there are mainly three challenges to this venerable branch of the law. First, the movement towards great multilateral conventions has been significantly slowed down. International cooperation on an increasing number of subject matters runs today on the rails of soft law documents. To some extent, there is a crisis of the convention as hard law and a rise of memoranda of understanding as soft law. In many areas, the treaty has become too burdensome an instrument: long to prepare and to negotiate; potentially long to be ratified; uncertain on entry into force; difficult to modify and adapt. Soft law mechanisms allow the bypassing of some of these traps. The increasing number of States, the mobility of questions, the necessity of flexibility and short reaction time, the fear of engaging legally and the increasing control of national constituencies, the wish to engage civil society and other actors than States, the ‘democratization’ of the process to which all actors can be conveyed, also issues of confidentiality, all these reasons, among others, have led to a trend towards soft law instruments. Soft law dominates financial and economic matters, corporate governance, environmental issues, legal and political cooperation, and finds support even in areas formerly dominated by hard law, such as international humanitarian law (for example, in the questions of cyber warfare or private military and security companies).

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