UN Treaty Collections

The United Nations is an international organization committed maintaining peace and bettering life for citizens on a global scale. It was founded in 1945, shortly after World War II, and has grown in membership from 51 members nations to 193 members. These members discuss and take measures to promote progress and security both domestically and abroad.

One way that the United Nations maintains international peace and goodwill is by creating treaties. A treaty is a legally binding international agreement between states. It is a term referring to legally binding agreements between nations, including conventions and charters. When an issue of grave importance comes to the attention of the world stage, the United Nations has the responsibility of examining the issue and deciding what to do about it. If the issue has what the UN determines to be a clear resolution, the organization will draft a treaty. Member nations can sign the treaty at will (after government consent, which can be a timely and arduous process —  in the United States, both legislative chambers must ratify the treaty with a 2/3rds vote) but once a nation signs and ratifies a treaty, it is obligated to follow its tenets.

The following is a list of several notable treaties signed by countries under the auspices of the United Nations.

  • Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods – Establishes legal code for the formation of international contracts. This treaty was signed in 1980 and made effective in 1988. The purpose of the convention was to create a set of rules which determined the obligations of both buyers and sellers taking part in international trade, as well as a set of consequences for those who violate international contracts.
  • Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – A treaty meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, signed and ratified by 191 countries as of 2011. The treaty was signed in 1997 and put into effect in 2005. It establishes a set of legal obligations for any and all industrialized nations, with the purpose of limiting the emission of greenhouse gases globally.
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – Signed in 1979 and put into effect 1981. This treaty establishes an international bill of rights for women. Countries that have signed and ratified the convention must eliminate prejudices and practices that exclude women in any manner and take measures to ensure across the board gender equality.
  • Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed On Board Aircraft – Designed to help prevent in-flight acts of terrorism. The treaty was signed in 1963 and grants any aircraft commander the power to restrain or otherwise neutralize a perceived threat onboard an airplane. Nations who sign the treaty must agree to remove and arrest the threat upon landing, allowing the commander to retake control of the airplane afterward.
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons – Sets up a system of protection for diplomats visiting other countries. This treaty, signed in 1973 and put into effect in 1979, dictates that any country which ratifies it must make the attack, kidnapping, or murder of an “internationally protected” individual a punishable offense. Protected individuals include the Head of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs, or any other official of State.
  • Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees – Defines who does and does not qualify as a refugee. The treaty also decrees that nations which signed the treaty must offer asylum to refugees. The original convention was signed in 1951 and actualized in 1954, but an additional protocol came in 1967 that removed restrictions based on geography.
  • Convention and Protocols on the Rights of the Child – A human rights treaty signed in 1989 and made effective 1990. This treaty establishes an international bill or rights for children, which spans civil, political, economic, social, health, and cultural rights. Countries must agree to prohibit the abuse of children as defined by this bill of rights. Two additional protocols were adopted in 2000 preventing the involvement of children in armed conflicts and the sale of children for sexual purposes.
  • Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families – Signed in 1990 and put into effect in 2003. This agreement establishes that migrant workers hold the same rights as nationals in the workforce. By this treaty, all migrant workers hold basic human rights regardless of legal status. The treaty does allow that documented migrants may have more rights than undocumented migrants, however.
  • Convention against Corruption – Aimed at reducing existing corruption and preventing future corruption within participating nations. Signed in 2003 and put into effect in 2005, this treaty requires its participants to implement various anti-corruption measures to reduce the amount of economic crime that times place and to agree upon a set of international guidelines to reduce corruption at an international level.
  • Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances – Signed in 1988 and made effective in 1990. This, along with the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, is one of the most significant U.N. treaties concerning international drug control. The treaty prohibits the manufacturing and distribution of narcotic and psychotropic drugs.
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – A human rights measure signed in 2006 and made effective in 2008. This treaty requires that its participants put into practice laws and regulations that ensure the rights of individuals suffering from disabilities. Participants must swear to protect the human rights of the disabled by strictly enforcing these regulations.
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – Another human rights measure, this time taken to eliminate racial discrimination among its participants. The treaty was signed in 1966 and made effective in 1969. In addition to requiring participating nations to eradicate racial segregation and otherwise eliminate other forms of racial discrimination, the convention also calls for the outlawing of hate speech.
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – One of the oldest treaties, having been signed in 1948 and made effective by 1951. The convention defines genocide and requires that participating members establish measures that will prevent genocide, during both war and peace. Participants must also punish genocide severely when it does occur. A total of 142 states have ratified the convention as of 2012.
  • Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material – Makes the possession, transfer, and use of nuclear material a criminal offense. It was signed in 1980 and put into practice by 1987. Later amendments also required participants to protect nuclear facilities and material, as well as establishing international cooperation in the location of stolen nuclear material.
  • International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism – Put into place in 1999, this treaty requires participating parties to prevent terrorism from being financed by adopting stricter measures about the flow of donated money. Participants must also take those who finance terrorism into legal custody.

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