Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

International Environmental Law Research Guide

This is an in-depth guide to researching international environmental law.


Treaties govern many aspects of international environmental law. This section lists many of the most common multilateral treaties and indicates sources for locating treaties generally. There is also an online Glossary of Terms for Negotiators of Multilateral Environmental Agreements which is also in print at the Wolff Library. For more detailed information on researching treaties -- including treaty indexes, status, updating and ratification information -- see our Treaty Research guide.

There is another genre of international environmental agreements called soft law. The Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law INTL REF KZ1161 .P35 2009defines soft law as "A term used to refer to non-binding instruments or documents which have the appearance of law....While not legally binding, soft law can be politically influential in setting down objectives and aspirations." Documents constituting soft law can often be located on the websites of individual organizations. Examples of key soft law documents in international environmental law include Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Forest Principles.


This list highlights some of the most frequently cited multilateral agreements related to the environment as there are many, many environmental treaties. See EISIL's International Environmental Law page for links to additional agreements.


The following resources offer collections of environmental treaties.

    Free database from FAO includes treaties, national legislation and court decisions. Use the advanced search option to search by jurisdiction.
    This website is produced by the American Society of International Law and pulls together international law by topic. The environmental section is a comprehensive collection of treaties and includes bluebook citations under "more information" for each treaty.
  • Environmental Law Instruments (UNEP)
    This list includes treaties from 1933 with many in pdf format.
  • Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI)
    We can't tell if this database is updated, but it does offer useful search capabilities such as by date, number of signatories, year of entry into force and many more. Click on Treaty Locator on the left side to access it.
  • Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA)
    A draft map divides the world's waters into regions. By clicking on the region, you can see the major international agreements, actors, research, state of the environment and other useful information. Good place to start when you need to know which agreements govern which areas.
  • International Environmental Law : Multilateral Treaties INTL K3583.A1 I575 1974
    This nine volume print looseleaf (updated regularly) is a comprehensive collection of treaties and "soft law."
  • International Environmental Soft Law: Collection of Relevant Instruments INTL K3583.I58 1993
    While this set has ceased updating, it offers a great collection of soft law documents.
  • International Freshwater Treaties Databases
    This resource has nearly 450 treaties from 1820-2002. Full text is included and often citation information is provided. There are other databases (water events, water atlas, etc) available from the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database home page.
  • International Protection of the Environment: Conservation in Sustainable DevelopmentINTL K3585.4.I58 1995
    This multi-volume looseleaf set is updated regularly and offers a huge collection of international environmental documents including treaties, statements, declarations, resolutions from multiple bodies, and much more. Also has "soft law" documents.

The general treaty collections below can be very useful when you need to cite to an official source.