Treaty Research

This guide describes resources and methods for locating and updating treaties of the United States and other countries.

Status Information & Drafting Histories for Bilateral Treaties

Status Information & Updating

Determining the current status of a bilateral treaty to which the U.S. is not a party is often a difficult task, particularly when neither party to the treaty is an English-speaking jurisdiction. 

  • National Treaty Collections.
    The best option for updating the status of a bilateral treaty is to consult a national treaty collection for one of the state parties to the treaty.  See the prior section of this research guide for tips on how to locate national treaty collections online and in print.
  • Foreign Ministry Websites.
    If you aren't able to update the status of a bilateral treaty using a national treaty collection, try checking the official website of the foreign ministry of one of the state parties to the treaty for updates.  Many foreign ministry websites provide at least some information, such as press releases, in English.  Some also offer searchable news archives.  For links to foreign ministry websites, consult the website of the World Legal Information Institute (first select the desired jurisdiction; then click on the "Government" link) or the Law Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online.
  • Subject-Specific Online Treaty Collections.
    Another option for obtaining updated treaty status information is to consult a subject-specific online treaty collection.  Bear in mind that most of these collections focus primarily, if not exclusively, on multilateral treaties rather than bilateral treaties.

Drafting Histories (Travaux Préparatoires)

Drafting histories, also known as travaux préparatoires, include preliminary drafts of treaty texts and other official records generated during the course of the negotiations.  Drafting histories of bilateral treaties are rarely compiled, except for the internal consumption of the diplomats who participated in the negotiations.  Thus they are almost never accessible to the public.