First and foremost it must be noted that the concept of a treaty is that it acts as a binding agreement between two or more nations towards a prescribed set of actions (On International Law, 2010). This can come in the form of trade, security arrangements, defense or any manner of different agreements that both nations can come to terms with.
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Yet what one must remember is that these agreements are not enforceable by an external policing body such as what can be seen when a person violates a law within a state since in international relations there is no greater entity than the state (On International Law, 2010). In fact the creation of treaties and their exclusivity to states can be seen in the theory of Realism which specifically mentions that states are the primary actors in international relations and that there is no greater power than the state.
As such this explains why international organizations such as the U.N. do not have the right to enter into treaties with states or be called upon as an enforcing body.
On the other hand there are exceptions to this rule as seen in creation of the E.U. and ASEAN wherein the organizations itself acts on behalf of member states within a particular region and can thus enter into a treaty with a country provided that member states who are part of the organization agree to the stipulations. This can be seen in the various treaties entered into between Switzerland and the E.U. as well as the ASEAN and various European countries involving the import and export of goods between national borders.
While there are a plethora of different arrangements that can be stipulated in particular treaties (trade, commerce, security, war, defense, national boundaries etc.) there are actually only two main types of treaties, namely: bilateral and multilateral treaties (Yupsanis, 2010).
Bilateral treaties involve two countries entering into an agreement for the specific purpose of achieving a particular goal and as such these particular agreements only involve these two countries and don’t impact other countries within the global international environment (Yupsanis, 2010). Multilateral treaties on the other hand are agreements entered into by more than two countries (Yupsanis, 2010).
Such agreements can take the form of the mutual defense agreement as seen in North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the Free Trade Agreements entered into by various Latin American countries (Powell, 2010). In fact the application of multilateral treaties was the foundation for the current travel industry wherein tourists are given the right to visit other countries based on the various bilateral and multilateral treaties entered into by their government.
It must be noted that the basis of all treaties is the concept of reciprocity wherein it is assumed that by entering into a particular treaty a country will uphold its tenets as indicated, the same as the other country that similar entered into the same treaty. By doing so this establishes the basis of international law wherein due to the lack of any greater force than the state to enforce a treaty reciprocity becomes an integral binding factor in ensuring compliance.
In fact it was the accumulation of reciprocal agreements through bilateral and multilateral agreements that created the foundation of international law as it is known today.
This can be seen in various generally accepted tenets of international law such as international maritime law, abhorrence towards acts of genocide, diplomatic immunity and the inviolability attached to embassies of foreign powers located within the state. Based on this it can be seen that it was through the initial establishment of treaties and their practices that created the initial practices that are followed today by literally all nations.
On International Law. (2010). Treaty Interpretation. Canadian Social Science, 6(7), 1-18. EBSCO host.
Powell, E. (2010). Negotiating Military Alliances: Legal Systems and Alliance Formation. International Interactions, 36(1), 28-59.
Yupsanis, A. (2010). The Concept And Categories Of Cultural Rights In International Law – Their Broad Sense And The Relevant Clauses Of The International Human Rights Treaties. Syracuse Journal of International Law & Commerce, 37(2), 207-266. EBSCO host.