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Last update:
01/11/13

 Treaties
  1. Forms

There are bilateral treaties, multilateral, regional and universal ones.

The 1969 Vienna Convention on Treaties describes a treaty as an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.” It is therefore important to note that a treaty must be in written form and that an oral agreement does not constitute a treaty in international law.

  1. Why?

There are various reasons to become a party to a treaty. First of all, and a major condition, it shall in principle be in the interest of the country and its people. Second, when it concerns customary law, rules that are already in practice, formal accession to a treaty that has codified such customary law does not make much difference. Thirdly, one may wish to look at what the neighbouring countries are doing in view of the reality of regional cooperation. Four, sometimes, ‘peer pressure’ may be at stake: the parliament of a donor country, for instance, tells its government to provide development aid only to those countries that are a party to certain (e.g. human rights or disarmament) treaties.

And finally, there are cases in which we simply have to ‘sign up’, because the UN Security Council adopts a resolution calling on all countries to do so, as was the case with the terrorism conventions.

  1. How to become a party?

When a state signs an international treaty, it is not yet bound. Usually, it is the head of state, the prime minister or the minister of foreign affairs who signs a treaty. They represent the executive, whereas making laws is in principle the prerogative of the legislative, the parliament or national assembly. That is why upon signing a treaty, this treaty should in principle be put before the legislative in order to have the signature ratified. Once the legislative agrees with the treaty (an act to be considered a ‘law’), the executive, often after the head of state also having confirmed his agreement, sends the instrument of ratification to the depositary of that treaty (most often the UN Secretary General). Acceptance, amounts to the same as ratification, but often without a parliamentarian involvement. There is on the international legal level no substantive difference between a signature subject to acceptance or approval and a signature subject to ratification. In fact, it is now common for multilateral treaties to provide that they be ‘subject to ratification, acceptance or approval’.

In case no signature has been submitted, the process of signing and ratification is combined into one act of accession. Hence, signature+ratification=accession. Only upon ratification (acceptance) or accession a country is legally bound by a treaty (that is, when the treaty has indeed entered into force).

  1. MOUs

Reference should also be made to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). A similar ‘instrument’ is the Exchange of Notes. Not all agreements can be embedded in treaties and MOUs are therefore often the preferred way of doing ‘business’, also because they can in principle be kept confidential. They are normally not registered with the UN (as per the Charter’s art. 102). Very few countries publish MOUs, or name them in their official gazettes. MOUs are less binding, and do not usually use terms like ‘shall’, ‘undertake’, ‘obligations’ or ‘rights’. MOUs are in principle not meant to create a legally binding obligation, and, therefore, it is put forward, do not need to be submitted to the approval of the legislative.

Lao PDR Action in the Field of International Law, 2006
S = signature; R = ratification; A = accession; AR = acceptance

1.    Cooperation

  • ASEAN Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (R
  • Convention Establishing a Customs Co-operation Council (A)
  • Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) (AR)

 2.   Environment, Health

  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (R)
  • International treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (A)
  • The London amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (A)
  • World Health Organization (WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (R)

 3.    Labour

  • ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age (A 2005; in force since June 2006)
  • ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour (ibidem)

4.    Human Rights

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child, Protocol on sexual exploitation (A)
  • CRC Protocol on child soldiers (A)
  • ICESCR, the main covenant on economic, social and cultural rights (R); in force as from 13 May 2007

 5.    Trade, Communication

  • Convention Establishing a Customs Cooperation Council (A)
  • Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (AR)
  • CLMV Multilateral Agreement on Air Services (AR)
  • Agreement on ASEAN Harmonized Electrical and Electronic Equipment (AR)
  • Agreement to Establish and Implement the ASEAN Single Window (AR)
  • Protocol to Implement the Fourth Package of Commitments on Air Transport Services under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AR)
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty (intellectual property) (A)

List of Multilateral Treaties to which the Lao PDR is a party

  1. UN and other multilateral Conventions
  2. Regional Agreements
  3. ASEAN Agreements
  4. Conclude convention update

List of Bilateral Treaties to which the Lao PDR is a party  

  1. Bilateral Treaties

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