Simon Chesterman, David M. Malone, and Santiago Villalpando (eds), The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Treaties (Oxford University Press, 2019).

Chapter 20: Bertrand G. Ramcharan “The Covenant”
Chapter 27:  Simon Chesterman and Jan Wouters “Diplomatic and Consular Relations”


The United Nations is a vital part of the international order. Yet this book argues that the greatest contribution of the UN is not what it has achieved (improvements in health and economic development) or avoided (global war or the use of weapons of mass destruction). It is, instead, the process through which the UN has transformed the structure of international law to expand the range and depth of subjects covered by treaties. The book offers the first sustained analysis of the UN as a forum and an institution through which treaties are negotiated and implemented. Chapters are written by authors from different fields, including academics and practitioners, lawyers and specialists from other social sciences (international relations, history, science), professionals with an established reputation in the field, and younger researchers and diplomats involved in the negotiation of multilateral treaties and scholars with a broader view on the issues involved. The volume provides unique insights into UN treaty-making. Through the thematic and technical parts, it also offers a lens through which to view challenges lying ahead and the possibilities and limitations confronting this understudied aspect of international law and relations.

About the Editors
Simon Chesterman is Dean of the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law and Editor of the Asian Journal of International Law.

David M. Malone is Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Rector of the UN University, headquartered in Tokyo.

Santiago Villalpando is the Legal Advisor of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Covenant
The adoption of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic and Social Rights in 1966 heralded a new international order grounded in human dignity and freedom. They have contributed to the emergence of a common universal language of human rights and offered a protection shield to millions of people worldwide. However, ideals of the UN Charter, of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the Covenants are widely flouted. In calling for a modernized approach to human rights protection, this chapter calls for moving beyond a formal, diplomatic ritualism. The concrete application of the Covenants requires that states adhere to their reporting obligations under the treaties, that the treaty body mechanisms pay more attention in the future to urgent, preventive measures to the poorest and most vulnerable sections of population and that national human rights mechanisms be created in each state with the capacity to effectively promote and protect human rights. In doing so, greater attention must be placed on economic, social, and cultural rights.

About the Author
Bertrand G. Ramcharan is a Former Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights and Under-Secretary-General and Professor at The Graduate Institute, Geneva

Diplomatic and Consular Relations
The United Nations (UN) is a strong defender of the cooperative global order. The promotion of diplomatic and consular exchanges between its member states suits this purpose. Throughout the years, lawmaking by treaty has been the preferred way for the UN to advance legal rules that facilitate such diplomatic and consular interactions. Tremendous achievements (the 1961 and 1963 Conventions on permanent diplomatic and consular missions and the 1973 Convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against internationally protected persons) have been followed by a worthwhile lawmaking exercise (the 1969 Convention on special missions), but also by an attempt at harmonization that failed to attain its goals (the 1975 Convention on permanent representations to international organizations). This chapter zooms in on legal discussions that took place in the course of two decades of diplomatic and consular treaty-making under the auspices of the UN, as well as at the treaties’ implementation track and their present-day impact. The chapter takes a close look at the structure and content of the five UN Conventions in the diplomatic and consular field, and identifies particular contributions of the International Law Commission, the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and specially convened diplomatic conferences in Vienna and New York. In a final section, the chapter highlights remaining challenges for the UN in dealing with this subject area.

About the Authors
Jan Wouters is Professor of International Law and International Organizations and Director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies – Institute for International Law at the University of Leuven.

Simon Chesterman is Dean and Professor at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law