Document Type

Chapter of Book

Publication Date



treaties, treaty signature, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, VCLT


This chapter is a contribution to The Oxford Guide to Treaties (Duncan Hollis, ed., Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2012). Under international law, in order for a State to become a party to a treaty, it must express its consent to be bound by the treaty. Such consent can be expressed in a variety of ways, including through signature of the treaty by a proper representative of the State. Under modern treaty practice, however, States often express their consent to be bound by a separate act of ratification that is carried out after signature. When a treaty is subject to discretionary ratification after signature, the signature is referred to as a 'simple signature,' whereas a signature that indicates consent to be bound is referred to as a 'definitive signature'. Part I of the chapter considers why States often prefer simple signature subject to ratification in lieu of other methods of joining a treaty. Part II discusses the international legal consequences of a simple signature. Part III reviews the process by which a State can terminate its signatory obligations. The chapter concludes with a brief consideration of the strategic issues raised by the ability of States to decide not to ratify a treaty after signature.


Manuscript only posted by agreement from publisher.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Treaties--Ratification, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), Treaties