Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties attempted to give some order to the confusion that was treaty law after World War II. One treaty issue that was particularly in need of codification was the law governing reservations to treaties. With the growing number of participants in the international community making universal agreement more difficult, the frequency of reservations, as a vehicle for circumscribing disagreements in treaty negotiations, increased. However, most practices regarding reservations severely limited the ability of states to make reservations successfully. To remedy that problem, the Vienna Convention adopted a flexible approach to treaty reservations, applicable to treaties of all types, under which reservations are presumed permissible and acceptance of reservations is achieved easily. This Note analyzes the Vienna Convention's articles on reservations as they apply to different types of treaties, concluding that the drafters of the Convention went too far in the direction of facilitating reservations. The author argues that the Convention does not adequately protect the integrity of treaties or the right of non-reserving states to retain their bargained for rights and obligations. Moreover, the Convention allows treaties to disintegrate into a patchwork of small agreements rather than serve as one useful multinational agreement. To remedy the problems of the Vienna Convention's approach to reservations, the author suggests reversing the presumption in favor of the permissibility of reservations and either developing a different framework for each type of treaty or requiring treaties to establish an authoritative decision-maker to resolve reservation issues.