What are travaux préparatoires and how can I find them?
Last Updated: May 14, 2018
Travaux préparatoires is the name used to describe the documentary evidence of the negotiation, discussions, and drafting of a final treaty text.
Travaux préparatoires is the most commonly used name for these types of documents, but they may sometimes also be referred to as:
- negotiating history
- drafting history
- preparatory documents
According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, these documents can be used to supplement the interpretation of a treaty when the meaning is ambiguous or obscure when reading the treaty alone.
There are a number of sources you can use when trying to locate travaux préparatoires:
- Sometimes, the work of locating these documents has been done for you and the documents have been compiled and published in a book or on a website.
- The Historical Archives section of the Audiovisual Library of International Law is an excellent source for finding selected travaux préparatoires for UN multilateral treaties.
- Ask DAG also has a number of FAQs related to the travaux préparatoires for specific treaties and conventions.
- Many official documents of Diplomatic Conferences in which treaties are negotiated can be found on the UN's Diplomatic Conferences website.
- The Analytic Guide of International Law Commission provides you with the documents related to the study of a particular international law topic at the International Law Commission.
If these sources are not available for a particular treaty, try searching for journal articles on the negotiating history of a treaty or using UN reference tools such as the Yearbook of the United Nations. With information from these sources, you can then search for UN documents from specific years, committees or diplomatic conferences.
Disclaimer: answers are prepared by library staff using resources available at the time of writing. This site may include links and references to third-party databases, websites, books and articles, this does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.