What are reservations to treaties and where can I find them?
Last Updated: Oct 24, 2019
A reservation is a declaration by a state made upon signing or ratifying a treaty that the state reserves the right not to abide by certain provisions of the treaty.
Reservations are formally defined in Article 2.1(d) of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Articles 19-23 govern the process of making and withdrawing reservations. Generally, it outlines, among other things, that:
- Reservations cannot be incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.
- A treaty may also prohibit reservations for some or all of the treaty's provisions.
- Other states may object to a reservation.
- A reservation may also be withdrawn at a later date.
- Reservations and objections must be in writing.
For treaties in which the Secretary-General of the United Nations is the depositary, you can find reservations to treaties published in the Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General. For each multilateral treaty, the reservations will be contained in the "Declarations and Reservations" section in the status of a treaty.
For treaties in which the Secretary-General is not the depositary, consult with the information provided by the depositary. A listing of treaty collections maintained by International Organizations, States and Other Entities can be found in the section about Treaties in the Audiovisual Library of International Law's Research Library.
For further information about reservations to treaties, consult the Treaty Handbook and the Final Clauses of Multilateral Treaties Handbook prepared by the UN Treaty Section, or a scholarly source on the subject.
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.