Conditions of a State's commitment

25 October 2012 | Article



A State is committed to the provisions of an international agreement once it has explicitly demonstrated its intention to observe the terms of the agreement. Its commitment can become effective through various procedures, the main one being ratification (adoption and acceptance procedures also exist). These procedures are to be distinguished from the signing of the agreement, which in principle does not imply the State's commitment. In fact, generally speaking, the purpose of signing an agreement is simply to conclude the negotiations and establish a definitive agreement among the States on the text, which is then submitted for their commitment.

It should also be noted that commitments entered into by States with regard to a convention are not always identical. In fact, they can limit their obligations by stipulating certain reservations. In this case, the provisions subject to reservation are not imposed on the State concerned. It should be noted that reservations are explicitly excluded in the case of the UNCLOS.

Finally, a State's commitment is only opposable to it, and the provisions of the international agreement are only imposed upon it, when said agreement enters into force. The date when it enters into force may depend on different criteria and thus be considerably delayed over time. By way of exaemple, the UNCLOS was signed on December 10th, 1982, ratified by 60 States between 1982 and 1994, and only entered into force on November 16th, 1994, the date corresponding to its 60th signature. Prior to this date, the States which had ratified, accepted or adhered to the Convention were not bound by its provisions as such [1].

[1] On the other hand, as numerous provisions in this Convention correspond to customary law, States which had not been opposed to their constitution as customary, and whose practices conform to these rules, were bound by them under customary law (see the example of the EEZ and the United States). The same goes for Other States with regard to the Convention.

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