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date: 08 March 2021

(p. v) Foreword by the UN Secretary-General

(p. v) Foreword by the UN Secretary-General

Treaties are the building blocks of the international rule of law. For the United Nations, they have been a vital means of living up to the promises of its Charter—which is, of course, a treaty itself. To maintain peace and security, States have concluded treaties in the areas of disarmament, dispute settlement, the fight against terrorism, and the peaceful uses of outer space. To develop friendly relations among nations and achieve international cooperation, they have elaborated complex treaty regimes on human rights, labor relations, drugs and crime, environmental protection, trade and development, health, culture, science and education, transport, and communications.

Over seven decades, the United Nations system has produced hundreds of multilateral treaties, with detailed mechanisms of implementation and a complex network of institutional structures. Countless studies have examined the treaty regimes in specific areas of international relations. Library shelves are filled with books on the institutional underpinning of multilateral cooperation and its effectiveness in responding to the demands of the international community. What has been missing is a cross-cutting assessment of how the United Nations system has contributed, through its multilateral treaty-making activity, to the purposes and principles laid down in the Charter.

This Handbook, edited by Simon Chesterman, David M. Malone, and Santiago Villalpando, gathers the writings of a select group of authors from different perspectives: diplomats and international civil servants involved in treaty negotiations or working to implement them, scholars and experts analyzing those agreements in theory and in practice. The diversity of these contributions is a vivid reflection of the breadth and depth of United Nations treaty-making. Together, they tell the story of how United Nations treaties have evolved from the ideals of the Charter in 1945 to the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

When I took my oath of office in 2016, I noted that today’s paradox is that, despite greater connectivity, societies are becoming more fragmented. In the end, however, the links that bind the human family come down to the values enshrined in the Charter: peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity. These values find their expression in the treaties negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations, an endeavor to which this volume gives the scholarly attention it deserves.

António Guterres

Secretary-General of the United Nations (p. vi)