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Ratification of a Treaty

Updated: Mar 23

When a treaty is signed by the representatives of the states is confirmed by the states, the act of confirmation is called Ratification. The states become bound by the treaties after ratification under International Law

Effect of Ratification:

Vienna Convention under Art. 2 (1) (b) [VCLT] lays down that ‘ratification’ is an international act whereby a State establishes on the international plane its consent to be bound by a treaty. It is generally agreed that ratification becomes effective from the day when it is made. It has no retroactive effect. The rights and obligations of the treaty become applicable to the ratifying State only as from the date of ratification and not from the date of signature.


Ratification of a treaty by the States is done only in those cases where it is so required by the provisions of a treaty. According to Art. 14 of the Vienna Convention, ratification is necessary when:

  1. the treaty provides such consent to be expressed by means of ratification,

  2. it is otherwise established that the negotiating states agreed that ratification should be required,

  3. the state representative has signed the treaty subject to ratification,

  4. When the intention of ratification is evident from the circumstances and talks during negotiations.

Ratification applies only to signatory states, thus when a state becomes a party through accession, no ratification is required.

Purpose or Significance of Ratification:

At present, generally all the treaties are required to be ratified.

  1. Ratification gives an opportunity to the contracting parties to re-examine and review the treaty signed by their representatives. The implications can be studied thoroughly.

  2. On the basis of principle of sovereignty each state is entitled to keep itself away from the treaty or repudiate it if it desires.

  3. The time between signature and ratification is utilized for bringing about changes in the State law.

  4. On the basis of democratic principles, the state governments get opportunity to respect public opinion in respect of treaties or to get the consent of the Parliament. (Starke)

Modes of Ratification:

Ratification of a treaty is an internal procedure, determined by internal laws and usage of each state. Eg: In USA, a treaty must be ratified by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Refusal of Ratification:

States are not bound to ratify treaties. Nor it is necessary for the States to explain the reason for not ratifying the treaty. It may be noted that under Arts. 39 and 41 of the U.N. Charter the Security Council is empowered to exert pressure against a State for the ratification of a treaty which is related to the maintenance of international peace and security.

Time period for ratification:

International law does not prescribe any time period within which ratification must be given. States must allow each other a reasonable time in which a treaty has to be ratified. (Oppenheim)

It is significant to note that, in between the period of signature and ratification a State is under a duty not to do any act which is likely to defeat the object and purpose of the treaty (Art. 18).

In the case of Certain German Interests in Polish Upper Silesia, it was pointed out that a signatory States’ misuse of its rights in the interval before ratification may amount to a breach of treaty (It implies that with the signature of a treaty, a certain limited status is conferred upon the signatory State with respect to treaty).

Consequences of Non-ratification:

Ordinarily, state parties are not bound by treaties until they ratify them. However, ratification can be sometimes done away with. It depends on the intention of the state.

So far as the application of an international treaty in the municipal field is concerned, it is applied only after it is ratified by the State concerned.

The North Sea Continental Shelf Case implies that a treaty can be invoked against a State who has signed but has not ratified it, if the treaty declares a customary rule of international law.

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