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30 Brit. Y.B. Int'l L. 381 (1953)
The Legal Character of International Agreements

handle is hein.journals/byrint30 and id is 387 raw text is: THE LEGAL CHARACTER OF INTERNATIONAL
Sometime Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford
I. The definition of 'international agreement'
THERE is a paradox in the fact that in the negotiation of international agree-
ments the politicians and officials, on the one hand, ask to have them written
out in 'legal language', while their legal advisers, on the other, assure them
that the form in which agreements are cast has no great significance. The
former often mean by 'legal language' nothing more than that the text is to
be clear and precise. But they may on other occasions mean by that expres-
sion what it says, namely, that the agreement is to be expressed as a legal
instrument; while the crafty or cynical may even hope that into an agree-
ment dressed in legal language obscurity may enter, veiling particular dis-
agreements unresolved in negotiation. For international agreements are
peculiar, and differ generally here from private law contracts, in that their
provisions may sometimes be expressions not of agreement but of artfully
formulated disagreement.'
The object of this article is to inquire whether the variety of forms in
which international agreements are cast, together with the principle that
no particular form is necessary to their validity, does not tend to obscure
their legal character and lead often to the use of forms inappropriate to the
agreement and so to difficulties in interpretation. It will be suggested that,
while mere formalism is to be avoided, a change in practice towards greater
care for the form of international agreements is desirable. Form here
includes both the language and special terms used in drafting the agreement.
-However, we cannot choose the form and terminology appropriate to a
particular agreement until we know what kind of an agreement it is, and
in particular whether it has a legal character. A rough classification of
international agreements must therefore be attempted. They are in the
literal sense agreements between parties belonging to different countries,
where 'belonging to' expresses a relationship of status. This is, of course,
not a definition of 'international agreement' according to the common usage
of that term, nor is it a proposed final definition; it only makes a start at
sorting out the kinds of international agreement in order to find which are
' See Lauterpacht, 'Restrictive Interpretation and the Principle of Effectiveness in the Inter-
pretation of Treaties', in this Year Book, 26 (1949), P. 48, at p. 78. The writer of the present
article is much indebted to Professor Lauterpacht for his help and criticism on a number of

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