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Distinction between resolution and treaties


Treaty law is a kind of primary source of international law, and it is also a written law. Treaty law includes bilateral treaty and multilateral treaty which can be done in a regional framework, or in the framework of the UN such as convention, charter and agreement that any international court will apply.

Resolution of international organisations

General Assembly

According to article 13 (1) (a) of the UN Charter, the GA shall make recommendations for the purpose of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification. The UNGA has a broad mandate to discuss human rights, climate change, self-determination and disarmament, etc. However, as stated in the UN Charter, the UNGA resolutions are just "recommendations'' without binding effect. They are not a binding source of international law, and it is not mandatory for states to respect the UNGA resolutions.

However, we shall not neglect its impact on international law. Some of the multilateral treaties were negotiated in the framework of the UNGA. Normally, a treaty was adopted initially as a non-binding “resolution” in the UNGA. Yet once it has passed through the normal procedures of a treaty,it eventually becomes a binding treaty after ratification by the states, as in the case of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Security council

According to Article 24 of the UN Charter, other than being primarily executive in nature, the UNSC is also to a certain extent legislative in nature. Under Article 25 and 103 of the UN Charter, the UNSC may, in certain circumstances, adopt binding resolutions establishing obligations and norms that are mandatory for all member states of the UN to respect. The obligations that emerge from the binding resolutions of the UNSC are even hierarchically more valuable and superior to other obligations that states might have under treaties.

Sometimes, the UNSC adopts binding resolutions to create an institution. For example, through the UNSC Resolution 827 and 955, the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were established respectively; these tribunals were established not by treaties but via the UNSC Resolutions.

The wordings and the content of the UNSC binding resolutions are sometimes similar to those in treaties. For instance, the binding UNSC Resolution 1540, which is related to a general and broader issue of mass destruction weapons, rather than a particular geographical conflict. It also uses the words “shall” and “decide”, gives a definition of “non-state actor”, sets specific goals, and states that States should criminalise certain conduct in accordance to their national legislation, all of which are common languages in treaties and have demonstrated that it is mandatory for states to comply with the resolution.

The binding resolutions of the UNSC are sometimes even more powerful than treaties for the reason of expediency. The negotiation and ratification of treaties are time-consuming processes; conversely, the UNSC resolutions can be binding to all member states without being subject to rectification by each state. Thus, the UNSC resolutions could be rapid responses to urgent challenges and threats in the future.

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