Treaty Bodies

Geir Ulfstein

in The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552153
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law

Treaty Bodies

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The ‘treaty bodies’ established by many multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) represent a new form of international cooperation. These bodies, and, in particular, their ‘conferences of the parties’ (COPs), are not merely intergovernmental conferences since they are established by treaties as permanent organs and have subsidiary bodies and a secretariat. More recently, COPs have become the preferred institutional machinery for cooperation under MEAs. They have been established, for example, by global treaties addressing climate change, ozone depletion, and biodiversity as well as by regional agreements addressing acid rain in Europe and hazardous wastes in Africa. This article briefly describes COPs, their subsidiary bodies, and their secretariats. It then discusses their decision-making powers as well as their international legal personality and their implied powers. Finally, the article reflects on the applicability of treaty law and international institutional law to the activities of the COPs, the extent to which the treaty bodies in the form of COPs are unique features in international law, and whether the COPs serve their intended functions.

Keywords: treaty bodies; multilateral environmental agreements; conferences; international cooperation; decision-making powers; legal personality; institutional law; international law

Article.  5528 words. 

Subjects: Law ; International Law ; Environment and Energy Law

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