Difference between Treaty and Convention

27 Mar 2023  Read 894 Views

Lots of people confuse the meaning of a treaty with a convention. Do you feel the same way about these terms? Therefore, here we are to make these concepts easy for you so you can never forget the difference between the two. This article will discuss the meaning of treaty & convention along with examples.

What is a Treaty?

Like an Act has sections, the constitution has articles; similarly, treaties have provisions binding only upon the states (countries) who have signed it. Treaty is basically any written agreement signed between & by a few countries or international organizations. The signatories to treaties not only have to accept the rules and obligations but also take liability for any failure on their part. 

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What is given under Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969)?

  • The Convention was adopted on 22nd May 1969 and opened for signature on 23 May 1969 by the United Nations Conference on the Law of Treaties, where this Convention was passed. The Conference was convened pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 2166 (XXI) of 5 December 1966 and 2287 (XXII) of 6 December 1967. 

  • The Conference held two sessions, both at the Neue Hofburg in Vienna, wherein the first was from 26 March to 24 May 1968, and the second was from 9 April to 22 May 1969.

  • Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties, 1969 is the backbone of all international treaties, especially those entered upon by member countries after 1969. 

  • After the UN was established, countries entered into treaties that the United Nations ratified as the member countries of the world, giving this international body this special power. 

  • In case the government of the country changes, there will still be no effect on an international treaty; the treaty's provisions have to be followed even by the new government.

What is a Convention?

A convention is a special type of treaty or agreement between many countries. The primary difference that makes it different from a treaty is that it aims to resolve global issues, unlike issues between the parties. Many countries begin discussions on a global issue and reach a consensus regarding procedures and actions they all agree to follow, and it gets wrapped up as a convention. 

For example, the Vienna Convention, UNCLOS, the Convention on wetlands, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), etc. Hence, International conventions are treaties signed between two or more nations that act as an international agreement. Conventions generally have built-in mechanisms to ensure compliance, such as inspection procedures. 

What’s interesting to know is that when ratified by most states, any treaty or a convention forms part of customary international law, which then becomes binding on all the nations irrespective of whether they are party to the same or not.

Difference between treaty & convention





An international agreement between two parties, members or even nations to resolve disputes between them

Something that happens prior to a treaty being formed. It is also an international agreement aimed at resolving global issues.


Signed among a few countries

Signed among many countries


It is legally binding upon the parties. However, when forms part of customary international law, it gets binding on all nations.

It is legally binding upon the parties. However, when forms part of customary international law, it gets binding on all nations.


Treaty of Versailles, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Paris Peace Treaties, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are all treaties.

Geneva Convention, Vienna Convention, United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, Chicago Convention, CITES, Ramsar Convention etc.

5 Important treaties after World War II

  1. United Nations Charter

It has been established to discourage any further wars similar to the devastating world wars which came into existence after the failure of the League of Nations to deal with the conflicts that resulted in World War II. So, the Allied powers proposed in 1941 that created a new international body to maintain peace in the post-war world when U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, which proposed a set of principles for international collaboration in maintaining peace and security. UNO has 

  1. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

The treaty was adopted on 18 April 1961 by the United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities held in Vienna, Austria, and implemented on 24 April 1964. The Convention codifies the rules for the exchange and negotiations between states, which have been firmly established in customary law for many years. Its almost a universally adopted Convention with 179 states party to it.  

  1. Paris Peace Treaties

The Paris Peace Treaties were signed on 10th Feb 1947 after World War II in 1945 was over. The Paris Peace Conference lasted from 29th July until 15th October 1946. The victorious wartime Allied powers (UK, Soviet Union, US and France primarily) negotiated the peace treaties with Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria & Finland. The role of these treaties was to give power to defeated Axis powers to resume their responsibilities as sovereign states in international affairs & qualify for membership in the UN.

  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, which was the result of World War II. A document that would later become the UDHR was taken up at the first session of the General Assembly in 1946. The key human rights document UDHR is a document that acts like a global road map for freedom and equality, protecting the rights of everyone. Its two covenants, too, played a key role that is; ICCPR for ensuring everybody’s civil and political rights & ICESCR for ensuring everybody’s economic and social rights.

  1. Fourth Geneva Convention

The first three Geneva Conventions were related to combatants, but the fourth Geneva Convention was the first to deal with humanitarian safeguards for civilians in a war zone. The Convention was adopted in 1949 that comprised a rather short part concerning the general protection of populations against certain war consequences (Part II). Part III – Articles 27-141) deals with the regulations governing the status and treatment of protected persons 


Treaty and conventions can be confusing. Even though all these conventions are sometimes referred to as “International treaties”. So we can use them interchangeably. A treaty may also be known as (International) agreement, protocol, Covenant, Convention, exchange of letters, etc. However, Convention is a special type of treaty focusing on global issues. Hope you will never forget this!

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 186 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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