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Part I Evolution—UN Treaty-Making in Practice and in Theory, Ch.1 The UN Charter and Its Evolution

Ian Johnstone

From: The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Treaties

Simon Chesterman, David M. Malone, Santiago Villalpando

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 28 February 2024

UN Charter

This chapter conceives of the United Nations Charter as a “relational contract,” placing it somewhere between an ordinary treaty and global constitution. It is a legal instrument that structures a long-term relationship among UN member states and as such provides the normative and procedural foundation for much multilateral treaty-making. In other words, it is both a relational contract in itself and the embodiment of the relationship in which other multilateral treaties are negotiated, adopted, and implemented. While there are limits to the analogy, viewing the Charter in this way helps to explain how interpretation of the Charter has evolved. It also sheds light on the UN as a venue for and actor in treaty-making, and the implications of that for the development of treaty law. The chapter concludes that insights from relational contract theory show why the UN Charter has survived as the foundation for the international order, and why it is resilient enough to continue to do so despite the fundamental challenges to that order that are currently being witnessed.

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