Article 31: General Rule Of Interpretation

In: Commentary on the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
Author:
M.E. Villiger
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Abstract

A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of treaty. The methods used in theory of interpretation are subjective method, textual method, the contextual method, the teleological method and the logical method. Article 31 gives pride of place in paragraph 1 to good faith, which is "one of the basic principles governing the performance of legal obligations". Paragraph 4 provides that a special meaning shall be given to a term if it is established that the parties so intended. The ordinary meaning of a term of the treaty will be determined in the light of its purpose. The meaning of a treaty term will correspond with any relevant rules of international law applicable in the relations between the parties. Courts have with difficulty accepted the means in Articles 31 and 32 as constituting the mandatory rule of interpretation.

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