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The Law of Treaties Beyond the Vienna Convention$
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Enzo Cannizzaro

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199588916

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588916.001.0001

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Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties: Between Memory and Prophecy

Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties: Between Memory and Prophecy

(p.123) 7 Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties: Between Memory and Prophecy
The Law of Treaties Beyond the Vienna Convention

Pierre-Marie Dupuy

Oxford University Press

The durability of a treaty requires its capacity to adapt and change in accordance with the evolution of the situation for which it was designed to apply. One of the means that allow such adaptability is evolutionary interpretation. This chapter underlines the twofold nature of this interpretative technique. According to a first approach, evolutionary interpretation may be considered as a way to identify the common will of the parties as it would have resulted if they had renegotiated the agreement taking into account the circumstances that have since evolved. In the silence of Article 31 of the Vienna Convention, the case law of the ICJ supports the view that such a dynamic interpretation is allowed only where it is possible to infer from the terms of the treaty that the text is open to considerations of factual or legal evolution after its conclusion. However, when a treaty establishes an organization designed to achieve a shared purpose, the international judge entrusted with task of interpreting that treaty is often prone to act as the depositary of the common finality. In such a case, evolutionary interpretation tends to a teleological one. It therefore leads to question how far such interpretation could be taken and may generate allegations of ‘judicial activism’.

Keywords:   interpretation, evolutionary interpretation, dynamic interpretation, teleological interpretation, Article 31, Vienna Convention, judicial activism, revision of treaties

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