As world leaders gather take part in this week’s activities at the UN General Assembly, many of them will also take part in this year’s “Treaty Event” where all UN Member States are encouraged to sign or ratify new treaties. Our colleagues at UN Treaty Collection have put together this list of treaties closest to universal world participation. Here is a quick overview of some of the world’s most-ratified international treaties.

The Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocols on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Parties: 197
The Montreal Protocol is regarded as one of the most successful international treaties of all time. It was the first treaty in history to achieve universal ratification – i.e. it is has been ratified by every member state of the United Nations. It deals with the protection of the Earth’s vital, but fragile ozone layer. This layer protects life on earth from some of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays – and, thanks to the treaty, is set to recover completely by around 2050.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Parties: 195.
Launched in 1992, this convention showed state’s recognition, for the first time, of the climate as a “common concern of humankind.” Parties to the treaty acknowledged the dangers of greenhouse gases. They committed to the ultimate goal of stabilising these gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent “dangerous anthropogenic [human-made] interference with the climate system.” The actual limits of these gases were only set later, in the treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol (itself ratified by over 190 states).

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa. Parties: 195.
When the world met at the Rio Summit in 1992, they agreed that desertification – the process of fertile land turning into desert – was one of the greatest challenges to sustainable development. Desertification means there is less available land for crop-growers and animal-herders, increasing the pressure on other land and creating a dangerous feedback loop. Parties to the treaty agreed to work together to help affected states with funding, technology and knowledge transfer. States affected agreed to establish national and regional action programmes, working with local populations to reverse the land degradation.

Constitution of the World Health Organization. Parties: 194.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was established in 1946, following in the footsteps of various older international health treaties. States that have ratified the treaty agree that the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right of every human being. The Constitution also establishes the WHO as an agency of the UN, whose purpose is to direct and coordinate international health work. This includes strengthening health services, eradicating disease and taking emergency measures necessary to combat epidemics.

Convention on the Rights of the Child. Parties: 193.
One of the world’s most-ratified human rights treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is dedicated to ensuring the protection of children. It also establishes the right for children to be heard, as well as other rights as simple as having a name and nationality from birth. Those states who have ratified the convention must report annually to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. A recent optional protocol [link to the other blog post] aims to upgrade the power of this committee. The treaty has served as a powerful tool for groups campaigning for children. NOTE: numbers listed may be higher than the 193 member states of the United Nations, as treaties can be ratified by bodies such as the Holy See or European Union.  Also keep in mind that these numbers are subject to change. More information