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The Office of the Legal Adviser publishes the annual Digest of United States Practice in International Law to provide the public with a historical record of the views and practice of the Government of the United States in public and private international law. The complete 2021 Digest is available at the bottom of this page. The 2021 Digest provides a historical record of key legal developments in 2021. Acting Legal Adviser Rich Visek summarized the contents of the 2021 Digest in the Introduction, stating in part:

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect the practice of public international law. …

Whether virtual, written, or in-person, U.S. officials provided views and positions on critical topics in 2021. The State Department unveiled a new policy to permit passport applicants to select the gender marker on their passport without presenting medical documentation of gender transition and added a third gender marker, “X,” for applicants identifying as non-binary, intersex, and/or gender non-conforming. The Biden Administration released an updated National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. The United States joined others in condemning the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, through U.S. and joint statements, by imposing sanctions, and by suspension of the discretionary application of the U.S-Belarus Air Transport Agreement. The U.S. submitted its contribution on international law in response to the draft report of the Group of Government Experts (“GGE”) on responsible State behavior in cyberspace before the report was finalized.

There were further developments in 2021 relating to U.S. international agreements, treaties, and other arrangements. The United States expressed support for negotiation of a UN cybercrime treaty and engaged in the annual negotiating session in 2021 on a treaty on business and human rights. Canada and the United States held the first negotiation session regarding Line 5 under the 1977 U.S.-Canada Agreement Concerning Transit Pipelines. The United States rejoined the Paris Agreement and fully engaged on climate change in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other fora, with a host of domestic and international actions and initiatives. The President transmitted to the Senate, for advice and consent to ratification, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced an enhanced trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS” for Australia to acquire conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines. The United States and the Russian Federation agreed to a five-year extension of the New START Treaty.

In its relations with other nations, the United States responded to developments with appropriate measures and alterations. In response to numerous crises around the globe, the Biden Administration determined to rebuild and expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and other humanitarian programs. In response to the February 2, 2021 military coup in Burma, the United States designated Burma for temporary protected status (“TPS”); participated in a special session at the Human Rights Council (“HRC”); applied the recurring military coup restriction on assistance outlined in the annual appropriations act; and President Biden issued Executive Order (“E.O.”) 14014, “Blocking Property With Respect to the Situation in Burma.” With respect to Russia: the United States took multiple sanctions measures in response to Russian malign activities, including the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny; and issued E.O. 14024, “Blocking Property With Respect To Specified Harmful Foreign Activities of the Government of the Russian Federation.”

With respect to Afghanistan, after months of efforts by the United States and its allies to encourage a political solution to the decades-long war in Afghanistan, the United States announced its military withdrawal, which was completed on August 31. The U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (“SIV”) program and the refugee program “Priority 2” designation for Afghans, along with evacuation operations for U.S. citizens, and several agreements and non-binding arrangements with other countries, all helped to facilitate the relocation of individuals at risk due to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. The United States suspended operations at Embassy Kabul and Qatar agreed to serve as protecting power. The United States considered Afghanistan’s request under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention for U.S. import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material.

U.S. government works are in the public domain per section 105 of the Copyright Act.

Persons or organizations wishing to comment on this website or the Digest in general are invited to do so by sending an email to

Download the 2021 Digest [6 MB]

U.S. Department of State

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