CASE STUDIES ON INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS AND UNIVERSALITY

Workshop at the Occasion of 2018 ESIL Annual Conference

Manchester 13 September 2018

9:00am – 10:30am – Room H1

 

The ESIL Interest Group on International Organisations – IG-IO will organize a pre-conference event at the occasion of the 2018 ESIL Annual Conference. The event will consist of a workshop on the topic “Case Studies on International Organisations and Universality”, when IG-IO members will present and discuss two papers as explained below; as well as of the IG-IO annual meeting, when the Coordinating Committee will provide an update on its work and present the plans for the next year.

Summary & Justification

As previously informed, the Coordinating Committee of the IG-IO is organizing a panel on the topic of “International Organisations and the Dream of Universality” at the 2018 European Society of International Law Conference. In response to the call for papers we had put forward in respect to the referred panel, we have received excellent abstracts, which justified the realization of a workshop at the occasion of our pre-conference event to address “Case Studies on International Organisations and Universality”. Exclusively on the criterion of excellence, we decided on two abstracts, whose authors kindly accepted to develop into full papers to be discussed at the workshop.

The first paper, by Dimitri Van Der Meerssche (Asser Institute), will discuss the role of legal interventions in entrenching and safeguarding the autonomy of the World Bank and its operative closure to the outside world. The second paper, by Arnaud Louwette (Université Libre de Bruxelles) will explore the reasons why international organisations, having unquestionably contributed to promoting human rights, apparently see these human rights as a burden unduly imposed on their own action. Each paper will have a discussant – Nicolas Kang-Riou (University of Salford) and David Rossati (University of Salford) kindly accepted to act as discussants. A round of questions and answers will follow the presentations and discussions.

The second part of the event will count with the participation of Gail Lythgoe (University of Glasgow), who kindly accepted our invitation to give an address on the topic “Big Data and the Law of International Organisations”. The session will also serve as the IG-IO annual meeting, when the Coordinating Committee will provide an update on its work and discuss plans for the next year.

Programme

09:00

WELCOME & INTRODUCTION

SUFYAN DROUBI

09:10

FIRST PAPER

 

INTERNATIONAL LAW AS INSULATION – THE CASE OF THE WORLD BANK IN THE DECOLONIZATION ERA

By DIMITRI VAN DEN MEERSSCHE

 

DAVID ROSSATI AS DISCUSSANT

09:30

SECOND PAPER

 

EXPLORING INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS’ IDIOSYNCRATIC RELUCTANCE TO HUMAN RIGHTS

 

By ARNAUD LOUWETTE

 

NICOLAS KANG-RIOU AS DISCUSSANT

09:50

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

10:10

GUEST PAPER ON BIG DATA AND THE LAW OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS

 

BY GAIL LYTHGOE

10:30

UPDATE ON THE IG-IO WORK & CONCLUSION

 

RICHARD COLLINS & SUFYAN DROUBI

Extended Abstracts

International Law as Insulation – The Case of the World Bank in the Decolonization Era

Dimitri Van Den Meerssche

This paper maps out how (international) legal concepts and norms were employed during the interinstitutional struggle between the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank (Bank) in the era of decolonization. The first contribution of the paper is historiographical. Drawing on material from the Bank’s (oral) archives, the paper gives an original account of the ways in which the organization bypassed the ‘universalist’ aspirations that were gaining a foothold in the UN’s democratic bodies. Secondly, the paper retraces how the event gave rise to a clash between opposing imaginaries of
international legal order, where the ‘universalist’ aspirations voiced by states from the Global South were ultimately frustrated by a functionalist understanding of international (institutional) law, which justified the Bank’s institutional insulation. Finally, the paper seeks to provide a modest contribution to the study of international institutional law (IIL) on a methodological level. As a doctrinal discipline that is primarily grounded in formalist comparative inquiry, IIL has traditionally paid little attention to the sociological dimensions of legal interventions. The paper points to some merits in extending the archive of IIL and altering its methodological apparatus: drawing on Kratochwil’s notion that the meaning of norms only emerges through concrete instances of norm-use, this analysis operates on the level of praxis and seeks to retrieve the meaning and potency of legal acts in a non-essentialist fashion.

Exploring international organisations’ idiosyncratic reluctance to human rights

Arnaud Louwette

As international organisations have increasingly been tasked with missions traditionally fulfilled by States, the move towards institutions has carried with it hopes of a truly universal international law. Over the past years however, this vision has become increasingly disenchanted as International organisations, once seen a symbol of neutrality and legality, have committed human rights violations in the course of fulfilling their mandates. In practice, though, repeated calls for accountability and respect for human rights have been met with limited success in international organisations. Advocating that human rights had to be tailored to their constitutive instruments, international organisations have tried to adjust human rights to their needs. The Security Council for instance, has consistently argued that the notion of “fair process” had to be adapted in the context of its sanctions and was not necessarily the same as when it was applied to States. Similarly, UNHCR has argued that its refugee status determination procedural standards could be lower than those applicable to equivalent national procedures. The World Bank as well, has constantly maintained that the prohibition of interfering in the political affairs of its member states prevented it from fully integrating human rights in its operational policies. Even the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, arguably the subsidiary organ of an international organisation bearing the most resemblance to a State, has constantly argued that it constituted a sui generis institution, and that it was up to itself to define which human rights norms were binding it. Drawing on those examples explored in depth in my doctoral dissertation, this paper suggests that while international organisations have undoubtedly contributed to promoting human rights, as far as their own actions are concerned, they see these human rights as a burden unduly imposed on their action. Arguing that the realization of the function for which they have been created must take precedence over all other considerations, international organisations have tended to present the realization of that function as essential to protecting universal interests. In doing so, they have however contributed to weakening human rights standards. This contribution explores the reasons of that idiosyncratic reluctance to human rights. It argues that two main reasons can be submitted to explain it. On the one hand, the realisation of the primary function of each organisation has become a doxa for their respective bureaucracies, the cornerstone of set of deeply embedded sociological preferences, which make these unwilling to integrate human rights in a way that would make them depart from those preferences. On the other hand, States taking part in the governing bodies of international organisations have been increasingly unwilling to see these integrate human rights further, as the costs they would incur from such integration offset the benefits of human rights compliance.

Biographies

Arnaud Louwette is a Lecturer in international law at Université Libre de Bruxelles. He holds a PhD from ULB (February 2018), a Master of Laws in Globalization and Law from the University of Maastricht and a Master of Laws from the University of Liège. In his doctoral dissertation, Arnaud draws on critical legal studies and constructivist literature to study the applicability of human rights to International Organisations. Arnaud’s teachings include lectures on international responsibility and seminars on methodology of international law. Arnaud is a member of ESIL and of the Interest Group on International Organisations.

David Rossati is an international jurist and Lecturer in Law at the Business School of the University of Salford. His research and practice stands at the interface between international environmental, economic and institutional law, with years of professional experience in consulting and training particularly in the field of climate change law and policy. His published work addresses linkage issues between the international climate change, trade and development regimes. David holds a doctoral degree from the University of Edinburgh (December 2015) and he is currently working on a monograph on international law and institutional complexity based on the PhD thesis. He teaches Public International Law, WTO and International Investment Law in Salford, as well as International Climate Change Law for the University of Edinburgh. David is a rapporteur for the OXIO database and a member of ESIL – Interest Group on International Organisations.

Dimitri Van Den Meerssche is a researcher in international law at the Asser Institute (since September 2018) and in the final stage of his PhD research at the EUI. His dissertation provides a Latourian account of legal practices in the World Bank. Dimitri has worked at the World Bank’s legal department (Fall 2016) and spent one semester as doctoral researcher at the LSE (Spring 2017). He holds master degrees from NYU, Ghent University (summa cum laude) and the EUI. Dimitri has published on the law of IOs (International Organisations Law Review; London Review of International Law); international legal theory (Transnational Legal Theory); the accountability of IFIs (book volume); and law and development (Law and Development Review). He has taught international law and EU law at the LSE, and will be (co-)teaching a course on law and development at the BSIS in Fall 2018. He is a Rapporteur for OXIO and served as senior editor for the EJLS. Dimitri’s research employs insights from performativity theory, Actor-Network-Theory and critical sociology in the study of international legal knowledge, practices and institutions.

Gail Lythgoe is completing her PhD at the University of Glasgow on the topic of deterritorialisation and international law. She has studied law at the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Singapore (National University of Singapore). Gail is the Managing Editor of OUP’s International Organisations (OXIO) Database, Assistant Book Review Editor of the European Journal and Associate Editor of EJIL:Talk! Gail’s research interests include public international law, legal theory, international legal history, international organisations, critical geography and political theory.

Nicolas Kang-Riou completed his PhD at the University of Strasbourg in 2014. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Salford where he teaches and researches on human rights and international law. His latest piece is entitled ‘Moving away from common sense: the impact of the juridification of human rights’, in: Cowell, F (ed.), Critically Examining the Case Against the 1998 Human Rights Act, Routledge (2018).

 

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