International Organisations and State Sovereignty: A Relationship in Flux


Workshop as a Side Event to the

2019 ESIL Annual Conference, Athens

12 September 2019


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Photo by Steve Johnson on

On the occasion of the 2019 ESIL Annual Conference in Athens, the Interest Group on International Organisations – IG-IO is organizing a side event on the theme of ‘International Organisations and State Sovereignty: A Relationship in Flux’. The event will take place on the morning of Thursday 12th September 2019.

We call on scholars from across the ESIL membership, and especially on early career scholars, to submit abstracts by Friday 19 April 2019 reflecting on the topic of the workshop. Selection of abstracts will be based on merits, regional and gender balance, and balance between established and young scholars.


The rise of international organisations has deeply affected state sovereignty – in theory, in law and in practice. On the one hand, the founding acts of certain International Organisations reaffirm sovereignty as a bedrock of international law. For instance, Article 2(1) of the UN Charter proclaims that the organisation is based upon the sovereign equality of its members and Article 2(7) protects their domestic jurisdiction. Similarly, Article 3 of the Charter of the Organisation of American States proclaims, inter alia, that ‘[i[nternational order consists essentially of respect for the personality, sovereignty, and independence of States’. On the other hand, however, many founding treaties, such as the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund, but also the UN Charter, clearly establish a difference among equals, notably in relation to member voting rights. What is more, the constitutional treaties of organisations with quite extensive powers vis-à-vis their members, including those such as the World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation, and many others, make no mention of sovereignty at all. Moreover, it is clear that the practice of these and other organisations has affected sovereignty in numerous ways, regardless of what is contained within their constituent instruments.

In hindsight, it appears that the phenomenon of institutionalization on contemporary international law has caused a reconfiguration of sovereignty: the theoretical, legal and practical implications of institutionalization on state sovereignty forced scholars, practitioners and official representatives to reconsider, often inadvertently, what sovereignty is, or at least what it has become. It is no coincidence that it has been the actions, policies and interventions of international organisations, which have led to ideas such as ‘divided’ or ‘conditional sovereignty’, the notion of ‘sovereignty in abeyance’ or ‘sovereignty as responsibility’. These ideas, and the narratives and frameworks in which they are embedded, are articulated and promoted by professionals working on International Organisations who are experts in their fields, some of whom have authority within the invisible college of international lawyers. Besides, these professionals often work in tandem or in coordination with a myriad of international and domestic non-governmental organisations. Consequently, in different ways, international organisations have clearly promoted changes in the idea of state sovereignty.

Call for Abstracts and Papers

With this background in mind, the IG-IO invites submissions that seek to engage with the many ways in which the rise of international organisations has affected state sovereignty in theory, law and practice. We invite applications from scholars of all levels, but we particularly encourage early career scholars to submit their contributions.

Abstracts of around 800 words should be submitted to by Friday 19 April 2019. When submitting their contributions, authors should identify their names and a short title of their contribution in the subject line of their email [“surname _ short title”]. Only original pieces will be considered. Please include the following information in your email: your full name, affiliation, email address, whether you are an ESIL member, plus a one-page curriculum vitae.

Successful applicants will be notified by email by Friday 26 April 2019.  Authors of selected abstracts will be invited to submit a 6,000 to 8,000 word-paper by Monday 19 August 2019. All contributions should adopt OSCOLA. Papers may in due course be published in the ESIL SSRN Conference Paper Series and may be selected for publication elsewhere. Further options will be discussed during the interest group workshop.


The Interest Group is unable to provide funding for travel and accommodation. Please see the ESIL website for information about travel grants and carers’ grants offered to ESIL members, and other relevant information about the conference.

Selected speakers are strongly encouraged to become members of the Society and to register for the Annual Conference; please note, however, that the Society is unable to offer reduced conference registration fees to speakers at pre-conference events (please do not register as agora speakers).

Selected speakers can indicate their interest in being considered for the ESIL Young Scholar Prize, if they meet the eligibility conditions as stated on the ESIL website. The ESIL Secretariat must be informed of all speakers who wish to be considered for the Prize by 15 May at the very latest.

For further information on the Research Forum please visit ESIL’s website.

Coordinating Committee

Catherine Brölmann

Sufyan Droubi

Richard Collins


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The Law of the Sea Interest Group of the European Society of International Law


Interest Group on Peace and Security / Groupe de Réflexion sur la Paix et la Sécurité

International Organisations Interest Group

European Society of International Law

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