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International Organizations

By Palitha T.B. Kohona

Vientiane, 7 9 October 2003

What is an International Organization?

Originally, only States were members of international community

International and Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs)

slowly emerge as subjects of international law
The first international organization is considered to be the International
Telecommunication Union 1865

Currently, huge number (500+)

covering wide range of matters

global and regional scale
issues in coordination and efficiency

Problems in defining IGOs, their rights and obligations

Different Definitions of IGO

An intergovernmental organization. (Art. 2 (1) (i) VCLTSIO)

An organization set up by agreement between two or more States.


A non-State entity with international legal personality separate from that

of the States which established it. (Aust)

A body:
Based on a formal instrument of agreement between the governments
of nation states;
including three or more nation states as parties to the agreement;
possessing a permanent secretariat performing ongoing tasks.
(Yearbook of International Organizations)

Other Types of International


Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Set up by individuals or groups
Governed by the law of the country where the NGO is
Ex.: Amnesty International, Greenpeace
States are usually not parties of NGOs

Mixed Organizations
NGOs entrusted with functions typical of States

UN Programmes

Creation of IGOs

Transfer of certain powers from States to IGO

By treaty
EEC, now the EU
Originally the GATT
Provisionally brought into force by Protocol
Lasted 47 years

By resolution of the UN General Assembly


By declaration

Legal Personality of IGOs

IGOs have legal personality

Usually conferred by treaty or other constitutive instrument
Relative concept
Specific rights, duties and powers
Privileges and immunities
International responsibility an liability

Legislative, executive and administrative functions

Sources of legal personality:

Constituent treaty
Case law

Legal Personality Conferred by

Constituting Treaty

Art. 16 (a), Agreement Establishing the Terms of

Reference of the International Jute Study Group, 2001:
The Group shall have international legal personality.
In the territory of each member, and subject to its
national legislation, the Group shall, in particular, but
subject to paragraph 7(b) above, have the capacity to
enter into contracts, to acquire and to dispose of
movable and immovable property, and to institute legal

Reparation Case

Reparation for Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United

Nationscase, ICJ, 1949
Confirmed by the Certain Expensescase, ICJ, 1962

IGOs have international legal personality necessary to carry out

their functions

Powers are not limited to what conferred by constituent treaty, but

extend to what necessary to perform functions effectively

In the Reparation case, UN had implied claim for loss suffered by

staff; in the Certain Expenses case, UN had implied powers to set
up forces

Treaty Making Powers of IGOs

Usually conferred under constituent treaty

The capacity of an international organization to
conclude treaties is governed by the rules of that
organization. (Art. 6, VCLTSIO)

Some IGOs do not have treaty making powers


Also, implied powers under Reparation case

Legislative Powers of IGOs

Highest authority created by treaty

In some cases overrides national legislation

Legislative powers necessary to carry out mandate

Constituent treaty defines decision-making process

Rules adopted are binding on member States

Executive/Administrative Powers

Administers and operates the mandate as
defined by the constituent treaty and by the
decisions of the IGOs legislative body

Chief administrative officer

Responsible to discharge obligations of
Secretary-General, Executive Director, etc.

Vienna Convention, 1986

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties Between States

and International Organizations or Between International
Deposited with S-G
Not in force
Applies to:(a) treaties between one or more States and one
or more international organizations, and (b) treaties
between international organizations.
Adapts VCLT to IGOs
Ex.: ratification act of formal confirmation

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Specific clause in constituting treaty

Negotiation, then arbitration or ICJ

Sometimes, dedicated mechanisms

EU, most elaborate machinery

Art. 66 VCLTSIO: complex procedure

ICJ for certain matters
Otherwise, arbitral tribunal/conciliation commission

Status of IGOs in Domestic Law

Juridical personality in domestic law is to be

specifically conferred
Host country agreements
Art. 16 (a), Agreement Establishing the Terms of
Reference of the International Jute Study Group, 2001:
The status of the Group in the territory of the host
country shall be governed by the Headquarters
Agreement between the host Government and the

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Copyright 2003 by the United Nations. All rights

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