AbstractThe ban on inter-state war in the UN Charter is widely identified as central to the modern international order–Michael Byers calls it 'one of the twentieth century's greatest achievements'. Even if it is only imperfectly observed, it is often seen as a constraint on state autonomy and an improvement on the pre-legal, unregulated world before 1945. In response to this conventional view, this article shows that the laws on war in the Charter are better seen as permissive rather than constraining. I make two points. First, by creating a legal category around 'self-defence', the laws on war authorise, and thus legitimate, wars that are motivated by the security needs of the state, while forbidding other motives for wars. Second, state practice since 1945 has expanded the scope of this authorisation, extending it in both time and space beyond the black-letter text of the Charter. The permissive effect of law on war has therefore been getting larger. These two effects suggest that international law is a resource that increases state power, at least for powerful states, and this relation between international law and power politics is missed by both realists and liberal internationalists.
Virtually every important question of public policy today involves an international organization. From trade to intellectual property to health policy and beyond, governments interact with international organizations in almost everything they do. Increasingly, individual citizens are directly affected by the work of international organizations. Aimed at academics, students, practitioners, and lawyers, this book gives a comprehensive overview of the world of international organizations today. It emphasizes both the practical aspects of their organization and operation, and the conceptual issues that arise at the junctures between nation-states and international authority, and between law and politics. While the focus is on inter-governmental organizations, the book also encompasses non-governmental organizations and public policy networks. With essays by the leading scholars and practitioners, the book first considers the main international organizations and the kinds of problems they address. This includes chapters on the organizations that relate to trade, humanitarian aid, peace operations, and more, as well as chapters on the history of international organizations. The book then looks at the constituent parts and internal functioning of international organizations. This addresses the internal management of the organization, and includes chapters on the distribution of decision-making power within the organizations, the structure of their assemblies, the role of Secretaries-General and other heads, budgets and finance, and other elements of complex bureaucracies at the international level.
The legalization of world politics is often celebrated for reducing impunity for those who contribute to humanitarian crises. This may sometimes be true but the opposite is also true. In 2010, United Nations peacekeepers unwittingly brought cholera to Haiti and sparked an epidemic. Nearly a million people were made sick and 8,500 died. Legal activists have sought to hold the UN responsible for the harms it caused and win compensation for the cholera victims. However, these efforts have been stymied by the structures of public international law—particularly UN immunity—which effectively insulate the organization from accountability. In short, the UN is empowered, and the cholera victims disempowered, by legalization. The Haiti case powerfully illustrates the dangers of legalism, which have been largely overlooked in discussions of international law, and suggests that law alone is an inadequate arbiter of responsibility in international politics.