27 Oct 2010

Accountability of International Organizations

By definition 'International Law' is considered as 'soft law'. This is for the reason that unlike municipal law, international law lacks sanction i.e. ability to ensure compliance by the subjects except in the cases where the subjects by their own consent agree to comply. In this context, the nature and role of international organizations requires critical examination for the reason that there are no standards to adjudge the level of performance and the qualitative aspects of decision-making undertaken by such international organizations. 

In this perspective, Matthew Parish in his paper titled An Essay on the Accountability of International Organizations discusses the factual position of such organizations in as much as their accountability for actions is concerned. Discussing the conceptual foundations underlying the working of these organizations, the paper suggests rendering the actions of such organizations subject to the scrutiny of municipal courts so as to fix accountability and develops theoretical foundations to this effect. The rationale for such is explained by the author by stating that "we are not at liberty to treat international organizations as clumsy but harmless white elephants, lumbering over the fields in the middle distance but causing little harm or good in our immediate lives". In all, the paper provides meaningful insights into this less traversed path of international reckoning.

The abstract reads as under;
International organizations sometimes suffer from acute agency problems. Three exogenous methods of addressing those problems are considered: economic incentives, political accountability and legal accountability. For international organizations, the first is undesirable and the second inevitably weak. There is therefore an argument for heightened legal scrutiny of their actions. Yet international organizations have an unenviable track record of acting without regard to the most fundamental international standards of rule of law, and this article offers an unsightly catalogue of their legal aberrations. Moreover, the internal legal mechanisms international organizations have created ostensibly to hold themselves to account prove wanting at best. There may also be structural reasons why international courts and tribunals will never be able to conduct an adequate review of the important decisions international organizations routinely take. This makes those organizations’ assertions of blanket legal immunity from jurisdiction of domestic courts appear increasingly inexplicable, as it removes all possibility of legal accountability. The supposed rationales for legal immunities of international organizations are reviewed and proved wanting. The conclusion drawn is that international organizations should be subjected to radically improved regimes of international judicial oversight, or their immunities should be abrogated in certain areas so that they may be rendered subject to the jurisdiction of the domestic courts of the countries in which they operate, or both. Measures of this kind may dramatically improve the quality of decision-making and accountability of international organizations. 

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