The Multifaceted Concept of the Autonomy of International Organizations and International Legal Discourse
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AND THE IDEA OF AUTONOMY, R. Collins & N. D. White, eds., Routledge, 2011
24 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2010 Last revised: 28 Apr 2011
Date Written: March 25, 2011
The idea of the autonomy of international organizations classically reflects the political independence of the organization when it comes to making its own decisions. Autonomy as political independence essentially touches upon the multifold relationships – e.g. of control, subordination, partnership – existing between the organization and Member States. An account of autonomy restricted to the political independence of the organization would certainly be too narrow, however. Indeed, autonomy can also refer to the institutional independence of the organization; that is, the degree of impermeability of the organization to external institutional interferences. This aspect of autonomy begs the question of the extent to which international organizations constitute a legal order distinct from the general international legal order.
This paper submits that the centrality of the idea of the autonomy of international organizations, either as political independence or institutional independence, should not lead to a conception of autonomy as a monolithic and one-dimensional concept. This chapter starts by showing some of the multiple facets of each of these two dimensions of autonomy before turning to the various purposes which the idea of the autonomy has served in the discourse of international legal scholars and which explain why international legal scholars are so amenable to a one-dimensional conception of autonomy, whether as political or institutional independence.
Keywords: Public International Law, International Organizations, Autonomy, International Institutional Law, Member State, Security Council, Legal Personality, United Nations, Collective Security, Political Independence, Abuse of Legal Personality, Responsibility of International Organizations
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