A Global Panopticon? The Changing Role of International Organizations in the Information Age

56 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2011 Last revised: 21 Feb 2014

See all articles by Jennifer Shkabatur

Jennifer Shkabatur

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliyah, Israel; World Bank

Date Written: June 6, 2011


Achieving compliance is one of the most challenging aspects of international law. International organizations are entrusted with the responsibility to monitor state compliance with international obligations, but often fail to do so. International regulation therefore becomes ineffective. The Article argues that the introduction of information technologies transforms this reality.

The Article explores the powerful potential of online compliance monitoring in three major fields of international regulation: health, environment, and human rights. It demonstrates that information technologies allow international organizations to actively search for and unearth otherwise unavailable information on state compliance. As part of this, the Article provides the first legal account of how information technologies enabled the World Health Organization to overcome state resistance and detect the early signs of the recent global pandemics - SARS and Swine Flu. Further, the Article suggests how comparable measures can be adopted by other international regulatory regimes.

Discussing the normative implications of this phenomenon, the Article posits that it can generate an unprecedented “global panopticon”: a situation in which states lose control over sensitive information and can always be watched by non-governmental bodies. The Article discusses the repercussions of this new reality, and offers a legal framework that mitigates the adverse effects of this “panopticon” while bolstering its benefits.

Keywords: international organizations, information technologies, internet, health, human rights, environment, compliance, monitoring

Suggested Citation

Shkabatur, Jennifer, A Global Panopticon? The Changing Role of International Organizations in the Information Age (June 6, 2011). Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 33, No. 2, p. 159, 2011, Boston Univ. School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-26, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1858908

Jennifer Shkabatur (Contact Author)

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliyah, Israel ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 4610101

World Bank ( email )

1616 H Street
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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