How and Why International Law Binds International Organizations

58 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2016

Date Written: November 29, 2016


For decades, controversy has dogged claims about whether and to what extent international law binds international organizations ("IOs") like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. The question has important consequences for humanitarian law, economic rights, and environmental protection. In this Article, I aim to resolve the controversy by supplying a theory about when and how international law binds IOs. I conclude that international law binds IOs to the same degree that it binds states. That is, IOs are not more extensively or more readily bound; nor are they less extensively or less readily bound. This means that IOs, like states, are not bound by treaties without their consent, with some very narrow exception that apply to states and IOs alike. It means that IOS, like states, are bound by jus cogens rules, which are mandatory for states and IOs alike. And it means that IOs, like states, are bound by general international law -- but only as a default matter. Like states, IOs may contract around such default rules, except to the extent that individual IOs lack the capacity to do so because of their limited authorities.

Suggested Citation

Daugirdas, Kristina, How and Why International Law Binds International Organizations (November 29, 2016). Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 57, No. 2, 2016, Available at SSRN:

Kristina Daugirdas (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

701 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics