How 'Public' is Public International Law? Towards a Typology of NGOs and Civil Society Actors
Presented at the Carabinieri Officers Academy 3rd International Conference, “The Protection of Civilian Population in Warfare — The Role of Humanitarian Organizations and Civil Society”, Rome, 27‐28 October 2017. Final version published in Global Governance, vol 24 (2018), pp. 159-168.
14 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017 Last revised: 26 May 2018
Date Written: October 28, 2017
How “public” is public international law? Despite its natural law origins, international law has long privileged the role of the state. Today, NGOs and civil society actors play an increasingly important role — offering a voice for the disenfranchised through their advocacy, and a helping hand for the disadvantaged through their operations. Calls for accountability of these actors are understandable, but often founder on their diversity. This paper therefore develops a typology of such actors, based on their activities and their drivers. That typology better reflects the reasons for and circumstances in which accountability is appropriate. In addition, it suggests a possible evolution in the international order where the status of an actor (state, intergovernmental organization, NGO, etc) is less important than its function.
Keywords: international law, international humanitarian law, non-governmental organisations, NGOs, civil society, history and theory of international law
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