Responsibility of the United Nations and the International Rule of Law

24 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018

See all articles by Janelle Marie Diller

Janelle Marie Diller

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Date Written: December 6, 2016


Reliance on law to guide international relations serves an important role in the governance of international organizations as well as States. In an authoritative Declaration (Res. 67/1, 2012), the United Nations General Assembly affirmed that the rule of law applies to international organizations, including the United Nations (UN) and its principal organs, and that respect for and promotion of the rule of law and justice should guide all of their activities. This paper explores the extent to which such a rule of law is recognized in law and given effect in practice by the UN and other international organizations, and the degree to which States and other actors share interpretations of what the rule of law means for protecting human rights and settling disputes, The evolving law of international legal responsibility of international organizations, and selected examples of UN practice, are used to examine the legal theory of responsibility arising out of acts or omissions that constitute a breach of a rule of international and/or institutional law, and its acceptance in practice. Examples of UN practice probe responsibility for aiding State human rights violations (Democratic Republic of the Congo), failing to actively cooperate to prevent or stop such violations (Sri Lanka), and engaging in acts or omissions giving rise to third party claims for injury and death (Haiti). The paper concludes that, while the law of responsibility of international organizations and its application by the UN embed certain aspects of the rule of law, important gaps and shortfalls remain in such areas as sources of international obligations, consequences of breach, and means for enforcement of remedies. Suggestions include steps toward aligning dispute settlement obligations with operational risks to advance clarity of obligations, and toward arranging a UN System-wide independent body for settlement of disputes to provide for adequate and effective remedies.

Suggested Citation

Diller, Janelle Marie, Responsibility of the United Nations and the International Rule of Law (December 6, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Janelle Marie Diller (Contact Author)

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva ( email )

Maison de la Paix
Eugene-rigot 2
Geneva, Ontario CH-1211

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics