Outsourcing Enforcement

50 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2021 Last revised: 7 Sep 2021

Date Written: July 29, 2021


International organizations often outsource the enforcement of international law to their member states. The International Labor Organization (ILO), for instance, has neither its own adjudicative body nor an internal system of sanctions. Instead, the ILO’s maritime rules authorize states to impose costly retributive measures against noncompliant states. Conventional scholars are optimistic that these kinds of authorizations will strengthen otherwise toothless international law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, states neither followed nor enforced the ILO’s rules, harming hundreds of thousands of seafarers in the process.

Where has international law gone wrong? Challenging the conventional view, this Article unearths the state-centric drawbacks linked to outsourced enforcement, including political fealties, power imbalances, and market priorities. The implications of outsourced enforcement are wide-reaching, and the stakes of compliance are high, particularly given concurrent attempts to establish similar systems of outsourced enforcement across new international instruments.

This Article proposes a new theory of outsourced enforcement – specifically, one that is based on mandatory adjudicative bodies housed in the international organizations responsible for creating and interpreting international law. It concludes by explaining how such reform is possible and necessary to achieve organizational mission.

Keywords: Maritime Law, International Organizations, Enforcement, International Labor Organization, International Maritime Organization

JEL Classification: F13, F15, F02, F18, F23, F5, F66, J80, J81, K31, K33, K39, K42, L52, L91, M12, M54, O19

Suggested Citation

LeClercq, Desiree, Outsourcing Enforcement (July 29, 2021). Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 62, No. 2, 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3789173 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3789173

Desiree LeClercq (Contact Author)

Cornell ILR School ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853-3901
United States

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