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Advanced Introduction to the Law of International Organizations

Jan Klabbers

The Advanced Introduction to the Law of International Organizations gives a nuanced overview of the legal mechanisms behind the operation of international organizations such as the UN, the EU and the World Bank. It offers perceptive insights by placing the law of international organizations in a political context and provides systematic discussion of a variety of relevant legal notions, ranging from the powers of international organizations to mechanisms of accountability. Written by a leading authority on the topic, it provides a concise and accessible examination of this developing facet of international law.
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2 The legal existence of international organizations

Jan Klabbers


When international organizations were first created, their legal status remained uncertain. The early organizations of the nineteenth century were often hosted by the government of their host state (meaning that the organization was located in an office within a local ministry), and were often predominantly staffed by citizens of their host state and typically paid for by the host government, with the member states merely financing the travel back and forth of their representatives. In these circumstances, little thought was given to issues of legal status or personality.

This situation lasted, curiously enough perhaps, until after the Second World War. The treaties establishing earlier organizations such as the League of Nations did not contain anything on issues of status or personality: the closest the League Covenant came was to grant diplomatic status to its officials and to representatives of its member states and proclaim the inviolability of the League’s premises, in article 7.

Still, it was quickly realized that if the organization was to act effectively, it would have to insulate itself against the host state, for instance by hiring people from abroad. To this end, an international civil service mentality needed to be created,24 and it became necessary to allow the organization to act within the domestic legal order of the host state and, quite possibly, other states as well. But how to achieve this? After all, while domestic legal orders typically recognize a variety of legal persons (the association, the foundation, the partnership,...

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