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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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3 International organizations and their members

Jan Klabbers


All organizations will have some rules concerning who is allowed to join them. This only makes sense: they are not like commercial clubs striving for as large a membership as possible, but are, at least in theory, devoted to a particular function or set of functions. It follows that many organizations will accept as member states those states that can contribute (or can be expected to contribute) to the performance of these functions, and might resist applications from those that do not.

For states, joining organizations might be of interest for various reasons. With some organizations, the attraction resides precisely in the functions exercised by the organization. Thus, states join WIPO if they are interested in taking advantage of the global intellectual property regime, and they join the WTO if they feel that being part of the global trade regime will be useful to them. Likewise, it would be difficult to run a modern airline sector and have modern airports without joining ICAO. It is also on this functionalist basis that applicants can be refused. One example is that Liechtenstein was barred from joining the League of Nations in 1920 precisely because, not having its own army, it was considered incapable of contributing to the League’s functioning which, after all, involved a system of collective security. In regional organizations, the functioning is inextricably linked to the location: Israel and Morocco are considered unable to contribute to the EU’s goals precisely because they are not located in Europe.

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