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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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5 Organs and their decisions

Jan Klabbers

Extract

Earlier it was suggested that organizations are often set up on the model of a principal–agent relationship. States collectively create an entity to which they then assign a specific function. However, what makes this a curious kind of principal–agent relationship is the circumstance that the principal always makes sure to be part of the agent. All organizations have a plenary body in which the member states are represented. Usually this body meets regularly but not very often (once a year, once every two years). It will discuss the bigger political issues, and will take decisions relating to household matters and issue recommendations that have been negotiated, to a greater or lesser extent, in advance.

Organizations typically also have an administrative organ: a secretariat, however named, to take care of practical matters. Documents need to be typed up and translated, plane tickets and hotels need to be booked, interpreters need to be arranged, and so on: all these matters normally belong to the tasks of the secretariat. On paper, this looks innocent enough, but often the tasks go further as well: meetings of the organization need to be prepared; the agenda needs to be established; and the budget needs to be prepared. Often enough these tasks also fall to the administration, and it is easy to see that here the secretariat has ample space for exercising influence. The task of setting the agenda, for example, entails deciding on what topics are suitable for discussion and what topics...

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