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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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7 External relations

Jan Klabbers


Organizations can and do conclude treaties, and generally it is held that whereas the capacity to do so stems from international law, the specific powers needed to conclude specific agreements stem from the organization’s constitution. On this line of thinking, all organizations have the capacity to conclude treaties, but whether the FAO can conclude a military agreement depends on the FAO’s constituent document.

The specific treaty-making powers, therefore, tend to follow the general discussion on powers as set out above: they are either explicitly conferred, or can be viewed as implied powers. Thus, the UN Charter explicitly envisages the conclusion of treaties between the UN and other international organizations (see articles 57 and 63 of the UN Charter): this is a conferred or attributed power. Less obviously, the UN concludes peacekeeping agreements with states contributing troops: since the UN has no express power to engage in peacekeeping but is generally considered to have an implied power to this effect, it follows that troop-contributing agreements are also based on an implied power.

Even where treaty-making powers are absent, it cannot automatically be concluded that organizations do not enter into treaty relations with other parties. Amongst international lawyers, a popular argument holds that some agreements contain no legal rights or obligations, but merely operate on the political level. On this theory, entities create political commitments which, to be sure, they expect to be respected, but without expecting performance through legal institutions such as courts.206 It would follow that...

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