magnify
Home Articles posted by Kristina Daugirdas

The United Nations’ Efforts to Restore a Reputation Tarnished by Cholera

Published on December 9, 2016        Author: 

Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that UN peacekeepers are the source of a 2010 cholera outbreak that has infected nearly 800,000 people and killed more than 9,000 people. After refusing to apologize or provide redress to the individual victims for six years, the United Nations appears to be changing course. On December 1, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to the General Assembly about the United Nations’ “new approach” to cholera in Haiti.

Ban’s remarks are notable both for what he said—and for what he did not. Ban finally apologized to the Haitian people. He outlined the steps the United Nations planned to take to combat cholera in Haiti, and to provide benefits, possibly including monetary compensation, to the individuals and communities that were most directly affected. Ban also spoke about the United Nations’ reputation: he urged member states to “seize this opportunity to address a tragedy that […] has damaged our reputation and global mission.” Now for the omission: Ban did not say that that the United Nations had a legal obligation to take any of these steps, even though the lawfulness of the United Nations’ conduct in connection with the cholera crisis in Haiti has been forcefully challenged.

It is these latter two points that I want to address. A couple of years ago, EJIL published an article of mine entitled Reputation and the Responsibility of International Organizations, which argued that international organizations have a strong incentive to cultivate and preserve reputations for being law-abiding. It drew on the cholera crisis in Haiti as a case study. Developments since then confirm the importance of reputation in motivating international organizations—and also highlight a crucial shortcoming of relying on reputation to keep such organizations in line. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Response

Published on March 27, 2015        Author: 

First off, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for the care and thoughtfulness with which Professors Tom Dannenbaum, Jan Klabbers, and Paul Stephan have engaged my article. Before turning to their individual commentaries, I want to briefly address one common theme in their remarks: that the link between IO legitimacy and IO reputation for compliance with international law can be quite complicated.

That’s absolutely right; after all, compliance with international law is only one facet of IOs’ legitimacy. Other facets include the morality of IOs’ actions (or omissions), IOs’ effectiveness in achieving the purposes for which they were created, and—especially in the context of technocratic organizations—their scientific and technical expertise.

In this article, I focused on compliance with international law because I was seeking to explain why the IO Responsibility Articles will have important practical consequences. That required explaining why IOs and their member states would pay attention to claims made in transnational discourse about IOs’ international obligations and possible violations. I argued that IOs would heed such discourse because it could threaten their reputations for complying with international law, and IOs have even more reasons than states do to cultivate those reputations. IOs that flout international law risk being perceived as illegitimate, and IOs that are perceived to be illegitimate will be less effective—and will face more obstacles to securing both financial support and cooperation from their member states.

I completely agree, however, that a fuller account of when and why IOs and their member states will be motivated to comply with international law would have to wrestle with the other facets of IO legitimacy—and especially the way they might be in tension with one another. Read the rest of this entry…

 

IO Reputation and the Draft Articles on IO Responsibility

Published on March 24, 2015        Author: 

In 2011, the International Law Commission adopted a set of draft articles on the responsibility of international organizations. Like the ILC’s draft articles on state responsibility, the IO Responsibility Articles seek to clarify both the circumstances that establish a breach of an international obligation and the consequences of responsibility, including the obligation to make full reparation for injuries caused by such violations.

The IO Responsibility Articles have come in for a lot of criticism from legal scholars. José Alvarez, for one, has described the ILC’s effort as ‘at best premature and at worst misguided’. In his view, the IO Responsibility Articles are premature, partly because there is not nearly enough practice to warrant their codification, and partly because the primary norms of international law that bind IOs remain unsettled. In particular, there’s considerable disagreement on how and when IOs are bound by customary international law and by treaties to which they are not parties.

Scholars—including Jan Klabbers, who is participating in this online symposium—have also questioned whether the IO Responsibility Articles would have any practical effect. They rightly note that the IO Responsibility Articles have elicited no substantial support from states and IOs. Although the ILC’s draft articles have often formed the basis for treaty negotiations, there’s no chance that the IO Responsibility Articles will be transformed into a treaty anytime soon. Furthermore, except in rare cases, neither international nor national courts can assess whether IOs have violated international law. Under these circumstances, one might be forgiven for thinking that the IO Responsibility Articles can safely be ignored.

I am more optimistic about the IO responsibility articles; I argue that they are neither premature nor feckless. In fact, the IO Responsibility Articles can help to clarify the primary international law norms that bind IOs. The IO Responsibility Articles may also spur IOs and their member states to prevent violations and to address violations promptly if they occur. And that’s so even if the IO Responsibility Articles never become a treaty and even if no new dispute-settlement mechanisms are developed. Read the rest of this entry…

 
Comments Off on IO Reputation and the Draft Articles on IO Responsibility