Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Christian J. Tams, Antonios Tzanakopoulos and Andreas Zimmermann
Chapter 19: Treaties and international organizations: Uneasy analogies
The expansion of activities that States undertake in a collective manner has led to the increasing use and creation of international organizations (IOs). These IOs, in turn, have become parties to a rising number of treaties. The United Nations (UN) is a party to 1500 treaties listed in the United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS) database. The European Union (EU) is a party to over 2000 agreements. Classic treaties involve relationships between entities, such as host State agreements between States and IOs and cooperation agreements between IOs. An emerging trend is for IOs to become parties to substantive law-making treaties on, for example, the law of the sea and human rights. The IO may be a party to a treaty in addition to its member States or it may extend the effects of the treaty to its member States. It may be a party to a ‘mixed agreement’ that covers a field that partly belongs to the competence of the organization and partly to that of its member States. The law of treaties as applied to IOs gives rise to uneasy analogies with the law applicable in an inter-State context. The current legal framework does not seem to have kept pace with the dynamic participation of IOs in all aspects of international life. There is a tension between treating IOs in the same way as States and accommodating their specific characteristics.
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