Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Jan Klabbers and Åsa Wallendahl
Chapter 1: Contending Approaches to International Organizations: Between Functionalism and Constitutionalism
1 Jan Klabbers INTRODUCTION International organizations make headlines pretty much every day. Sometimes they do so in a positive sense, earning praise for their work, but increasingly, it seems, some of those headlines are negative: at least some of their activities are seen as controversial. UN peacekeepers, e.g., have been accused of human rights violations, of organizing prostitution rings, and other sordid activities, and the UN has been criticized both for doing nothing (think Rwanda, think Srebrenica) and, often enough, for doing too much (think of the Security Council adopting a legislative role). The World Bank regularly is condemned for failing to pay attention to the effects of its policies on the human rights of people; much the same applies to the external relations of the European Union which, while waving the banner of human rights and democracy, are seen by many as imposing standards on poorer nations. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) engages in repatriations of people, voluntary or not-quite-so-voluntary, and runs the risk of going astray when determining the status of refugees. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often accused of sacrificing environmental considerations, labour standards, and principles of human rights on the altar of free global trade, and most disturbing of all perhaps, the United Nations Sanctions Committees are sometimes seen as violating human rights in the war on terror which, perhaps ironically, is itself often justified in the name of human rights. Even where international organizations do not engage in identifiable wrongs, their...
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