Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Jan Klabbers and Åsa Wallendahl
Chapter 9: Decision-making
Nigel D. White FUNCTIONALISM IN DECISION-MAKING A significant development in the post-1945 institutional order has been the move away from unanimity as a basis of decision-making in favour of majority voting. Prior to this the international order was characterized by conferences at which states met as equals, and decisions could not be adopted that would place obligations on dissenting states. In the United Nations (UN) era lip service is paid to sovereign equality. It is significant that the first principle on which the UN is based is ‘the principle of sovereign equality of all its members’ (Art. 2(1) of the UN Charter). Sovereign equality also seems to be respected in international organizations by the dominance of the principle of ‘one-state-one-vote’, but the era of majority voting combined with structural and political hierarchies signify that formally at least states are only equal at the point of casting their votes. The nineteenth-century consensual approach to decision-making, whereby all parties have to agree, was replaced by a functional approach, enabling organizations to achieve decisions and to take action despite a minority of dissenting states. There has been further pressure since the 1980s to move away from the principle of ‘one-state-one-vote’, to a system in which votes are weighted in accordance with the contributions each member state makes normally to the finances of the organization, what could crudely be labelled a ‘one-dollar-onevote’ system. Such a system already exists in the Bretton Woods organizations (the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank). A...
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