Legal thinking about international organizations, including the United Nations (UN), is dominated by functionalist theory. This ties the existence and operation of organizations to their functions, as framed by the member states, with the consequence that debates about controlling international organizations by anyone else are, almost literally, a theoretical impossibility. With this in mind, it is hardly an accident that some have suggested that a more constitutional approach to organizations such as the UN is needed. This contribution discusses the dominance of functionalism, explains how it works and what its blind spots are, and then scrutinizes the leading constitutional approach to the UN. It concludes that thus far, the constitutionalist alternative falls short, precisely on the point of accountability to third parties.
This article, first delivered as the keynote at the ‘Transforming Institutions’ conference, discusses the increasing relevance of relations between different international organisations. It provides a discussion of what sort of forms these relations can take, and of the relevant legal questions that arise, relating to the form of instruments, treaty-making powers and procedures, accountability for joint activities, and related issues. It concludes by providing a preliminary assessment in light of some of the relevant theoretical literature.