Handbook on Global Constitutionalism
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Handbook on Global Constitutionalism

Edited by Anthony F. Lang and Antje Wiener

This Handbook introduces scholars and students to the history, philosophy, and evidence of global constitutionalism. Contributors provide their insights from law, politics, international relations, philosophy, and history, drawing on diverse frameworks and empirical data sets. Across them all, however, is a recognition that the international order cannot be understood without an understanding of constitutional theory. The Handbook will define this field of inquiry for the next generation by bringing together some of the leading contemporary scholars.
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Chapter 27: Functionalism, constitutionalism and the United Nations

Jan Klabbers


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.

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