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Autonomy of International Organisations

Completed in April 2011 this research project aimed to engage with the idea of international organisations as autonomous entities, both in terms of control and influence over their membership and as independent actors in the international legal system. It considered the difficulties of theorising autonomy in such a decentralised legal system, where autonomy appears as both desirable and dangerous at the same time. Related to this, it questioned how changing perceptions of international law affect ideas of autonomy in particular institutional settings, and how, in turn, particular institutional experiences may affect our perceptions of, or ambitions for change within the international system as a whole.

Richard Collins Autonomy PublicationProject Publication

The result of this project is the publication edited by Richard Collins and Nigel White (University of Nottingham),

'International Organisations and the Idea of Autonomy: Institutional Independence in the International Legal Order (Routledge Research in International Law)' published in April 2011.  

International Organizations and the Idea of Autonomy is an exploratory text looking at the idea of intergovernmental organizations as autonomous international actors. In the context of concerns over the accountability of powerful international actors exercising increasing levels of legal and political authority, in areas as diverse as education, health, financial markets and international security, the book comes at a crucial time. Including contributions from leading scholars in the fields of international law, politics and governance, it addresses themes of institutional autonomy in international law and governance from a range of theoretical and subject-specific contexts. The collection looks internally at aspects of the institutional law of international organizations and the workings of specific regimes and institutions, as well as externally at the proliferation of autonomous organizations in the international legal order as a whole. Although primarily a legal text, the book takes a broad, thematic and inter-disciplinary approach. In this respect, International Organizations and the Idea of Autonomy offers an excellent resource for both practitioners and students undertaking courses of advanced study in international law, the law of international organizations, global governance, as well as aspects of international relations and organization.

ISBN 978-0415550888

Project Activities

The series of seminars throughout the 2008-09 academic year, including an opening half-day workshop, brought together leading and early–career academics with interests in international law, institutional law and legal and political theory, to discuss these themes and the links between them.

Friday 24th October, Half-Day Workshop
"Introducing a Theme: International Organizations and the Idea of Autonomy" at the Douglas Knoop Centre, Humanities Research Institute. Participants: Duncan French (Sheffield and Lincoln), Garrett W. Brown (Sheffield), Patrick Capps (Bristol), Jean d´Aspremont (Leiden and Manchester), Richard Collins (Sheffield), Sorcha Macleod (Sheffield), Tarcisio Gazzini (Free University, Amsterdam), Dimitrios Kyritsis (Sheffield and Reading), Nicholas Tsagourias (Bristol and Sheffield), Tawhida Ahmed (Sheffield and Reading).

Wednesday 19th November 2008
Prof. John Merrills, University of Sheffield "Autonomy and International Adjudication"

Thursday 11th December 2008
Dr. Duncan French, University of Sheffield "Autonomy in International Environmental Law & Governance - A Case Study of the Actual (somewhere between the fable and the threat)"

Friday 6th February 2009
Ralph Wilde, University College London "International organization autonomy as a bar to accountability: peace operations and the Behrami case"

Wednesday 4th March 2009
Paul James Cardwell, University of Sheffield 'Institutional Autonomy and the Governance of EU Foreign Policy'

Tuesday 23rd March 2009
Catherine Brolmann, University of Amsterdam 'Intergovernmental Organisations and the Rule of Law'

Wednesday 1st April 2009
Dr. Alison Duxbury, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne "Suspending States from International Organizations for Violations of Human Rights and Democracy"

Wednesday 29th April 2009
Nigel White, University of Sheffield'UN Security Council: Consort or Corporate?'

Wednesday 6th May 2009 - 6th May
James Muiruri International Law Lecture, Professor Jan Klabbers, University of Helsinki 'Constitutionalizing Virtue in International Institutional Law'