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Rethinking Indirect Responsibility

A Study of Article 17 of the Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations

In: International Organizations Law Review
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In its Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations, the International Law Commission included Article 17 in order to regulate instances in which binding decisions and authorizations were made by international organizations that bound or applied in respect of their member States. Given that courts have struggled in vain to come up with a uniform approach applicable in such situations, one would expect that Article 17 would have been a cause for celebration. Commentators, however, lamented the inclusion of the provision, arguing that it cannot function effectively because it forms part of the problematic Chapter IV that regulates scenarios of indirect responsibility. The article rejects this approach. For the first time, it offers an integrated normative analysis of all Chapter IV provisions, and calls on the reader to rethink indirect responsibility in a way that advances and promotes coherence in the law of international responsibility. The paper adopts a contextual approach, and suggests that this understanding of Article 17 offers courts a twofold opportunity: first, the ability to effectively tackle cases that have troubled them to date; and second, to initiate a change in the way in which States and international organizations interact in the international arena.

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