The Normative Gap in International Organizations Law

The Case of the World Health Organization

In: International Organizations Law Review
Jan Klabbers Professor of International Law, University of Helsinki,

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This article aims to inventorize, discuss and analyze the normative output of the WHO, and aims to do so not in terms of ‘binding’ versus ‘non-binding’ instruments or ‘hard’ law versus ‘soft’ law, but in terms of the epistemic authority exercised by and through the WHO. This broader focus allows for a discussion not just of treaties and resolutions, but also of the normative effect of training courses produced by the WHO, or such documents as the World Health Reports. In the background resides the idea that there is a disjuncture between the authority exercised by international organizations, and the tools lawyers have readily available to evaluate such authority: the normative gap of the title. The article enjoins lawyers broaden their repertoire, as precisely lawyers would be well-equipped to address epistemic authority.

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