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Full Access Modifying the UN Charter through Subsequent Practice: Prospects for the Charter's Revitalisation

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Modifying the UN Charter through Subsequent Practice: Prospects for the Charter's Revitalisation

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Despite the vast challenges facing the United Nations in its ever expanding mandate, the task of reforming the organisation remains encumbered by its onerous amendment procedures. Recent attempts to instigate formal changes to the Charter of the United Nations have all failed. In this context, it is argued that greater attention should be paid to the other ways in which changes can be made to the Charter. The subsequent practice of member states and organs can play an important role in informing changes to the Charter's application. The idea that treaties can be modified through subsequent practice is not new under international law. While it was rejected as a principle that should be codified under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, its utility is being presently re-considered by the International Law Commission. However, the functional potential of this doctrine vis-à-vis the Charter has attracted little academic scrutiny. This article pre-empts some of the issues that will be examined by the Commission, arguing that it is time to expand the role of subsequent practice, by not only using practice to inform interpretations to the Charter, but to embrace the opportunity for amendments to be also made through the subsequent practice of parties. This approach promises to open up greater prospects for the Charter's revitalisation. If the conditions for modification are carefully considered, the doctrine can be a useful instrument for Charter reform.

Affiliations: 1: Graduate, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Despite the vast challenges facing the United Nations in its ever expanding mandate, the task of reforming the organisation remains encumbered by its onerous amendment procedures. Recent attempts to instigate formal changes to the Charter of the United Nations have all failed. In this context, it is argued that greater attention should be paid to the other ways in which changes can be made to the Charter. The subsequent practice of member states and organs can play an important role in informing changes to the Charter's application. The idea that treaties can be modified through subsequent practice is not new under international law. While it was rejected as a principle that should be codified under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, its utility is being presently re-considered by the International Law Commission. However, the functional potential of this doctrine vis-à-vis the Charter has attracted little academic scrutiny. This article pre-empts some of the issues that will be examined by the Commission, arguing that it is time to expand the role of subsequent practice, by not only using practice to inform interpretations to the Charter, but to embrace the opportunity for amendments to be also made through the subsequent practice of parties. This approach promises to open up greater prospects for the Charter's revitalisation. If the conditions for modification are carefully considered, the doctrine can be a useful instrument for Charter reform.

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2012-01-01
2016-12-07

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