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The Position of Member States in (Autonomous) Institutional Decision-Making

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Implications for the Establishment of Responsibility

The international legal personality and autonomy of international organizations constitute the main vantage point from which responsibility issues in an institutional context are addressed in legal scholarship. In such an exercise, what is often missed is an explanation of how both concepts impact upon the understanding of the position of member States vis-à-vis the organization, and in particular the legal relevance of State participation in the activities of the latter. This paper discusses the relationship between international organizations and their members through the lens of decision-making processes. Looking beyond the veil of an organization’s decisions, it confronts institutional autonomy with the prominent role assumed by member States in the processes of the formation of institutional will, with a view to asserting the legal significance of the latter for responsibility purposes. To that end, this paper first discusses member States’ participation in international organizations, and possible responsibility as a result of such participation, by reference to wrongful conduct perpetrated by the international organization. Subsequently, it concentrates on member States’ responsibility for their own conduct performed in an institutional setting. Based on the premise that member State voting behaviour may be qualified as an act of the State, the paper goes on to show that State participation could entail legal consequences in its own right, provided that international norms binding upon the State dictate particular courses of action in an institutional context.

Affiliations: 1: Ph.D Researcher, Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies,; 2: Professor of Public International Law, University of Utrecht,


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