Academic journal article Global Governance

Securing the Accountability of International Organizations

Academic journal article Global Governance

Securing the Accountability of International Organizations

Article excerpt

The shift of government/governance tasks from states to nonstate actors is a complex, multidimensional, simultaneously upward and downward process. On the one hand, there are large-scale transfers of state functions to private entities in the former Communist countries as well as in Western democracies. These range from core economic matters to prisons and security services.[1] On the other hand, there is a tendency to move such tasks to inter- or supranational entities like the UN, the World Trade Organization, and the European Communities/ European Union (EU). For present purposes, only the transfer of such functions to international organizations--that is, interstate or intergovernmental organizations--should be analyzed more closely. With the increase of tasks that are fulfilled by international organizations or, in particular, by supranational organizations like the European Communities, it becomes more likely that not only interests but also rights and even fundamental rights of individuals may be impai red.[2] Because of the severity of the latter type of violations, this article focuses on fundamental rights violations by international organizations as the most serious kind of rights infringements.

Note that European Communities or Communities is a collective term for the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), founded in 1951, the European Economic Community (EEC), and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), founded in 1957. The European Communities form the institutional framework of the EU. The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 officially changed the name of the European Economic Community (EEC) to European Community (EC).

To raise the issue of the fundamental rights accountability of international organizations may seem odd at first. Traditionally, international organizations have been viewed as guarantors of human rights rather than as potential perpetrators of human rights abuses. Indeed, one primarily conceives of the UN, the Organization of American States, and the Council of Europe as the prime actors responsible for supervision and monitoring of the human rights performance of states on a global and regional level. They do this through various of their organs, suborgans, and other treaty-based institutions. [3] However, it is exactly the increased direct involvement of international organizations in aspects of global governance through "quasi" or immediate legislative, administrative, and judicial tasks that has turned the tables and led to situations where international organizations may violate fundamental rights of individuals and where the ancient query of quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (who guards the guardians?) [ 4] demands renewed attention.

There is a wide range of potential individual rights abuses by international organizations. The increase of UN activity in the field of peace and security provides examples of potential fundamental rights infringements that are directly attributable to the world organization: UN peacekeeping or--more likely--peace enforcement troops might unlawfully destroy or confiscate civilian property in the course of operations. [5] The administration of territories by the UN from Cambodia and East Timor to parts of the former Yugoslavia provides ample opportunity for individual acts to encroach on the human rights of persons affected by the international administration. [6] The criminal tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, set up within the institutional framework of the UN, might in specific situations violate fundamental due process guarantees of those standing trial. [7] The UN Security Council might disregard fundamental rights standards in decreeing sanctions programs. [8]

Potential fundamental rights abuses by the UN find their counterpart in discussion of the accountability of multilateral financial organizations. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been repeatedly challenged for disregarding fundamental social and economic rights of peoples affected by the implementation of their projects. …

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