International Organizations

In a very important sense, for the lawyer, each international organization is unique, based as it is on its own constituent document and influenced as its development will be by peculiar political configurations. Thus, labels should never be substituted for analysis, as Brownlie has pointed out. An academic textbook on international organizations is not complete with-out an attempt to classify the various organizations into different types, sorts, forms or categories. Perhaps the main reason for making such classifications resides in the academic psyche: all academic disciplines engage in classification for purposes of organizing knowledge, if nothing else, so legal academics should do the same. We can classify international organization based on different criterions. Some of them are the following.


Classification based on functions

A first point often made by scholars is that organizations may be classified in accordance with their stated functions. Thus, quite few are active in the economic field; others are engaged in peace and security, or can be classified as military alliances. Yet others deal with issues of nutrition, public health, and telecommunication or fisheries conservation, to name just a few possibilities. A distinction based on functions automatically suggests itself, and it is broadly possible to distinguish between the “political” organizations, concerned primarily with the preservation of international peace and security, and the administrative organizations of more limited aims. The distinction is perhaps more accurately stated as one between organizations of comprehensive competence and organizations of limited competence. Prima facie, one should also distinguish the institutions for the judicial settlement of disputes, such as the permanent Court of international justice. As we shall see, no rigid distinction in functions is made in practice. The “political” organization, the United Nations, has amongst its organs the Trusteeship Council, with primarily administrative functions, and the I.CJ., a purely judicial body. The co-ordination achieved by bringing the specialized agencies into relationship with the UN also makes any clear classification by function difficult.


Classification based on Membership

Other classifications point to the membership of organizations as being of distinctive value. This method of classification base itself on the fact that some organizations are” global” whereas others are “regional”. Thus, some organizations aspire to universal or near universal membership, inviting in principle all states to join .The United Nations is a typical example, in principle open to all states as long as they meet certain requirements. Hence, the UN is often referred to as an ‘open’ organization, as are (although their membership does not compare to that of the UN) such organizations as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Other organizations however, may rest satisfied with a limited membership, and usually such limitations may derive from their overall purpose. Thus, many regional organizations, aiming to organize activities in a certain geographical region, are open only for states from that region. The European Union is only open for European sates; no Asian state can join the organization of African Unity, and the organization of American sates can only be joined by sates from the Americas. Within Europe at least (because of the diversity of the organizations involved), it has been possible to make the same broad division between organizations of general competence and those of limited competence.

The limitation is not always based on consecrations of geography, though. For instance, the organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a limited organization, but its membership spans the globe, including states from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. Here, the ties are economic. Similarly the organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also, in addition to a large number of west European member-states, members from the Americas, Asia and Oceania, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) does justice to the Atlanticism in its name by including members from western and southern Europe as well as the US and Canada, wereas the French-speaking countries are united in an organization devoted to francophonie.. Where membership is limited to states from a certain, region such organizations may be referred to as ‘regional’, but the more generic term used is often ‘closed’.


Classification based on the kind of contracting parties

It has also been suggested that there is a fundamental distinction, and therefore a basis for classification, between organizations founded on a treaty between states and a treaty between governments. Jenks has described this distinction as having importance comparable to that of the classical distinction between a confederation and a federation in the evolution of the public law of the principal federal states. The idea is, essentially, that the inter-state treaty form embraces the totality of the state’s institution, its legislative and judicial machinery as well as the administrative, whereas the inter-governmental treaty form embraces only the administrative. It would seem, however, that in practice the distinction is not regarded as having this significant difference in effect. The UN Charter itself refers indiscriminately to “peoples,” “governments” and “states,” so that it is difficult to see who the parties really are. Organizations like the IMF or the newer IMCO are based on inter-governmental treaties, whereas the FAO or WHO are inter-state; yet there is no observable difference in the view that States take as to their commitments according to the form used. The most that might be said is that, from the point of view of drafting technique, these variations leave much to be desired. The only possible justifications for the difference are first that the inter-governmental form would be satisfactory for a non-permanent organization, like UNRRA, and second that some States might find it easier, from their constitutional position, to accept the inter-governmental form. The distinction between inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations is, of course, a quite different matter.


Classification based on Intergovernmental or supranational

It is also possible to distinguish organization “Supranational,” i.e. power to bind member states by their decisions, from those without such powers. But this is often the characteristic of particular organ, rather than the organization as a whole, and whilst the possession of such powers will be pointed out where they exist. As things stand, there is only one organization which is usually held to be supranational in character: the EC. Hence, any description of supranational organizations will inevitably be based on the EC.

In comparison with other organizations, the EC possesses a few features which, in combination, render it distinct from the rest. First, under the constituent treaties, decisions which will bind the member –states can be taken by majority vote. Thus, it is entirely possible that a member – state will have to adopt a certain course of behavior which it itself vehemently opposes. Second, the product of those decisions is EC law which attains supremacy over conflicting domestic law, regardless of what the laws of the member-state stipulate and regardless of which one was enacted later. Third, much of the law promulgated by the EC may be directly effective in the legal orders of the member-states. Thus, much EC law may be invoked not just by one member-state against his or her own government, or in relations with employers or other relations of a private nature. It is in this sense that people often say that the member-states have transferred parts of their sovereignty to the EC, and it is in this sense that the EC. stands, in an almost literal way, above its member –States (hence the term’ supranational).

Some would go further and claim that on occasion, the member-sates are no longer allowed even to attempt to regulate behavior: the doctrine of pre-emption not only holds that member-state action can be overruled, but goes beyond this in saying that member-state action is no longer acceptable in some areas.

By contrast, the general rule among international organizations is that binding law-making decisions, at least on issues of substantive policy, can usually only be taken by unanimity, or consensus; that such rule does not usually work directly in the domestic legal orders of the member–states, and most assuredly that the member-states are not pre-empted from legislating. Here then, the organization does not rise above its member but remains between its members (intergovernmental).

There are a number of different ways in which one can approach the phenomenon of international organization within the world order. The rationalist approach emphasizes the notion of a world order of states that is moving towards the more sophisticated types of order found within states. It is progressive in that it believes in the transformation of a society of states into a true world community based upon the application of universally valid moral and legal principles. In other words, the development of the United Nations into a real world authority is seen not only as beneficial but also as, in the long run, inevitable. This is to be accomplished by the gradual increase in the influence and responsibility of the organization in all fields of international peace and security. Thus international organizations have a profound substantive as well as procedural purpose, and are intended to function above and beyond mere administrative convenience. To put it another way, the rationalists emphasis the role of such institutions as active performers upon the world stage rather than as mechanisms to greater efficiency.

Another general line of approach is the revolutionary one, which regards international institutions in terms of specific policy aims. Here, the primary aim is not the evolution of a world community of states based upon global associations as perceived by the rationalists, but rather the utilization of such institutions as a means of attaining the final objective, whether it be the victory of the proletariat or the rearrangement of existing states into, for example, continental units.

The third approach which may be noted is exemplified by the doctrine of realism. This centers its attention on the struggle for power and supremacy and eschews any concern for idealistic views. The world stage is seen as a constant and almost chaotic interweaving of contentious state powers, and international institutions are examined within the context of the search for dominance. Both the league and the UN were created to reinforce the status quo established after the world wars, it is stressed, although the latter institution is now seen as reflecting the new balance of power achieved with the growth of influence of the states of the third world. Since what can be described as a world order is merely a reflection of the operation of the principle of the balance of power, realists see the role of world organizations as reinforcing that balance and enabling it to be safely and gradually altered in the light of changing patterns of power; although, to be accurate, their overall attitude to such organizations is usually characterized by cynicism, as the inherent weaknesses in these organization have become apparent.

A more hopeful way of looking at the international institutions is to concentrate upon those areas where the interdependence of states has impelled them to create viable organs for co-operation. By this means, by identifying such subjects for international agreement, it is hoped to be able to encourage growing circles of cooperation which may eventually impinge upon the basic political areas of world peace. This functional approach appears as a cross between the nationalist and realist trends and is one much examined in recent years.  This approach also emphasizes the pattern of institutional behavior and the operations of the relevant bureaucracies, including the way in which the tasks set for the organization are identified and completed. Decision-making analysis is another useful tool in this area

It is also possible to examine international organization in a variety of other ways, ranging form historical and comparative exposition to analysis of the legal rules underlying the establishment and operations of the particular institution.

Because of the great diversity of international and regional intergovernmental organizations, ranging from the United Nations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the International Labour Organization, great difficulty has been experienced in classifying the relevant material. In this chapter, the simplest method of division into institutions of a universal character, regional institutions and the legal aspects of international institutions will be adopted. Within the relevant categories, the particular functions of different organizations, as well as their varying constitutional framework, will be briefly noted


The Chief functions of international organizations:

At present international organizations perform many functions and their functions are constantly increasing. Due to paucity of space it is not possible to mention here all the functions performed by international organizations. It will suffice to note here only those functions which are main in principle and which include other functions. Such functions are the following:-

I.One of the main functions of international organizations is keeping intact the sovereignty of states and despite their different social systems, they establish and expand peaceful cooperation among them.

II.The second main function is to ensure that the competition going on among the individual states remains peaceful.

The development of international organizations has been, in the main, a response to the evident need arising from international intercourse rather than to the philosophical or ideological appeal of the notion of world government. The growth of international intercourse, in the sense of the development of relations between different peoples, was a constant feature of maturing civilizations; advances in the mechanics of communications combined with the desire for trade to produce a degree of intercourse which ultimately called for regulation by institutional means.

The institution of the consul, an official of the State whose essential task was to watch over the interests of the citizens of this State engaged in commerce in a foreign port, was known to the Greeks and the Romans. It survives to this day as one of the less spectacular, but important, institutions of international law.The consul was not, however, concerned with representing his state as such, and for this purpose ambassadors were used, being dispatched for the purpose of a specific negotiation. By the fifteenth century this intermittent diplomacy had been replaced in the relations of certain of the Italian States by the institution of a permanent diplomatic ambassador in the capital of the receiving State, and the practice of exchanging ambassadors, complete with staff and embassy premises, is now a normal (albeit not compulsory ) feature of relations between states. Consular and Diplomatic institutions can be found the origins of the subsequent and more complex institutions.

Although embryonic forms of international organizations have been present throughout recorded history, for instance, in the form of the so called amphictyonic councils of ancient Greece, the late-medieval Hanseatic League or such precursors as the Swiss Confederation and the United Provinces of the Netherlands, it was not until the nineteenth century that .international organizations as we know them today were first established. Moreover, it was not until the nineteenth century that the international system of states (at least within Europe) had become sufficiently stable to allow those states to seek forms of cooperation.

Situations soon arose in which the essentially bilateral relationships established by diplomatic embassies or missions were inadequate. For example, a problem would arise which concerned not two but many States, and whether what was proposed was a series of negotiations or even a formal treaty, there had to be found a means for representing the interests of all the states concerned.

The means was the international conference, a gathering of representatives from several states; simply diplomacy writ large. The peace of Westphalia in 1648 emanated from such a conference, as did the settlement after the Napoleonic wars in 1815 through the congress of Vienna and, even later, the post-1918 settlement negotiated at the Paris conference of 1919 and embodied in the Treaty of Versailles. After the watershed Westphalian peace of 1648, international so-called congresses’ had become a regular mode of diplomacy: whenever a problem arose, a conference was convened to discuss it and, if possible at all takes steps towards a solution. After the defeat of Napoleon, a new development took place.

The Congress of Vienna of 1815 had seen the initiation of the “concert system” which, for the purposes of any study of international organization, constituted a significant development. As sponsored by the Czar Alexander I, what was envisaged was an alliance of the victorious powers pledged to conduct diplomacy according to ethical standards, which would convene at congresses held at regular intervals. In fact, four congresses were held between 1818 and 1822 - at Aix-la-Chappelle (1818), at Troppau and Laibach (1820, 1821), and at Verona (1822) - but the idea of regular congresses was later abandoned and meetings took place as occasion required. The attempt to secure regular meetings was, however, a significant recognition that the “Pace” of international relations demanded some institutions for regular multilateral negotiations.

Moreover, the Congress of Vienna (1815) and its aftermath launched some other novelties as well, the most remarkable of which was perhaps the creation of a supranational military force under the command of Wellington.

Clearly, any general post war settlement demanded a more general participation in the negations than could easily be achieved via the traditional methods of diplomatic intercourse. Bilateral negation also proved inadequate for other problems of a general nature. The congress of Berlin of 1871 was convened to consider the Russian repudiation of the regime for the Black Sea which had earlier been established at the Paris Conference of 1856; conferences met in Berlin in 1884 and 1885 to attempt to regulate the “Scramble for Africa” which led to commercial rivalry and political antagonism between the European powers. The Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 were an effort to secure, on a multilateral basis, agreement on different aspects of the law relating to the conduct of warfare on land and on the sea, and on the duties of neutral states.

The peace conferences of The Hague had given the small sates a taste for international activism: in particular the 1970 conference approached universal participation, with forty-four states being represented. Moreover, due in part to its near-universal participation, organizational experiments took place, one of them being that recommendations (so-called ‘voeux’) of the conference were passed by a majority vote, instead of unanimity.

The “concert of Europe” remained a quasi- institutionalized system even after the Holy Alliance had broken up, until the First World War destroyed the balance of power on which it rested (or rather confirmed its demise); the London conferences of 1912-13, at the end of the Balkan Wars, were the last conferences or congresses convened within the framework of the “concert system.” The conclusion of a conference would normally be accompanied by a formal treaty or convention, or, where no such binding agreement was desired or obtainable, by a memorandum or minutes of the conference.

The disadvantages of this system of ad hoc conferences were, first, that for each new problem which arose a new conference had to be convened, generally upon the initiative of one of the states concerned. The necessity of convening each conference anew complicated and delayed international co-operation in dealing with the problem. Second, the conferences were not debating forms in the same way as the later assemblies of the League and the United Nations; delegations attended very much for the purposes of delivering statements of State policy and, though concessions were often made, the conferences had a rigidity which disappeared in the later ”Permanent” assemblies of the League and the United Nations. Third, the conferences were held by invitation of the sponsoring or host state; there was no principle of membership which conferred an automatic right to representation. Fourth, the conferences adhered to the strict rule of state equality, with the consequence that all states had an equal vote and all decisions required unanimity. As will presently be shown, there are matters in which it is necessary to subjugate the will of the minority to that of the majority if progress is to be made, and the unanimity rule represented a serious restriction on the powers of the ad hoc conference.

It might also be said to be a disadvantage of the conference system that, as a political body, the conference was not ideally suited to the determination of legal questions. There were many cases in which the issues before a conference, although of a primarily political character, involved questions of law, of the rights or duties of the states under international law. The Paris conference of 1856 and the Berlin Conference of 1871, in dealing with the regime in the Black Sea, dealt very largely with legal issues. However, it must be remembered that there existed side by side with the conference system the traditional means of solving legal disputes, by mediation, conciliation or arbitration although there was in this field, as in the field of political settlement, an  equal need  for the creation of some permanent machinery. It is also unlikely that a rigid separation between” Political” and “legal” questions can ever be achieved so as to allocate the latter exclusively to judicial tribunals; politics are rarely “pure” and political matters do not cease to be such because they involve legal rights.

However inadequate the system of ad hoc conferences was for the solution of the political problems arising from international intercourse, it was even more inadequate for the regulation of the relations between groups of people in different countries arising from their common interests. The nineteenth century saw, therefore, an impassive development of associations or unions, international in character, between groups other than governments. This was followed by similar developments between governments themselves in the administrative rather than the political field.

The private International unions or associations sprang from the realization by non-governmental bodies, whether private individuals or corporate associations, that their interests had an international character which demanded the furtherance of those interests via a permanent international association with like bodies in other countries. In those fields where co-operation between governments became imperative, there developed the public international unions; these were, in fact, an essay into international organization in the administrative sphere. The transition from private to public organizations was gradual, and no generally accepted definition of the public international union has over been reached. in general. However, they were permanent associations of governments or administrations based upon a treaty of a multilateral rather than a bilateral type and with some definite criterion of purpose.

Finally, the nineteenth century saw the creation of such intuitions as the Rhine Commission, in order to deal with issues of navigation, or issues of pollution, on a regular basis. Following the establishment of the Rhine Commission in 1915, a number of other river commissions were established -managing the Elbe (1821), the Douro (1835) the Po (1849) - and, after the end of the Crimean War, the European Commission for the Danube in 1856. At roughly the same time, organizations started to be established by private citizens, in order to deal with international issues. Thus, in 1840, the world Anti-Slavery Convention was established, and in 1863 a Swiss philanthropist, Henry Dunant, Created the Red Cross.


The rise of modern organizations

It became clear that in many areas, international cooperation was not only required, but also possible. True enough, states were sovereign and powerful, but, as the river commissions showed, they could sometimes sacrifice some of there sovereign prerogatives in order to facilitate the management of common problems.

The most obvious area in which international cooperation may be required is perhaps that of transport and communication as indicated by the creation of those river commissions. Regulation of other modes of transport and communication quickly followed: in 1865 the international Telegraphic Union was established, followed in 1874 by the universal postal Union and in 1890 by the international Union of Railway Freight Transportation.

Still other areas did not lag considerably behind: in 1903 the International  Office of Public Health was created, and in the field of economics the establishment of the Metric Union (1875), the International Copyright Union (1886), the International Sugar Union (1902 ) and the International Institute for Agriculture (1905) may be mentioned as early forerunners of present-day international organization. Indeed, some of these are still in existence, albeit under a different name and on the basis of a different constituent treaty: there runs a direct connection, for example, from the early international institute for Agriculture to today’s FAO. Slowly but surely, more and more international organizations became established, so much so that public international law gradually transformed (or is said to be gradually transforming) from a law of co-existence to a law of cooperation. Many of the substantive fields of public international law are no loner geared merely to delimiting the spheres of influence of the various states, but are rather geared towards establishing more or less permanent mechanisms for cooperation. Around the turn of the twentieth century it appeared indeed to be common knowledge that the organization of interstate cooperation had become well accepted in international law.

The major breakthrough for international organization however, would be the year 1919 and the Versailles peace Settlement which followed the First World War. On 8 January 1918, US president Woodrow Wilson made his famous ‘fourteen points’ Speech, in which he called for the creation of a “general association of nations.  Under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

Wilson’s plea was carried on the waves of public opium in many states and would lead to the formation of the League of Nations. And not only that: the international Labor Organization was also established at the 1919 peace Conference.

The League of Nations was the first international organization which was designed not just to organization operation between sates in areas which some have referred to as ‘low politics’, such as transport and communication, or the more mundane aspects of economic co-operation as exemplified by the Metric Union, but to have as its specific aims to guarantee peace and the establishment of a system of collective security, following which an attack against one of the member-states of the League would give the rest the right to come to the attacked state’s  rescue.

The League failed in its own overriding purpose: preventing war. On the ruins of the Second World War the urge to organize was given a new impetus. As early as August 1941, American president Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill had conceded the Atlantic Charter, a declaration of principles which would serve as the basis, first, for a declaration of the wartime allies, and later, after the State Department had overcome President Roosevelt’s initial reluctance to commit himself to the creation of a post-War organization, for the Charter of the United Nations.

Also during the war, in 1944, the future of economic cooperation was mapped in Bretton Woods, where agreement was reached on the need to cooperate on monetary and trade issues, eventually leading to the creation of the international monetary Fund and the General Agreement on tariffs and Trade, among others.

The resurrection of the largest battlefield of the Second World War, Europe, also came accompanied by the rise of a number of organizations. The Council of Europe was a first attempt, born out of Churchill’s avowed desire to create the United States of Europe, so that Europe could become an important power alongside the US and the UK. To channel the American Marshall aid, the Organization for European Economic co-operation was created (In 1960 transformed into the Organization for Economic co-operation and Development),  and a relatively small number of European states started a unique experiment when, in 1951, they created the supranational European Coal and Steel Community, some years later followed by the European economic Community and the European community For atomic Energy, all three of which have now been subsumed into the European Union. The northern and western states that remained outside would later create an alternative in the form of the European Free Trade Area, while the state-run economies of the east replied with the creation of the council for mutual Economic Assistance (usually referred to as Comecon).

The influence of the Cold War also made it felt through military cooperation in Europe. Western Europe saw the creation of the Pact of Brussels (which later became the Western European Union) and the North Atlantic treaty Organization. Eastern Europe saw the creation of the Warsaw Pact, while east and west would meet, from the 1970s on wards, within the framework of the conference on security and cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which in 1995 changed its name to reflect its increased organization structure into organization for security and co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Moreover, elsewhere too organizations mushroomed. On the American continent, the early Pan-American Conference was recreated so as to be come the Organization of American States. In addition, there are more localized organizations such as Caricom and Mercosur.

In Africa, the wave of independence of the 1950s and early 1960s made possible the establishment of the organization of African Unity in 1963, with later such regional organizations as Ecocas (in central Africa) and Ecowas (western Africa) being added. In Asia, some states assembled in Asean, for their security, Australia and New Zealand joined the US in Anzus. A relaxed form of cooperation in the Pacific Rim area, moreover, is channeled through Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC).

In short, there is not a part of the globe which is not covered by the work of some international organization or other; there is hardly a human activity which is not, to some extent, governed by the work of an international organization. Even academic research is at the heart of the work of some organizations, most notably perhaps the International Council for the exploration of the sea (ICES) , originally set up as scientist’s club, having Fridtjof  Nansen as one of its founders, but later ‘internationalized,

Perhaps the most difficult question to answers, which, in some ways is a preliminary question, is: what exactly is an international organization? The short answer is, quite simply, that we do not know. We may, in most cases, be able to recognize an international organization when we see one, but it has so far appeared impossible to actually define such organizations in a comprehensive way.

It is common in the literature to delimit international organizations in at least some ways. One delimitation often made depends on the nature of the body of law governing the activities of the organization. If those activities are governed by international law, we speak of an international organization proper, or at least of an intergovernmental organization. If those activities are, however, governed by some domestic law, we usually say that the organization in question is a non-governmental organization; examples include such entities as Greenpeace or Amnesty International. While the activities of such entities may be international in character and they may even have been given some tasks under international law, they do not meet the usual understanding of what constitutes an international organization.

An international organization has been defined “as a forum of co-operation of sovereign states based on multilateral international organizations and comprising of a relatively stable range of participants, the fundamental feature of which is the existence of permanent organs with definite competences and powers acting for the carrying out of common aims.

In the widest sense, international organization can be defined as “a process of organizing the growing complexity of international relations; international organizations are the institutions which represent the phase of that process. They are the expressions of and contributors to the process of international organization, as well as, the significant factors in contemporary world affairs.” Further” international organizations, as institutions may come  and go in accordance with the significance of the dynamism of international  relations. But international organization, the process, exists as an established trend. It was   the stimulus of the existing process ready   at hand  that automatically led, after the collapse of the League of Nations, to the creation of new organizations like the U.N. Thus, international organization is the process by which states establish and develop format and continuing institutional structures for the conduct of certain aspects of their relationships with each other. It represents a reaction to the extreme decentralization of the traditional system of international relations and the constantly increasing complexities of the interdependence of states’’

Following are the essentials of international organization, the institution:

I.  Its origin is based on multilateral international agreement.

II.  The institution has a personality of its own, which is distinct from that of its individual members

III.  It has permanent organs which carry out common aims.

As compared to the will of all members, its organs exhibit autonomy of will.

For the international lawyer, it goes without saying that the activities of those organizations that are subject to international law will be of most interest. Usually, those organizations will have a number of characteristics in common although, in conformity with the fact that their founding fathers are relatively free to establish whatever they wish, those characteristics are not more than characteristics. The fact that they do not always hold true does not, as such, deny their value in general.

One of those characteristics is that international organizations are usually created between states, or rather, as states themselves are abstractions, by duly authorized representatives of states. This, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing, there are international organizations which are themselves members of another international organization and sometimes even founding members. The EC, thus, is a member of the FAO, and a founding member of the WTO. Still, we do not exclude the WTO and the FAO from the scope of international organizations simply because they count another organization among their members. Generally, then, it is not a hard and fast rule that international organizations can only be created by states.

Secondly, not all such organizations created by states are generally considered international organizations. States may, for example establish a legal person under some domestic legal system. Perhaps an example is the Basle-Milhouse Air-port authority, a joint venture, between France and Switzerland and governed French law.

Moreover, sometimes treaties are to be implemented with the help of one or more organs. For instance, the European Court of Human Rights is entrusted with supervising the implementation of the European Convention on Human rights. Yet, the Court is not considered to be an international organization in its own right; it is, instead, often referred to as a treaty organ.

In what exactly the distinction between an organization and treaty organ resides is unclear, and perhaps it may be argued that its importance is diminishing at any rate: scholars writing in the field of, for example environmental law, have more or less started to unite the two forms of cooperation, and use the rather generic term of “international intuitions”, as encompassing both treaty organs and international organizations. Others have pointed out that treaty organs endowed with  decision- making powers may well be international organizations in disguise,  and , in the political science literature, reference is often made to ‘international regimes’  or, again, ‘institutions’.

A second characteristic which many organizations (but again, not all) have in common is that they are established by means of a treaty, their creation was not brought about by some legal act under some domestic legal system, but was done in the form of a treaty, which international law in general terms defines as a written agreement, governed by international law. And as the treaty will be governed by international law, so too will the organization.

Not all organizations derive directly from a treaty, though. Some have been created not by treaty, but by the legal act of an already existing organization. The united Nations general Assembly, for instance has created several organizations by resolution: the united Nations industrial Development organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) come to mind, as do various institutions set up by the Nordic Council, including financial institutions such as the Nordic Investment Bank.  Indeed, the Nordic Council itself originated as a form of cooperation between the parliaments of the five sates concerned (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), rather than being clearly treaty-based. The importance of this characteristic, then is above all to indicate that the creation of an international organizations is an intentional act. Organizations rest upon conscious decisions of the states involved; they do not come out of the blue, and are not created by accident.

That said, a describable recent tendency is to remain nebulous about intentions when creating international institutions. In recent years, organizations such as the organization for security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Asia- pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), the Arctic Council and the Wassenaar Arrangement have been established, but with all of them it remains unclear whether they indeed are to be regarded as full-blown organizations rater than, say, frameworks for occasional diplomacy, and even whether their constituent agreements constitute treaties or not. The legal status and structure of the European Union have, likewise, been subject to debate, and the G-7(or -8; the confusion is telling in itself) defies any attempt at a definition and classification.

In order to distinguish the international organization from other forms of international cooperation, another often-mentioned characteristic holds that the organization must posses at least one organ which has a will distinct from the will of its member states. Where the collectivity merely expresses the aggregate opinion of its members, giving it the legal form of an international organization would, in the extreme, be a useless act. One might as well have appointed a spokesperson.

Important though the characteristic of a ‘distinct will’ is, it is also the most difficult in terms of both practice and theory .As several authorities have noted, in practice not all organizations usually referred to as international organizations possess this characteristic. In heretical terms, the characteristic of the distinct will goes to the heart of the entire concept of international organization: the problematic relationship between the organization and its member states.

In one way, an international organization is little more than the tool in the hands of the member states, and viewed from this perspective, the distinct will of the organization is little more than a legal fiction. Yet, the international organization, in order to justify its raison d'être and is somewhat special status international law, must insist on having such a distinct will. For, otherwise, it becomes indistinguishable from other forms of cooperate, and if so, it will become extremely difficult to justify why, for example, the constituent treaties of organizations warrant teleological interpretation, as is so often claimed, or why such constituent treaties appear to possess far greater possibilities for deriving implied clauses (in the form of implied powers) from them than regular treaties are said to do.