Friday, October 24, 2008

Workshop: International Organisations and the Idea of Autonomy

The University of Sheffield's Centre for Law in its International Context will host an introductory workshop today for its 2008-2009 seminar series on "International Organisations and the Idea of Autonomy." Today's program is available here. Here's background on the seminar series:

International law seems to both require and fear institutional autonomy. The twentieth century’s “move to institutions” is often described in terms of the pursuit of an international rule of law to contain the seemingly uncontainable excesses of state sovereignty. Yet, particularly recently, the rule of law appears threatened by overly–autonomous, largely unaccountable global institutions. Whilst this paradox seems to be well recounted in the literature, particularly in terms of international institutional law, and within particular institutional contexts (e.g. EU or international trade law), the issues tend to be narrowly–focused. Either there has been an “internal” focus on particular institutions – e.g. the EU’s authority over its members, the centralisation of WTO Dispute Settlement, etc. – or a largely “external” perspective on organizations as autonomous (and thus “one–dimensional”) actors in international law, such as in relation to their exercise of sovereign powers.

This research project aims to engage with the idea of international organisations as autonomous entities, both in terms of control and influence over their membership and as independent actors in the international system. It attempts to bridge some of these gaps by considering the idea of autonomy in international governance in historical and theoretical context; by examining how particular themes of institutional law cannot be considered in isolation from this broader context; and how the independence of particular institutions within the international system may affect their internal influence over their membership; or, vice versa, how a particular member–institution relationship may shape and limit the institution’s authority and independence as an autonomous actor in international politics.