Dean Johnstone Examines "Law-Making Through the Operational Activites of International Organizations"

The George Washington International Legal Review

This Article considers the impact of the operational activities of international organizations on the development of international law. Four recent trends in the practices of international organizations illustrate the phenomenon. First, virtually every peace opera- tion established or authorized by the U.N. Security Council since the year 2000 was mandated to protect civilians facing imminent threats of physical violence. Second, after countless election-monitoring missions, the right to political participation is widely thought to require party pluralism, although that is not specified in the relevant provisions of global and regional human rights treaties. Third, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe officials engaged in conflict prevention often refer to the rights of ethnic minorities as embodied in non-legally binding instruments. Finally, humanitarian organizations are increasingly pressing governments to provide access to internally displaced persons, not out of choice but as a matter of legal obligation. These four trends are connected to the traditional sources of law identified in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice—treaties, custom, and general principles. But to the extent that international organizations act autonomously in engaging in these practices, the law-making process is one step removed from state consent.