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Invited by the Permanent Mission of Brazil at the UN, ACIL researchers André Nollkaemper and Natasa Nedeski presented the Guiding Principles on Shared Responsibility in International Law to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The presentation took place on 1 November 2019 and was done together with Berenice Boutin (TMC Asser Institute) and Jean d’Aspremont (Sciences Po Paris and University of Manchester).


The Principles are based on the project 'Shared Responsibility in International Law' which was directed by André Nollkaemper from 2010 to 2016 and funded by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council. To allow for dissemination of the academic results of the project, members of the research group (André Nollkaemper, Jean d’Aspremont, Christiane Ahlborn, Natasa Nedeski, Berenice Boutin and Ilias Plakokefalos) drafted, over a 3 year period, a set of 15 principles with accompanying commentaries that comprise the main findings of the project.

The Guiding Principles on Shared Responsibility in International Law provide guidance to judges, practitioners and researchers when confronted with legal questions of shared responsibility of states and/or international organizations, for instance in relation to climate change, joint military operations or migration management.

What are the Guiding Principles?

In substance, the Principles cover situations where multiple international persons commit one or more internationally wrongful acts and thereby contribute to an indivisible injury. Concrete examples may include a state handing over an individual to another state, who subsequently subjects that individual to torture; an international organization financing the construction of a dam carried out by a state, which results in the violation of human rights of local residents; or multiple states dumping pollutants in an international watercourse, which results in the extinction of a particular species. The existing rules of the law of international responsibility have left space for interpretation when it comes to determining who can be held responsible for what when multiple states and/or international organizations contribute to injury, as well as what would be the content of international responsibility in cases where it is shared with others.

The Principles contribute to strengthening the position of persons (including states, international organizations and individuals) that are injured as a result of the actions of multiple states and/or international organizations, and who may subsequently face difficulties in proving how much damage was done by each of them. Principle 10 provides that each state or international organization sharing responsibility is under an obligation to make full reparation for the indivisible injury caused by all of them. This means that injured persons can claim full reparation from any of the responsible states or international organizations, without having to bear the burden of proving exactly who was responsible for what. The obligation of each responsible international person to provide full reparation is complemented by Principle 12, according to which any state or international organization that has made full reparation for an indivisible injury has a right of recourse against all other international persons that share responsibility for that injury.

The Permanent Mission of Brazil at the UN took the initiative for a presentation of the Guiding Principles during the 74th session of the Sixth Committee (Legal) of the General Assembly of the United Nations. On 1 November the Principles were presented and discussed the principles for an audience of legal advisors, diplomats and members of the UN International Law Commission.

Publication of the Guiding Principles

The final version of the Guiding Principles, with an extended commentary, will be published in the European Journal of International Law early 2020.