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The Coming of Age of International Organizations

The project explores the view that the political and legal appraisal of international organizations has passed through different stages : A functional stage of IOs’ rise in the mid-nineteenth century (which denotes a view of organizations as vehicles for the activities of states); institutional in the mid-twentieth century predominantly (which refers to a vision of organizations as systems, with a coherent body of rules and a degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the member states, the external aspect of which is traditionally discussed in terms of ‘international legal personality’); and constitutional, especially since the turn of the Millennium (which presents IOs as a system not only because of the coherence of internal rules and component elements, but also because of the incorporation of substantive norms, notably ‘fundamental values’ linked to human rights or theories of justice).

Arguably, it is with this newly acquired constitutional identity that international organizations have come of age and can participate as mature legal actors in international affairs. At the same time, in today’s IOs elements of both the functional and institutional stages persist. Within this broader view, the project aims to look especially at the IO as a global actor and as a norm-creator.

Output (Selection)

  • ‘Capturing the Juridical Will of international organizations’ in J d’Aspremont and S El Droubi (eds.), Non-State Actors and the Formation of Customary International Law, Manchester University Press 2020, 42-61.
  • ‘Exiting International Organizations: A Brief Introduction,’ in 15 (2018) International organizations law review 243-263, with R Collins, S El-Droubi, R Wessel.
  • Legacy of the 1980 ICJ advisory opinion on Interpretation of the Agreement of 25 March 1951 between the WHO and Egypt, in I Dekker, C Ryngaert, R Wessel, J Wouters (eds) Leading Judicial Decisions of the Law of International Organizations, p 245-254 (Oxford OUP, 2016)
  • “Member States and International Legal Responsibility: Developments of the Institutional Veil”, 12 (2015) International Organizations Law Review 358-381.
  • Co-editor-in-chief of the Oxford Database on International Organizations (OXIO) (peer-reviewed), OUP online, (since 2016)
  • At the end of this project Brölmann joined as UvA consortium partner the three year, Austrian Science Fund-funded international project 'United Nations Tort Law', running from 2021-2023; based at the University of Salzburg, collaborating with a.o. the universities of Berlin, Leiden, Essex, Warsaw, and Vienna.


2015 - 2020


Catherine Brölmann

Partners, specifically in OXIO

  • Jean d’Aspremont (Sciences Po-Paris, and University of Manchester)
  • Iain Scobbie (University of Manchester)
Mr. dr. C.M. (Catherine) Brölmann

Associate Professor