Academic Year 2009-2010
Jan Klabbers was educated in international law and political science at the University of Amsterdam, and obtained a doctorate from the same university in 1996 (with distinction). Since 1996, he has been teaching at Helsinki University, most recently as Professor of International Organizations Law. He also directs the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research. Main publications include The Concept of Treaty in International Law (Kluwer, 1996) and An Introduction to International Institutional Law (CUP, 2002; second edition in preparation). His forthcoming monograph is titled Treaty Conflict and the European Union (CUP, 2008).
Controlling International Bureaucracies
It would seem to be undeniable that the exercise of public power in international affairs should somehow be subject to control. Proposals to give effect to this idea take several forms: one distinct approach (with variations) is to insist on the responsibility of international institutions under international law; a second is the emergence of Global Administrative Law; and a third is the insistence on there being, somehow, a set of constitutional or would-be constitutional norms to keep international institutions in check.
Yet, whatever their merits, these three approaches all encounter problems when those who exercise public power feel they have a mission to accomplish: often considerations of effectiveness and efficiency inspire those who exercise public power to have the ends justify the means (UN sanctions form a case in point). In such a case, the legal framework (be it in terms of responsibility, administrative law, or constitutionalism) is all too easily circumvented.
The aim of the current project will be to complement legal thought (deontology) with an approach based on virtue ethics and the character traits of those who exercise public power. Unorthodox as this may sound, it is not completely unprecedented: in jurisprudence, Lon Fuller’s ‘internal morality of law’ comes close enough; public administration scholars have developed notions concerning bureaucracies as conserving values beyond effectiveness and efficiency; and in moral philosophy, the work of someone like Onora O’Neill is a good example of an approach integrating principles with virtue.
Eventually, the aspiration is to develop a ‘constitutionalist’ approach to public authority in global affairs. This differs from constitutionalism pur sang in that it does not expect too much from abstract standards external to actors, and comes closer to what Koskenniemi has referred to as ‘constitutionalism as mindset’ (albeit via a different route).