UN to decide on liability of international organisations

OPPORTUNITIES for lawyers to handle varied and potentially lucrative liability claims against international organisations could arise from debates being held at the UN.

The UN’s legal committee is discussing whether organisations should be held responsible for failing to achieve their formal objectives. The question has been posited by the UN International Law Commission, with UN countries being asked to agree principles for a draft international law instrument on when organisations should be held legally liable for mistakes.

Given their range of responsibilities (from environmental protection to trade promotion and peace-keeping), diplomats agreed that claims could be widely based. There are also calls for the International Court of Justice to decide whether an international organisation is liable for particular cases.

Canada’s representative said diplomats should also consider whether organisations are liable for acts undertaken by contracted agents and when they took actions over and above their formal remit. Spain asked to what extent liability would extend to member countries of the organisations. Italy said all such organisations need to take responsibility for wrongful acts. Discussions continue next year.