The United Nations at 70

Dr. Thomas Dunk
Lecturer in Law at the University of Hertfordshire

UN at 70

As part of the recent 70th anniversary celebrations for the United Nations, Fudan University in partnership with Deakin University held a joint conference – “The United Nations at 70: Key Challenges for International Law”. The conference was held at the prestigious Fudan University Law School, Shanghai and jointly chaired by Professor Sandeep Gopalan (Dean of Law and Head of Deakin Law School) and Professor Zhang Naigen (Fudan Law School). It attracted participants and audience from across the globe, with scholars representing Canada, Italy, the UK, China and Australia.

It was an honour to be presenting my paper entitled: The role of Individual within the process of international law creation at the United Nations. The paper explored the position of the individual as non-state actors within the process of international human rights law creation at the United Nations, in essence examining past UN practice in order to inform future procedure. In undertaking this aim three new classifications of non-state actor have been identified in which the evidence gives a better informed theory. These new classifications, the authorised, independent and unauthorised individual, give a more realistic account between the theoretical narrative of the individual and realities seen within the creation of international human rights law.

The authorised individual is someone mandated to perform negotiations of future international law on behalf of an authorised-decision maker, usually a state government, for example, Eleanor Roosevelt. The principal features of the authorised individual are that they are briefed to act on behalf of states, usually conforming to a strict mandate to which they are expected to follow.

The independent authorised individual is similarly related to the authorised individual in that they are mandated by an authorised decision maker. The main differences is that they are given more freedom to perform the role and are asked to fulfil more general aims and expected outcomes set down by the individual’s home government. John Ruggie and the process used by him in the creation of the UNGP’s provide an excellent example of the work of this category of individual.

Finally, the unauthorised individual is someone who by conventional standards and expectations wouldn’t be expected to have a role in the negotiations for international law making, i.e. they have no mandate, and are not acting on behalf of a state. Examples are Raphael Lemkin (author of the Genocide Convention) and John Peters Humphrey (the first director of the United Nations Human Rights Division). The paper went on to consider the lessons for the future and concerns regarding the legitimacy of the independent authorised and unauthorised individual.

The paper was well received by the chair in setting out a new framework to increase understanding of the individual’s role with international law, especially the application of the unauthorised individual with the involvement of celebrities such as Angelina Jolie in the development of international law.

Other highlights from the conference included papers delivered by Deakin’s Dr John Morss entitled: Seventy Years in Historical Context: Seventy Years Before the UN and Seventy Years into the Future, Tamas Hoffman from Karoli Gaspar University entitled: Hybridization of international criminal law norms in the practice of national courts – A new category of international criminal law? And Eleonora Branca from the University of Verona Law School, Filling the accountability gap: proposal for a permanent UN claims tribunal to adjudicate human rights violations in UN peace operations.

Each paper was followed by a lively discussion which was continued into the evening at the conference meal hosted by Fudan University. An excellent conference, with thanks to Fudan and Deakin University.


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