Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



My subject today is "International Organizations and Customary International Law"--that is, the role of international organizations in relation to the formation and determination of rules of customary international law. Charney devoted a good part of his well-known article on "Universal International Law" to what he termed "contemporary international law-making." By that, he meant chiefly law-making within "international forums"--that is, within organs of international organizations and at international conferences. He starts the discussion from the somewhat heretical position that

"[w]hile customary law is still created in the traditional way, that process has increasingly given way in recent years to a more structured method, especially in the case of important normative developments. Rather than state practice and "opinio juris," multilateral forums often play a central role in the creation and shaping of contemporary international law."

Charney's conclusions, however, are perhaps not as radical as his premise. He acknowledged that "[s]ome may question the authority to legislate universally, even in the face of some dissent, because it appears to be inconsistent with the sovereignty and autonomy of states. Such apprehension is not unreasonable. The international legal system, however, will invoke this authority sparingly."