Document Type


Publication Date



The International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations have met a sceptical response from many states, international organizations (IOs), and academics. This article explains why those Articles can nevertheless have significant practical effect. In the course of doing so, this article fills a crucial gap in the IO literature, and provides a theoretical account of why IOs comply with international law. The IO Responsibility Articles may spur IOs and their member states to prevent violations and to address violations promptly if they do occur. The key mechanism for realizing these effects is transnational discourse among both state and non-state actors in a range of national and international forums. IOs have reason to be especially sensitive to the effects of this discourse on their reputations. A reputation for complying with international law is an important facet of an IO’s legitimacy. The perception that an IO is legitimate is, in turn, crucial to the organization’s ability to secure cooperation and support from its member states. This article argues that IOs and their member states will take action to prevent and address violations of international law in order to deflect threats to IOs’ reputations – and to preserve their effectiveness.