Call for Abstracts: International Organisations and the Dream of Universality


The 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law will be held at The University of Manchester, in Manchester, United Kingdom, from Thursday 13 September to Saturday 15 September 2018. The theme of the Conference is International Law and Universality. Details can be found here. ESIL calls its Interest Groups to submit proposals for agorae concerning the theme of the Conference by January 31.

In response to this call, the ESIL Interest Group on International Organisations (IG-IO) will submit a proposal for a Panel on the topic International Organisations and the Dream of Universality. If accepted by ESIL, the Panel will be organised as follows. The first part consists in the presentation of four papers by the members of the IG-IO, which will be chosen on the basis of the abstracts submitted in response to the present call. The second part consists in the discussion of the papers among all those who are present.

The IG-IO calls on all its members to submit abstracts on the topic “International Organisations and the Dream of Universality”. The deadline for submission is Thursday 25 January 2018 but earlier submissions are highly recommended. Abstracts (in word, not exceeding 800 words) must be submitted to the IG-IO email. Further documents and information must be supplied with each abstract, so a careful reading of the full text of the present call, which also explains the selection criteria, is crucial.

In the name of transparency and to avoid misunderstandings, the IG-IO notes that the selection of the four abstracts it will carry out does not guarantee the realisation of the Panel, which is dependent on the decision of ESIL.


The IG-IO believes that in the theme of the ESIL 2018 Conference, “International Law and Universality”, International Organisations clearly emerge as important objects of study. For a long time the world has put its faith in International Organisations as promoters of universality, as mechanisms of overcoming the perceived weaknesses and arbitrariness of a system of law founded on sovereign states and informed by individual state interests. To different degrees and in different manners, International Organisations have assumed these roles and advanced policies and practices accordingly. However, in the last decades, International Organisations have felt the impact of what may be described as the exhaustion of this world-view.

In reality, International Organisations have always been affected by counteracting narratives at work  in the international sphere. On the one hand, with successive attempts at creating a universal, general and overarching International Organisation, from the League of Nations in the wake of the First World War to the United Nations at the end of the Second, the ‘move to institutions’ has often been interpreted as a move towards a genuinely universal international law. Coupled with the idea that organisations, whose power and authority are allocated along functional lines rather than on the basis of territorial sovereignty, are not as susceptible to the political snares and conflicts of interest that traditionally hamper legal relations between states, this inspired the view of International Organisations as an antidote to clashing state interests and the fragmentation of international law. On their part, International Organisations assumed this role and advanced this world view.

However, on the other hand, in the past twenty years the neutral, redemptory image of International Organisations has lost much of its persuasive power. Stories of misconduct in UN military operations and self-enrichment by UN staff have brought about a disenchantment and sobering of expectations. Besides, the incursions by International Organisations into sensitive areas, such as finance, environment and migration, combined with the political authority and material and social sanctions that International Organisations have to compel States to adopt, the imposing of policies and practices that domestic constituencies deem undemocratic or simply detached from their realities – all this adds up to long-felt misgivings about the manifestation of International Organisations as a Western-hegemonic project. In many spaces, including academia, this leads to critical views of the move from territory to function as a basis for power and authority in international affairs.

In this framework, the IG-IO calls on its members to think whether it is appropriate to look at the reasons and goals that motivated the move towards institutions as a dream; to explore the theoretical and practical importance of such a dream and whether it affects the development of the law and practice of International Organisations; to investigate the limits of this dream and whether it is reaching a point of saturation or exhaustion. Contributions may look at global and regional institutions operating in all fields – from education, to environment, to finance, to migration – both in the past and in the present. Authors are invited to scrutinise the role International Organisations play in securing or protecting universal interests, such as global commons, human rights – and contrast the discourse, policies and practices of these Organisations with the reality of those affected. Finally, contributors are invited to explore the reasons and the discourse of States and non-State Actors that resist or simply reject the role of International Organisations. In their contributions, all are invited to think of new possibilities and alternatives – if indeed universality has been a dream that motivated the move towards International Organisations, and much of their practices, and if this dream is nearing exhaustion, what can be seen on the horizon to replace it?

Procedure & Selection Criteria

Abstracts of no more than 800 words must be submitted by Thursday January 25 2018 to the IG-IO email. Given the format of the panels adopted by ESIL, the IG-IO will select four abstracts pursuant to the following criteria:

  • Originality and innovativeness of the work
  • Relevance to the Panel theme
  • Geographical and gender balance

Further Documents & Information

The following documents and information must be provided with each abstract:

  • The author’s name and affiliation
  • The author’s CV, including a list of relevant publications
  • A small biography (100 words) should be included in the abstract itself
  • The author’s contact details, including email address and phone number
  • Whether the author is a current ESIL member

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑


The Law of the Sea Interest Group of the European Society of International Law


Interest Group on Peace and Security / Groupe de Réflexion sur la Paix et la Sécurité

International Organisations Interest Group

European Society of International Law

%d bloggers like this: