What is it about?

The General rules of interpretation in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) do not only apply to treaties; they also apply to the constitutions of International Organizations (IO). However, traditional treaty interpretation is less able to respond to an IO’s need to behave as an organization with values and responsibilities that reflect contemporary expectations of accountability. Such challenges could be addressed through the extension of the doctrine of implied powers to implied obligations. The application of implied obligations to the ‘responsibility to protect’ transforms it from a norm to binding legal duty and in doing so, addresses accountability gaps in international governance.

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Why is it important?

This article suggests two innovative approaches to international law. First, it suggests that implied powers of international organizations should be extended to implied obligations. Second, it suggests that implied obligations could provide a 'legal approach' to the Responsibility to Protect, which is one of the most contentious principles in international law and international relations.


I hope this article will add a new and thought-provoking perspective to some of the complexities of international law and international relations, particularly constitutional interpretation, accountability and the responsibility to protect.

Niamh Wollongong
University of Wollongong

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’: Implied Obligations and the Responsibility to Protect, International Organizations Law Review, June 2022, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15723747-20220002.
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