Chicago Journal of International Law

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The present work concerns International Administrative Tribunals (IATs), the dispute-resolution bodies between staff members and the administration of international organizations, existing at the cross-roads of international law, institutional law, and administrative law. It argues that, contrary to popular belief, the some twenty-five different IATs currently in existence are no longer functioning individually but rather citing to each other with increasing frequency and, in so doing, developing a common jurisprudence of international administrative law.

Over fifty years ago, when only a handful of IATs existed, M.B. Akehurst, a commentator in the field, made the observation that “[i]nternational administrative tribunals behave as if the internal laws of different organizations formed part of a single system of law” and that it was “clear that the internal laws of different organizations bear a remarkable resemblance to each other, and can therefore establish strong precedents for each other” (Akehurst, The Law Governing Employment in International Organizations 263 (1967)).

The present work aims to take stock of whether Akehurst’s statement remains true today, or if the proliferation of tribunals has instead led to divergences in jurisprudence. Much like the debate in international law writ large, the question to be answered is one between fragmentation and universalization. Engaging in a thorough review of all IAT jurisprudence the first comprehensive study of its kind the present work argues that indeed Akehurst’s statement has proven correct, perhaps beyond what he could have ever imagined. Far from the divergence and fractures that some have warned against as the number of IATs has grown, there has been a convergence, as IATs have increasingly cited each other in an exercise of reciprocal growth, sharing the task of creating and developing an ever more universal international administrative law.

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