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An international organization can be defined as organization with an international presence, scope and membership (Ian 2007). International organizations can be classified into two major types, such as non-governmental organizations and governmental organizations. Latter are also often referred to as international organizations. Such organizations are mainly composed of independent states, for example, European Union, United Nations, World Trade Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. International organizations are different and diverse in their legal, political and social perspectives. Despite their salient differences, international organizations possess three similar fundamental characteristics. First, all these institutions have members who are independent states. Second, they are compound of states with a clear treaty that is binding them together. Finally, all of them have a sovereign corporate body so that their different legal entities from their member states could be regulated. This gives rise to the paradox of international organization, implying that even though they are a derivative of member states, their existence is external, they are meant to regulate, influence and govern the member states.

The presence of international organizations elicits deep fundamental questions about their purpose and capacity to make sure that all member states obey to the rules and regulations (Simma, 1994). The United Nations (UN), for instance, has been very critical in shaping the political and social destiny of member states. Nonetheless, the UN has continually faced setbacks in enforcing rules to the member states, which frequently did not pay attention to the domestic legal framework with little reference to the international rules. This has invariably made the work of the UN difficult and sometimes even impossible.

This paper focuses on the international organizations. It particular, it addresses the question of whether institutions can enforce their rules and the challenges they face in persuading states to abide by their rules. The different solutions offered by scholars and their viability are also discussed. In order to demonstrate the argument, the paper focuses on both how the United Nations enforces their rules and the International Monetary Fund on voting rules as a case study. Different authors have different opinions regarding this concern and it can be concluded that the rules imposed by these organizations work in benefiting the developed capitalist states, thus, reforms as offered by the scholars should be implemented.

Can Institutions Enforce Their Rules?

When the issue of application and enforcement of international law and rules emanating from such comes to our mind, one fundamental question becomes inevitable, how can the rules be enforced? To international lawyers it is a matter of circumnavigating around the same ancient and cumbersome point, not necessarily because it is a matter that is raised in many avenues but also because of the critical assumption it bears. That international law cannot be enforced. The assumption seems plausible bearing in mind that the United Nations and other international organizations lack the appropriate mechanism to enforce the rules (Beyerlin 1995). Currently, the UN has no body that can be assigned the duty of law enforcement and there appears to be no political will or effort to change the scenario in the foreseeable future.

The UN has got only one, hitherto active enforcement mechanism, the Security Council. The council derives its operational mandate from chapter seven of the UN charter. The Security Council with the power bestowed on it by this chapter may establish a state that is a threat to peace, determine acts of aggression and consequently apply the appropriate sanction to remedy the situation. In this case the sanction can either be diplomatic where diplomatic relations of the country in question are severed, or it can be economic where trade embargo are imposed against the state breaching peace, or even military where the armed force is used to restore security and peace. Even though the Security Council is an important part of the UN, it is rather hard to perform its enforcement duties. First, the council is not considered by many nations as a conclusive representative of the body. The Security Council is composed of five permanent un-elected members. These are the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France. These five states have the power to veto any substantive matter. This does not go down well with other states who regard these states as wielding unnecessary power and sometimes misusing it for the own advantage at the benefit of member states. For example, one of the members, the United States of America has overly dominated the affairs of the Council in the recent past to the level that in some cases in guise of law enforcement it has penetrated democratic states with a hidden economic agenda (Beyerlin 1995). It is no wonder that the Security Council has received criticism from all quarters. To the critics it is not a question of enforcement sanctions but a matter of legality of the institutions that are meant to administer these sanctions.

In many cases a move mooted by one member of the Security Council may be noble but because of the sheer fact that these permanent members pursue different ideologies some members may veto against such a matter. In such a case powers of the veto tend to reduce the effectiveness of the Security Council in enforcing international law. Invariably what is meant to be a blessing is turned for malicious reasons into a curse frustrating acts of reason and necessity. Chapter seven of the United Nations charter was made to facilitate imposition of sanctions for situations that the Security Council felt was or on verge of getting out of hand. State of affairs of this kind are the most challenging for law enforcers (Beyerlin 1995). The extent to which a certain condition can be taken to be getting out of hand is debatable, in some cases the Security Council has tended to act first, while in other cases it has taken too much time before the Council arrives at an agreement on the most appropriate remedy. It is not surprising that the Security Council, composed of states pursuing divergent political agendas, has found it a gargantuan task to effectively apply their sanctioning powers to avert and prevent or stop wars.

Under circumstances in which international rule is short of self enforcing, international law offers a clear and succinct remedy. One of these is the self-help mechanism. In its most strict form it encompasses reprisals against the state that is considered to have breached its legal responsibility. All the same use of reprisals involving armed force in the modern times is no more permitted prior to the approval of the Security Council. Therefore, legal reprisals involve the use of measures, such as economic countermeasures, in order to apply pressure to another state to mend its ways. It is expected that the countermeasure is proportionate to the depth of the misdemeanor. This invariably makes self help an enforcement measure synonymous to the ancient vigilante justice that served as a countermeasure for breach of law before the initiation of the United Nations charter (Ian 2007). All international enforcement systems are not unilateral. Many international organizations, including the United Nations, have devised a clear and straight forward procedure to be followed in order to exert pressure on states that fall short of the accepted standards of conduct. A classical example is the application of pressure. In this case states are called upon to give a compliance report and to appear before the body that is mandated with the duty of monitoring to explicate why they may not have complied. This is meant to exert pressure on the government to redouble its efforts in maintaining the required state of affairs. This occurs mostly with respect to human rights.

Many international organizations with the United Nations included create a club like environment for the states representatives. When a state acts in such a way as to derail the achievement of the organizations’ objectives and goals, all other members make the life of the responsible member uncomfortable using various measures, with the order of last resort being expulsion from the organization. This is explicitly indicated in the articles five and six of the United Nations charter. The Soviet Union relation conundrum with the United Nations agency, International Labour Organization in the 1970s offers a good example. The Soviet Union was a signatory to the Forced Labour Convention treaty. This called upon member states to smother compulsory labour and use of forced labour in their country. The treaty gave clear guidelines on the exceptions that only included service that formed the basic responsibilities of citizens. The republic of Russia had given a decree mandating an official arm to give specific employment to citizens who were perceived to be avoiding communally useful work and living a parasitic lifestyle. The International Labour Organization enforcement arm composed of experts (nonpolitical) and another wing called the Committee of the International Labour Conference (political) came to the conclusion that Soviet Union via the decree had invariably breached the Forced Labour Convention (Franck 1993). Soviet Union maintained it, had not violated any rule, and was simply implementing a civic responsibility to its citizens. Nonetheless, Soviet representatives were called upon by the expert committee to explain why they were loath in enforcing a ratified agreement. This put pressure on the Soviet Union until it gave in and loosened her grab on the policy of “˜parasitic life’. This was a special scenario when international rule was enforced through the application of pressure and mobilization of shame regarding what would be anticipated when the member in question was a superpower.

A key criticism pointed in the direction of international law is its inflexibility and formality (Franck 1993). Scholars of international law have always raised their skepticism about the operation of international rules. They indicate that adhering to international law can not be fully enforced as different member states give priority to their national issues. If matters of national interest conflict with international law, states are predisposed to pursue self interest at the expense of such rules. The role of international law in influencing states is, therefore, at best minimal. Realism scholars have always referred to the international bodies, such as the United Nations, as to a toothless bulldog due to its inability to shape world events and maintain peace, the premise from which the institution was founded. Institutionalists look at the matter from a different angle. While they agree with realism scholars that international law enforcement remain a distant dream, they propose that willingness and capacity of the different states to cooperate will determine the destiny of law enforcement. They view focus on regimes vis-a-vis agreements as the key to unlocking the setbacks encountered.

It is true that the enforcement machinery of international law is far from being fully perfect. However, it is clear that they are applied uniformly across the board and sometimes move at a snails pace, and their importance cannot be ignored (Franck 1993). Without the rules the world would not be the same. International institutions have found it difficult to enforce their rules. The United Nation Security Council does not act as an agent of the international community. Sometimes they have been seen to crimple their own progress through unnecessary disagreement driven by the desire to pursue national interest at the expense of international community. This does not augur well for the UN as its enforcement mechanism is greatly hindered by such activities. Despite all this enforcement of international law is possible as portrayed in the case of the Soviet Union.

The Problems Faced by International Organizations in Compelling States to Comply with their Rules

This part focuses on a case study of International Monetary Fund (IMF) on voting rules. In the recent past, the IMF has gained several discrepancies amid the rich and the poor nations with regards to how the national preferences are to be divided with the aim of achieving and enforcing decisions collectively. This disagreement holds a central elemental problem that is both practical and theoretical. The problem is how well the principle of sovereign equality can be resolved amicably with the wide uneven distribution of power. Powerful states with a huge contribution of the resources of the International Monetary Fund continue to insist that the weighted voting system of the fund indicates their rank in the international ladder of power. On the other hand, the less powerful nations argue that, these resources ought to be equally distributed among the states irrespective of their size or monetary status. The different feeling between the poor and rich states has instigated conflicts on how the resources should be distributed.

The less developed nations have expressed a lack of satisfaction with the voting weights. They perceive them as small — collectively and individually — to allow momentous participation in the internal governance of the International Monetary Fund. To this effect there has been conflicting preferences amid the developed and undeveloped nations specifically on policy issues, for instance, the amount of resources used by the IMF, the use of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), as well as the content and responsibility of the IMF’s conditionality. According to the undeveloped nations, these issues are decided without their consent. The conflicts are further intensified by aspects such as internal operations and governance of the International Monetary Fund. For instance, the International Monetary Fund’s executive director position is always reserved for a European, possession by the United States an official sanction over significant groupings of International Monetary Fund’s decisions, as well as problems related to how developing nations are signified on the Executive Board of the Fund, all these enhance acuity of systematic inequality.

The International Monetary Fund’s voting power is founded on a quota system. All the members have been given several basic votes and each is 5.502% of all the votes. In addition, they have an extra Special Drawing Right of 100,000 of the quota of a member nation. The Special Drawing Right is used as the International Monetary Fund’s unit of account, and it signifies a claim to currency. It is founded on a case of major universal currencies. The basic votes create some bias favouring the small nations. However, the bias is outweighed by the additional votes resolute by the Special Drawing Right.

Initially, the sole reason why the International Monetary Fund was created was to generate money for the funds. All the IMF members are allocated a contribution or quota that shows relative size of a nation in relation to the global economy. The quota also determines a country’s voting power. To this effect, the monetary contributions from the governments of the member countries are linked to the voting power in the institution. It is apparent that this system follows the reasoning of shareholder-controlled institutions. This means that rich countries are more powerful and have the ultimate power for making decisions and revising the rules. For the reason that making decisions at the International Monetary Fund indicates the relative economic position of a country in the global economy, rich nations with a huge contribution to the fund have an authority over the poorer countries to influence the International Monetary Fund. However, the fund has a focus on redistribution. The International Monetary Fund statistics indicate that the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and France are the countries that hold the largest power (IMF, 2011). With critical decisions necessitating an 85 per cent majority (Vreeland, 2007, p. 41); the United States efficiently has a veto over all decisions to it having 16.723% of voting shares (IMF 2011).

Evidently, the quotas are revised after a five year period and if found necessary, the Board of Directors can increase them. Presently, a suggestion has been put forth to revise the representation of the less developed nation in the International Monetary Fund. Economies of these nations comprise a large portion of the international economic system. However, the same is not easily seen during the time of decision in the International Monetary Fund via the status of the quota system. According to Vreeland (2007), it is of paramount importance to provide an efficient voice as well as representation for the undeveloped nations, which currently indicates a larger section of the global economic activity since the creation of the International Monetary Fund in 1944. Several quota reforms were passed in 2008, including a 6 percent shift of quota shares to the developing nations and vibrant emerging markets. The transition of the United States to global capitalism and neoliberalism has led to modifications in the functions and identity of international organizations, such as the IMF. The country’s high voting power and greater participation can result in the transformation of policies in order to harmonize with the United States’. This is a constant with the modification of organization’s operation in the 1970’s following the ending of the Bretton Woods system by the Nixon Shock. The voting rules also allow the United States (being a developed capitalist state) obtaining larger loan with less conditions.

The membership of the IMF is divided with regard to contributions. Developed states are the creditors as they offer financial resources, although, they seldom enter into the organization’s loan agreements. On the other hand, developing nations are borrowers. They provide little contributions for the reason that they have smaller quotas. This creates tension since the borrowers and creditors have primarily diverse interests as far as loan conditions are concerned. The IMF voting rule is criticized in this context because it institutionalizes creditor dominance and borrower subordination (Vreeland 2007). The consequential division of membership of the fund into non-borrowers and borrowers has amplified the argument around conditionality due to diverse interests between the two groups.

Solutions Offered by the Scholars and Their Viability

It is important to consider whether the criticisms against IMF with regard to voting rules are justified. As indicated in the discussion, it is probably true to say that the organization is controlled by a small number of developed capitalist states. The United States, for instance, has efficient veto with regard to the organization’s policy decisions. The voting power of the IMF, together with that of the developed nations can result in their effectual domination over various policies. Therefore, it is argued that decision making processes are controlled by the G5 (main capitalist states), and base such decisions on their interests. Vreeland (2007) suggests that through a “˜logrolling’ system the G5 states work together to manipulate decisions. Although other states contribute in decision making, it could probably be argued that the capitalist states have much more influence and can enforce various rules.

Various solutions have been offered to address the IMF’s problem of voting rules. One of the major solutions is the one offered by O’Neill and Peleg (2000). They recommend the adoption of “count and account”. This is a “˜double majority voting system’ that necessitates the passage of a rule to be supported by a majority of weighted votes and both states. O’Neill and Peleg (2000) argue that the use of double majority voting is a major solution as it would resolve the standard of the juridical parity of states. It is aimed at taking strong description of the existing hierarchy of financial power, as well as simplifying other challenging aspects of voting processes and quota determination.


In general, the context to which international organizations can enforce their rules differs. Some institutions, including the United Nations and International Monetary Fund, sometimes impose their rules to member states and such states are required to comply with them. However, the international organizations face various challenges whilst trying to accomplish this. This paper is focused on the IMF’s voting rules. It is clear that the voting rules give much power to developed capitalist states, which influence almost all the decision made by the organization. Other states, although they take part in the process of decision making, are deemed as subordinates. Through the use of a double majority system of voting, this problem can be addressed and solved. It is aimed at taking strong description of the existing hierarchy of financial power, as well as simplifying other challenging aspects of voting processes and quota determination.

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