chapter  10
The Souls of International Organizations: Legal Personality and the Lighthouse at Cape Spartel
ByDavid J. Bederman
Pages 104

This chapter looks at the transformation of ideas into institutions. The idea in question is one peculiar to public international law—the collective adoption of responsibility by a group of states for an activity of importance for the entire global community. The institution is the creation of a permanent international organization charged with ensuring that the important endeavor is carried on for the benefit of all nations. By mid-1852, the foreign representatives in Tangier had raised the question of construction of a lighthouse at Cape Spartel. International organizations have rights and duties on the international plane, and other actors—including individuals—can also have international legal personality. International lawyers were never immune from that doubt or skepticism, despite periodic innoculations of optimism. The entire debate about the status of intergovernmental organizations reduced to a moral inquiry for which international lawyers were professionally and epistemically unsuited: do international institutions have souls?.