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Andrea K. Schneider, Democracy and Dispute Resolution: Individual Rights in International Trade Organizations, 19 U. Pa. J. Int'l Econ. L. 587 (1998)

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19 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Econic Law 587 (1998)


The question of dispute resolution systems for international organizations is of growing importance. Not only has there been a plethora of new international and regional organizations created in the last decade, but this trend is likely to continue. There are numerous proposals for multilateral free trade areas and agreements across Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in Asia. At the same time, existing international trade organizations have come under increasing scrutiny for their inability to reflect accurately the needs and concerns of the citizens of the member countries.

This article takes a different approach to understanding questions of democracy and legitimacy in international organizations by examining the dispute resolution mechanisms used in these organizations. An alternative method of assessing legitimacy and democracy in international organizations would be to look at the ability of individuals to enforce the rules once they are enacted. In the end, I shall argue that increasing individual involvement in dispute resolution-by granting individuals rights and standing under these organizations-is an appropriate way to increase the legitimacy of international trade organizations.

As regional and international organizations are created, nations should examine carefully the type of dispute resolution mechanism they establish. International trade organizations diminish the returns of the treaty by limiting their dispute resolution mechanisms to states. By providing rights without a remedy, these international trade organizations are limiting both their impact and their legitimacy. The solution is to reduce the link between domestic or short-term political interests of countries and their trade policy by granting individuals standing to bring cases for treaty violation.

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