Home » Articles » Neotrusteeship or Mistrusteeship? The “Authority Creep” Dilemma in United Nations Transitional Administration

Neotrusteeship or Mistrusteeship? The “Authority Creep” Dilemma in United Nations Transitional Administration

PDF · Christian Eric Ford & Ben A. Oppenheim · Jul-24-2012 · 41 VAND. J. TRANSNAT'L L. 55 (2008)

State failure poses one of the greatest threats to international peace and security.  The collapse of governing institutions breeds civil wars, generates refugee flows, causes enormous civilian suffering, foments instability in neighboring countries, and provides safe havens for transnational criminal and terrorist organizations.  As a result, commentators and policymakers have increasingly called for a remedy to the problem of state failure.  One of the most compelling arguments is to draw on an old legal institution:  international trusteeship by the United Nations (U.N.).  This Article argues that while trusteeship may prove effective in managing state failure, it also carries risks.  International interventions typically take limited control of the domestic environment of weak countries without absorbing their sovereignty.  Trusteeship, in contrast, vests enormous authority and discretion in temporary international administrators, who in turn tend to centralize their power and decision-making in order to meet challenging mission mandates under difficult conditions.  This “authority creep” absorbs sovereignty and in the process risks eroding incentives for leaders of failing states to cooperate with the U.N.  Worse, unmitigated authority creep may weaken the political basis for successive international administration and reconstruction efforts.  This Article concludes by outlining an alternative system of oversight for U.N. transitional administrators as a means of preserving partial sovereign authority and control for domestic political actors.

Leave a Reply

ExpressO Top 10 Law Review


We are pleased to announce the 2013-2014 VJTL New Members

Coming up:

The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law hosted a symposium called “The Role of Non-State Actors in International Law” at Vanderbilt University Law School in February 2013.

The October issue of the Journal will showcase articles by distinguished symposium guests including:

  • Mr. Ian Smillie, “Blood Diamonds and Non-State Actors”
  • Professor Jean d’Aspremont, “Cognitive Conflicts and the Making of International Law from Empirical Concord to Conceptual Discord in Legal Scholarship”
  • Professor Peter J. Spiro, “Constraining Global Corporate Power: A Very Short Introduction”
  • Professor Suzanne Katzenstein
  • Professor Peter Margulies
  • Professor Harlan G. Cohen


Explore Other Vanderbilt Law Resources