New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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The ASEAN Charter, adopted in Singapore in November 2007, asserts in Article 3 that ASEAN "as an inter-governmental organisation, is hereby conferred legal personality". This paper examines the legal status of the association, as well as the political question of whether the whole is greater than (or perhaps less than) the sum of its parts. The argument presented is that legal personality at the international level is less a status than it is a capacity: the fact that ASEAN now claims international legal personality in the Charter does not mean it lacked it previously, nor that it will possess it after the Charter is ratified. Rather, the key question is what specific powers have been granted to ASEAN and how those powers are used. On these questions, the Charter is largely silent.

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