The SHARES Project examines an unexplored and largely unrecognized problem: the allocation of international responsibilities among multiple states and other actors. It uncovers the nature and extent of the problem of sharing responsibility in an increasingly interdependent and heterogeneous international legal order. The Project produces output offering new concepts, principles and perspectives for understanding how the international legal order may deal with shared responsibilities.
International society and the international legal order have gone through radical transformations in recent decades, notably in the multiplicity of actors operating in interaction with each other. In a substantial and increasing number of cases, injurious consequences do not result from individual acts by individual actors, but arise from concerted action by states, international organizations and other actors. This occurs for instance in the context of multinational military operations, extra-territorial migration policies, or acts that contribute to climate change and other transboundary environmental problems. The significance of this phenomenon is illustrated in the News section of the SHARES website, where news items relevant to shared responsibility are frequently posted. In all these situations, responsibility may be shared between two or more states and/or other actors.
While concerted action may further the delivery of international common goods, it may come with a downside, as it complicates the allocation of responsibility. Where common action fails to deliver its promises, and in particular when acts and omissions breach rights or obligations, the question of who is responsible will arise. Who, among the multiplicity of actors involved in cooperation, is to answer for the failure to live up to promises and abide by agreements, and who is to provide reparation to any injured parties? The international legal order increasingly has to come to grasps with a truth learned long ago in organization theory: as the responsibility for any given instance of conduct is scattered among more actors, the discrete responsibility of every individual actor diminishes proportionately.
The principles applicable to situations of shared responsibility are not well developed. The International Law Commission (ILC), both in its work on the responsibility of states and the responsibility of international organizations, recognized that attribution of acts to one state or organization does not exclude the possible attribution of the same act to another state or organization. However, the ILC has provided limited guidance to the allocation of responsibility or reparation in such cases. Indeed, the whole issue is undertheorized and underexplored.
As the variety and frequency of cooperative endeavors between states and other actors expand, international rules and processes must be developed to better allocate international responsibility between multiple actors. For this to be achieved, our fundamental understanding of the principles and processes at stake needs to be enhanced. The objective of the SHARES Project is therefore to increase the body of scientific knowledge on the topic, by developing a comprehensive study of theoretical and practical issues of shared responsibility. The project will propose not only a technical and procedural analysis of how to deal with shared responsibility, but will situate such an analysis in a novel rethinking of the nature of international responsibility.
Over the course of the project, the research team is providing regular output, engaging academic debates on the topic of shared responsibility, while also aiming at addressing a larger public. This output consists of events (conferences, seminars, lectures, debates) and publications (articles, books, research papers, conference reports and blogposts).
● SHARES Events
SHARES Lectures — Renowned scholars are invited every month to give presentations on relevant subjects, dealing with issues of shared responsibility. The schedule for these lectures, held at the University of Amsterdam, can be found here.
SHARES Debates — SHARES Debates are organized in collaboration with SPUI25, the academic and cultural centre of the University of Amsterdam. These debates are directed to the general public.
SHARES Expert Seminars — In order to provide a better understanding of specific areas where issues of shared responsibility arise, a series of expert meetings with professionals and academics has been organized. Reports of these seminars are available in the areas of international environmental law, refugee law and peace operations.
SHARES 2011 Conference — A Conference on the Foundations of Shared Responsibility in International Law was held in November 2011. It explored fundamental and conceptual issues that explain the state of law, as well as possibilities for further development of the law pertaining to shared responsibility. This conference was also a first take on the findings of the project, and allowed for confrontation with competing and/or complementary approaches.
More conferences and seminars will take place in the course of this project. These conferences will be dealing with broad themes and topics that arise in the course of the research. Furthermore, seminars will be held on specific issue-areas.
● SHARES Research Paper Series
The findings of the project are made available in a research paper series addressing a wide range of general or specific issues of shared responsibility. The SHARES Research Papers are available here.
● SHARES Articles
Key results of the project will be published in articles in leading international journals, including the European Journal of International Law, the Leiden Journal of International Law and the International Organizations Law Review. Articles will also be contributed to edited volumes that are not as such part of the project, but that substantively relate to the SHARES Project. The overview of published articles can be found here.
● SHARES Book Series
A SHARES Book Series is being developed, consisting of several edited volumes and monographs. We are currently working on three edited volumes.
- The Principles of Shared Responsibility (Volume 1) will examine the concepts and principles of the law of international responsibility though the new perspective of shared responsibility.
- The Practice of Shared Responsibility (Volume 2) will explore the practice of shared responsibility in international law. In this volume, relevant practices will be mapped in over forty different issue-areas.
- The Distribution of Responsibilities in International Law (Volume 3) will discuss how responsibility is to be distributed among several wrongdoing actors in case nothing has been agreed ex ante.
● SHARES Blog
Blogposts on topical issues of shared responsibility and current events are regularly published on the SHARES Blog by members of the research projects as well as external contributors.
● Other publications
Other publications that are substantively related to SHARES, such as a book entitled Responsibility to Protect: From Principle to Practice, are also published in the framework of the Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL).