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PhD defence

The International Civil Service: Redefining Its Independence

  • A. Tavadian
Thursday 18 April 2024
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof.dr. N.M. Blokker
  • dr. B.K. McGarry



International organisations do not consistently interpret and apply independence as it relates to their secretariats and staff. Practices that some international institutions regard as highly problematic may be seen as tolerable by others. This research explores whether the independence of international secretariats and civil servants is an entirely flexible concept that can be adapted to the needs or types of individual organisations or whether it is a relatively static notion composed of well-defined characteristics and elements. On the one hand, if independence is variable or entirely in the eye of the beholder, each international organisation may be justified in allowing practices that it considers appropriate and avoiding or even prohibiting practices that it deems contrary to the independence of its secretariat and its staff. In such a case, independence would have as many meanings and definitions as there are intergovernmental organisations.
If, on the other hand, independence is a concept assessed objectively, then one must accept that independence either has only one meaning or at least certain essential and inherent characteristics. Consequently, problematic practices for one organisation must be equally problematic for all other organisations. In other words, practices that erode the independence of international secretariats and staff of some IGOs would be equally corrosive for all others.
The main question that animated this research is whether the independence of international secretariats is a flexible (dynamic) or unvarying (static) notion. A related question is whether defining or describing this independence is possible. Does independence in the context of international secretariats and civil servants have essential characteristics? If so, do these characteristics vary from one organisation to another?

PhD dissertations

Approximately one week after the defence, PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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