Legitimacy Of International Institutions Term Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Government Type: Term Paper Paper: #65492874 Related Topics: Lawyers, Hiroshima, Atomic Bomb, International Relations
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Legitimacy of International Institutions

International institutions are based on the multilateral treaties or the agreements among multiple states. States generally enter in the treaties to promote their common aims, and law recognizes the existence of international institutions. Typically, international institutions are established based on the charters that bind the member states together. "International institutions are the set of rules means to govern international behaviours" (Simmons & Martin 2001 P. 194). This definition is very important because international institutions have established set of rules guiding the conduct of member states. Based on the definitions of international institutions, it is revealed that member states are subject to abide by the decision of international institutions. However, there are hot debates among scholars and political actors whether international institutions posses legitimacy on the member states. (D'Amato,2007, Zurn, & Stephen 2010).

The objective of this paper is to investigate the legitimacy of international institutions.

Legitimacy of International Institutions

To remain effective, international institutions have to exercise some form of political authorities over the member states. Buchanan & Keohane (2006) define legitimacy in the normative sense which refers to the right to rule or the right to exercise power over others. Normatively, legitimacy is conferred on an institution because it is widely believed having the right to rule. Under international law, international institutions are legitimate and have the binding forces on the member states based on states consent and the treaties signed by the states. With regard to the customary international law, once a state is a signatory to a treaty, and the practice becomes regularized, state should conceive as having the binding character of law.

International institutions cover wide varieties of multilateral treaties, which include International Monetary Funds (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), the UN Security Council, the new International Criminal Court (ICC), and various environmental institutions that attempt to regulate climate change built around Kyoto protocol. Christiano, T. (nd) categorizes international institutions based on the functions they perform. There are regional economic organizations such as European Union that implements economic cooperation of member states. In addition, World Trade Organization (WTO) enhances effective world trade relations among member states. It is widely agreed within the set down rules that nation states must belong to WTO before they could participate effectively in the world economy. To participate in the world economy, a member must accept the intrusive rules posed by the WTO. There are also some global environmental treaties that exclusively regulate environmental matters. The United Nation Security Council sees to the international peace and security, and the Security Council could exercise some enforcement on the states suspected to act against international peace and security. There are other institutions that make rules to assist in the implementation of general treaty of law. In addition, some international institutions exercise judicial functions. For example the International Court of Justice could adjudicate and World Trade Organization has the authority to settle dispute that arises between member states. There are other international institutions such as International Monetary Fund (IMF) that could provide loans to member states in case of economic crisis.

Essential benefits of the international institutions are that they assist in constructing regulatory frameworks and limit the abuse of nation states with regard to the excessive use of sovereignty. Typically, international institutions attach significant consequences to the compliance or failure to comply with the rules being set by these institutions could lead to some sort of enforcements such as economic or military sanctions. Although, many international institutions do not attempt to make use of violence to legitimate their rules because their actions require the consent of states, however, many states have complied with the rules laid down by the international institutions based on the authority conferred on the international institutions.

Hurd (1999) argues that international institutions posses the legitimate power because many nation states believe that they have lot to lose by not accepting the legitimacy of the international institutions. Typically, many nation states tend to accept the legitimacy of the international institutions because of the fear of the consequent of enforcement from the international institutions. For example, Security Council Sanction Committee can blacklist a country for not complying with set of rules laid down by the United Nations. Zurn and Stephen (2010) support this


International institutions have gained wider importance in term of quality and quantity. International institutions have gained the status of political authorities and the argument portrayed by some commentators that international authorities are the instrument of states does not gained ground any more. It is essential to realize that the stronger the role of the international institutions, the stronger their legitimacy on the member states. These are the more reasons why some international institutions such as IMF, World Bank, and European Union have enjoyed stronger legitimacy on the member states.

Previously, international institutions are being considered as the instrument of states because states are deemed to enjoy absolute sovereignty where a ruler of a state is the only sole authority over the state. Moreover, states are not subject to the rules that they do not have consent. The sovereignty enjoyed by the states incapacitates international institutions to exercise legitimacy on the member states. With the power conferred on the state, international institutions are considered to be the instruments of the state without possessing sole authority on their own. However, in the last three decades, there has been a development of supranationalisation international institutions which have undermined the state sovereignty. "Supranationalisation describes a process in which international institutions develop procedures that contradict the consensus principle and the principle of non-intervention." (Zurn and Stephen (2010 P. 92).

With recent development of supranationalization "international institutions have authority when states recognise, in principle or in practice, their ability to make binding decisions on matters relating to a state's domestic jurisdiction, even if those decisions are contrary to a state's own policies and preferences." (Cooper et al., 2008, p. 505). With ratification of member states, an international institution could demonstrate its legitimacy by levying sanction against violators. Since 1989, there has been increase in the cases where international institutions have used legitimate forces, military forces, and sanctions against the violators. In the case of Kosovo, United Nations has demonstrated its legitimate power by setting up transitional administrators those posses far-reaching legislative, judicial, and political powers. Similarly, IMF has demonstrated its legitimacy over states by asking states to fulfil certain conditions before securing loans from IMF. Moreover, there is increase in the number of multilateral agreements. Between 1968 and 2010, multilateral agreements have increased from 942 to 6.154 leading to the increase in the majoritarian decision-making of international institutions, and international institutions have been able to use its majority to influence its decision-making. With the use of "majoritarian decision-making there are increases in the ability of international institutions to act, by cancelling the vetoes of individual states and overcoming blockades." (Zurn et al. 2010 P. 92). In addition, international institutions have been effective in levying sanctions against violators of human rights. Since 1989, international institutions have been able to champion the implementation of economic sanctions and military forces against violators of human rights.

Coicaud, & Heiskanen, (2001) support this argument by pointing out that Security Council enjoys legitimacy under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. After the cold war, the Security Council could invoke Chapter VII to restore peace using armed force. Typically, the Security Council could issue directives to a member state to cooperate. In addition, the Security Council could determine claims against aggressors. Security Council could also determine threats of peace and act against aggressor. Under Article 1 of the United Nation Charter, the effort "is to maintain international peace and security and to that end: to take collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breach of peace." (Coicaud et al. 2001, P 312). Under Article 24, Chapter V, Security Council is conferred the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. Article 41 under Chapter VII, Security Council could implement economic sanction against states. Under Article 42, Security Council could impose military action against the offending states. For example, on February 2011, UN Security Council unanimously imposed sanctions on Gaddafi Libyan regime and freeze Gaddafi assets. Gaddafi was also being charged to the international court of justice for alleged crimes against humanity. Since 1980s, Libya under Gaddafi regime had been accused of sponsoring terrorism that could endanger international peace and security. (BBC News 2011). In addition, when Security Council suspected that Libya could jeopardize international peace and security in 1980s and 1990s, UN imposed sanctions on Libya in April 1992, and Security Council passed Resolution 748 to ask Libya to extradite two suspects allegedly bombing an American Airline. (Peterson Institute for International Economics 2010). Based on the power conferred on the Security Council to impose sanctions on the offending nations, it is revealed that international institutions have legitimacy on the…

Sources Used in Documents:


BBC News (2011).Libya: UN Security Council votes sanctions on Gaddafi. BBC News Africa.27 February 2011.

Bodansky, D. (2011). International Relations and Legitimacy in International Law.

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Arizona State University.

Buchanan, A & Keohane, R.O. (2006). The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions. Ethics & International Affairs, 20(4): 405-437.

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