Legitimate International Authority and Institutional Diversity

March 14, 2023 - March 15, 2023
Maynooth University

Maynooth n/a

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  • PluriCourts University of Oslo
  • University of Graz


University of Virginia
University of Arizona
Stockholm University
University of Oslo
University of Glasgow


Stockholm University
Maynooth University

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This workshop will bring together scholars in political philosophy and international law to address a number of linked questions around the ways institutional diversity and convergence shape international institutions' legitimate authority.

If our theories of legitimate authority are to make sense of the diverse forms that authority takes internationally, they must in turn account for the diversity of institutions and the relations between them. In contrast to the broad scope of state activities domestically, international institutions are typically specialised along various dimensions. International institutions have different and sometimes (internally) conflicting purposes. They are functionally specialised, each addressing one or a small number of policy areas (trade, finance, migration, climate change etc.). This specialisation might enhance their legitimacy, by allowing each to more effectively pursue its specific goals; but may also limit the scope for valuable activities in one domain to enhance the legitimacy of the institution more generally. International institutions also adopt diverse institutional forms: from highly legalised organisations focused around courts and tribunals, to looser political and diplomatic regimes; some issue binding directives (judicial or otherwise) or administer binding treaty rules, while others coordinate behaviour through information exchange and perceived expertise. These diverse mechanisms each raise distinct legitimacy questions: but the fact of diversity itself also challenges us to examine whether and when particular forms of authority are required. International institutions also interact in various ways, from cooperation to competition and conflict. How do those interactions, and the relations in which particular institutions stand towards one another, affect their legitimacy? Given the facts of both diversity and interaction, how far should or can we analyse the legitimacy of individual institutions, or are we better approaching international legitimacy holistically, making “international law”, “global governance” or “the international system” our focus? What do we gain by approaching this question in narrower or broader terms?

Participants are invited to reflect on these and other questions posed by the fact of international institutional diversity. Papers may address questions at a general level, or through a focus on one or more specific regimes, organisations, courts or tribunals. Contributions are invited from scholars in law, political philosophy, and related disciplines, with a view to developing an interdisciplinary conversation around these questions.

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