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The politics of legitimation in international organizations

Binder, M. ORCID: and Heupel, M. (2021) The politics of legitimation in international organizations. Journal of Global Security Studies, 6 (3). ogaa033. ISSN 2057-3170

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/jogss/ogaa033


To govern effectively, international organizations (IOs) crucially depend on legitimation and support from their member states. But which states claim legitimacy for IOs, which challenge their legitimacy, and why? We address this gap in the literature by analyzing the legitimation strategies that states use in institutionalized discursive spaces within IOs. Specifically, we examine how United Nations (UN) member states seek to legitimate or delegitimate the UN Security Council in public debates in the UN General Assembly. We formulate a set of hypotheses that link specific state characteristics to evaluative statements on the Council’s legitimacy. We test these hypotheses on an original dataset using a non-linear regression model. In line with our theoretical expectations, we find that legitimation strategies are driven by a state’s membership of the Council and by its attitudes towards the United States. Contrary to our theoretical expectations, economically powerful states and states that are willing to delegate authority to supranational organizations are more likely to challenge the Council’s legitimacy. Furthermore, we provide evidence that states’ legitimacy claims resonate among fellow states, that is, among the Council’s primary audience. More generally, our findings suggest that making public claims about the Security Council’s legitimacy is not an empty diplomatic exercise, and that states do not make these claims at random. Legitimation strategies follow discernible patterns that can be explained by specific state characteristics.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:91805
Publisher:Oxford University Press


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