Legitimacy of International Institutions Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3173 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Government

For example, UN agreed to lift sanction from Libya after Gaddafi regime agreed to accept civil responsibility of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 that occurred in Scotland in 1988. Moreover, the UN has assisted in putting end to Apartheid in South Africa when Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 418 in 1977 to impose weapon embargo on South Africa.

Legitimacy has been effective in the present contemporary international relations because states believe that it will serve their best interests to accept legitimacy of international institutions. Buchanan & Keohane (2006) argue that states exist to protect their self-interest, and states must treat the institutional rules as binding if they intent to protect their interests. Typically, many international institutions have been able to enjoy legitimacy from states based on the benefits that states enjoy from international institutions. Typically, IMF has been able to enjoy legitimacy from the member states because of the benefits that states derived from IMF. Many states have accepted the laid down conditions of IMF to secure loans in order to address their battered economic problems. Thus, legitimacy requires that there are justifications that the institutional agents affectively carrying out their roles and there are effective reasons to comply with rules set down by the international institutions.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Legitimacy of International Institutions International Assignment

Despite the arguments of some scholars that international institutions are conferred with legitimacy, some group of scholars challenge the legitimacy of international institutions. Vale (1995) argues that some international institutions have not been able to secure legitimacy from developing countries. Bretton Woods institutions face challenges from developing countries because many developing countries believe that these institutions have been identified as state breakdown and market-driven poverty. For example, IMF has been accused of aggravating economic difficulties of many developing countries. In addition, IMF has also been accused of implementing economic policies that only favorable to the western powers. The legitimacy of Bretton Woods institutions has also been challenged because of its voting system. U.S. enjoys 85% of votes based on the de facto U.S. veto. Thus, international institutions have faced challenges to secure legitimacy from many developing countries because of believe that they only serve western interests at the expense of developing countries.

Ikenberry and Wright (2008) support this argument by revealing that intrusive interventionism perpetuated by UN Security Council throughout 1990s in the Balkans and the Middles East has been solely championed by the United States. The U.S. led intervention has made many developing countries to challenge the legitimacy of the UN Security Council on the basis that it only serves the interest of western states. Additionally, many states are challenging the legitimacy of the United Nations because it has become the instrument of the United States to intervene on the sovereignty of the developing countries. It has been argued that United States has been using United Nation Security Council to perpetuate on the sovereignty of the weaker states. For example, the United States

"was the driving force behind expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991, threatening war against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 1994, sanctioning and bombing Yugoslavia/Serbia and Iraq throughout the 1990s, launching a global war on terror after September 11, 2001, invading Iraq in 2003 following its purported violation of Security Council resolutions, and seeking assertive action against the Iranian nuclear program in 2007." (Ikenberry et al. 2008 P. 14).

In addition, there is argument that the creation of World Trade Organization is to exploit the weaker states. Wealthy states are using WTO to take the advantages of the relative paucity of information and lack of expertise of poorer states in international trade. Realization of the exploitation of the West against the developing countries has made some states to stage mass protest against WTO.

Despite the disagreement of some scholars with regards to the legitimacy of the international institutions, this paper argues that international institutions enjoy legitimacy in the contemporary international system. From the normative theoretical approach, the international institutions have been created due to the fundamental interest of the society. International institutions enjoy legitimacy from states because they exercise political authority to ensure that states comply with the rules. The normative theorists further argue that many international institutions do not exercise monopoly of violence as states behave; however, they set the rules and consequences of breaking the rules. Thus, states follow the rules because they believe they could stand to derive benefits from the rules laid down by the international institutions. (Schaffer, 2010). Typically, League of Nations failed because it lacked legitimacy from the member states leading to the outbreak of Second World War. League of Nations could not implement economic sanction, or enforce resolutions through the use of arms. Thus, the League of Nations lacked legitimacy because the institution did not have an organ such as the Security Council to enforce the resolution of the League of Nations through the use of arms. Lack of legitimacy of the League of Nations led to the break out of the Second World War. With the devastating effects of the Second World War, nation states do not want the holocaust of the Second World War to repeat itself. Nation states believe that it is of their own interest to obey the rules laid down by the present day international institutions.

The institutionalism cosmopolitans theory also agrees with argument of the normative theory by indicating that international institutions enjoy legitimacy because they assist in providing political goods to solve collective societal problems such protection of environment. These institutions assist in promoting international cooperation and construct regulatory framework such as disarmament of arms of destruction and regulatory framework on climate change to ensure that environments are free from disease. Typically, international institutions provide benefits that could not have otherwise been obtained elsewhere. Thus, nation states see that it is of their own interest to comply with the rules of these international institutions. For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) are established to promote the nuclear disarmament among the nation states as well as strengthening the disarmament of weapons of mass destructions, biological and chemical weapons. Since the establishment of UNODA, the institution has been able to enforce its rules on the nation states to ensure that states comply with the rules. States have complied with the rules of the UNODA because they view the rules serving their own interests. During the Second World War, the United States released the atomic bombs on the Japanese two cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 August 1945 and 9 August 1945 respectively. These two events witnessed the first use of nuclear weapons. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, between 90,000 and 166,000 people died due to the Hiroshima bombing and between 60,000 and 80,000 died in Nagasaki after the bombing. During the following months large number of people died from nuclear radiation, and other injuries. Till the present day, Japan still remembers the event, and the event is still fresh in the mind of the nation states. Thus, states see that it is better to comply with the rules of UNODA. States suspected to be amassing nuclear weapons for evil intension could face both military and economic sanctions. For example, Iran is currently facing isolation from the world when it is suspected that Iran is amassing the nuclear weapons. Despite the Iranian claim that its nuclear project is for the energy purpose, there is series of economic sanction on Iran. Bodansky (2011) argue that a legitimate institution has the right to exercise authority on member states, and this involves the acceptance of political authorities. Many Non-Government Organization (NGO) have had dramatic effect on international law with regard to the protection of the environment and land mines. While some international institutions exercise the use of force to exercise legitimacy, other makes use of soft power to influence the states to comply. Regardless of the source of legitimacy, international institutions have been able to enjoy legitimacy because legitimacy means right to rule, and having the right to make decision.


Legitimacy of international institutions has become an hot debate among scholars, lawyers, nation states, and international observers. This paper argues that international institutions still enjoy legitimacy in the present day international system. International institutions have been set up to create order in the international system, and rationally, the international institutions have been able to enjoy legitimacy from the member states based on the advantages that member states derived from them. Moreover, an international institution such as UN Security Council implements economic and military sanctions on the offending member states to demonstrate its legitimacy. Although, some scholars argue that the international institutions are created to serve the interests of the West, however, based on the argument of this paper, there are several instances that indicate that international institutions have used either soft power or hard power to demonstrate their legitimacy.


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