In an era of increasing political challenges to global and regional organizations, it is crucial to understand how they claim legitimacy, and how successful they are in this respect. Yet, we know surprisingly little about the sources and consequences of legitimation in most regional organizations around the world. In this project we thus map the legitimation strategies of a sample of 30 organizations and conduct qualitative comparative case studies on major organizations in the Global South.
Leibniz Association, 2018-2023
In an era of increasing political challenges to global and regional organizations, it is crucial to understand how these organizations claim legitimacy, and how successful they are in this respect. Yet, we know surprisingly little about the sources and consequences of legitimation in most ROs around the world. The empirical study of the legitimacy and legitimation of international organizations has grown enormously in recent years, but this literature focuses almost exclusively on a few prominent global organizations – the United Nations, the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF – and the EU (but see Börzel and van Hüllen 2015; Hurrelmann and Schneider 2015). As Rittberger and Schröder (2016: 582) note in a recent literature review, “there is virtually no comparable literature addressing the legitimacy of regional institutions outside the EU.” This widespread neglect of non-“Western” ROs in the legitimacy literature is unsatisfactory from a normative perspective, because the literature fails to engage “with the historical experiences, philosophical traditions and empirical realities beyond the so-called ‘North’ and ‘West’,” something which is a key feature of the GIGA’s global approach to scholarship (Narlikar 2016: 2). The current literature is also lacking analytically because it is unclear whether the conceptual and theoretical insights from this literature travel to the large majority of ROs. Moreover, by ignoring many potentially insightful cases, scholars forego the opportunity to identify alternative legitimation strategies and dynamics (Acharya 2014, 2016; Ahram, Köllner and Sil 2015). The few case studies that exist on the topic in the area studies literature not only suggest legitimation dynamics that revolve around the functional benefits of cooperation or democratic procedures – the dominant themes in the International Relations literature on the topic – but also advance alternative themes, such as that ROs serve to boost the legitimacy of domestic political systems (Söderbaum 2004a; Ambrosio 2008), or that ROs in post-colonial settings express the desire to devise “local” solutions for “local” problems (Kasaija 2012). What is more, discursive and institutional legitimation strategies often diverge in ways that the existing literature fails to recognize (Acharya 2009; Gardini 2011; Rüland 2014; Börzel and van Hüllen 2015). The area studies literature indicates that normative expectations of key stakeholders at the global and regional levels interact in complex ways with the historical experiences and post-colonial identities of member states (Ba 2013; Oelsner 2013; Nnaeme and Asuelime 2015). However, many of these strategies and dynamics remain undertheorized, and single case studies dominate.