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Legitimacy in intergovernmental and non-state global governance

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Do requirements for legitimate global governance vary across intergovernmental and non-state governance institutions? The author introduces a framework to address this question that draws attention to the social forces and power dynamics at play in determining what standards of legitimacy apply. Rather than beginning with a focus on democratic legitimacy, which pre-judges what legitimacy requires, the framework posits that what constitutes legitimacy results from an interaction of communities who must accept the authority of the institution with broader legitimating norms and discourses – or social structure – that prevail in the relevant issue area. To illustrate its plausibility, the framework is applied to a comparison of intergovernmental and non-state institutions in the social and environmental issue area: the intergovernmental Kyoto Protocol on climate change and members of the non-state International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance, an umbrella organization created to develop agreement on ‘best practices’ for its members. Implications of the findings for legitimacy of global economic governance are also explored.
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Keywords: Kyoto Protocol; Legitimacy; environmental governance; global governance; international institutions; non-state governance; private governance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Toronto, Canada

Publication date: 07 February 2011

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