Authority beyond states: Legal, political and philosophical perspectives on international institutions


In this project, we investigate the growing exercise of authority by international institutions, both empirically and normatively. Presently, scepticism seems to grow towards the exercise of authority by international institutions. Several European states criticize the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for invading too far into formerly well accepted domains of national sovereignty. New conflicts are bound to arise once the EU has formally decided to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. At the international level, states are disputing the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Another striking example is the UN Security Council’s sanction regime against blacklisted individuals, including freezing bank accounts and prohibiting people entry. Such collective measures against individuals were unheard of, but now challenge international as well as regional institutions like the Human Rights Committee, the European Union and the protection system of the European Court of Human Rights. We shall address three sets of questions: First, we investigate the features of institutional growth: What overarching structures of hierarchy actually emerge among institutions? Which international institutions increasingly seek to exercise authority over states and other international actors, and how? How do such developments in institutional authority challenge established normative conceptions of democracy, the rule of law, legitimacy and sovereignty? Second, we explore the causes and effects of this development: How can we explain the increasing exercise of authority by international institutions? What forces drive the process? When these processes signal changes in the rules of international politics, how have agents -including the agents addressed by international authority, such as governments, corporations, NGOs, individuals- responded to those changes, as well as international institutions themselves? Third, we investigate the legal and philosophical implications of the increase in exercise of authority by international institutions. To what extent do overarching structures of hierarchy emerge among these institutions, and to what extent can we observe a process of legal fragmentation? Are there cross-cutting principles of law, such as proportionality or subsidiarity, which can create unity, and how do they differ from their counterparts in municipal law? If, in deed, we witness a growing exercise of authority by international institutions, to what extent can it include, ignore, or possibly even contradict efforts to promote substantial human rights at the international level?