The Legitimation of International Organizations

The project deals with the sources, dynamics and consequences of the legitimation of international organizations (IOs). First, we examine which sources of legitimacy states refer to when they legitimate IOs. Do they refer to procedural fairness, effectiveness or legality when they talk about the legitimacy of IOs and their policies? Second, we investigate to what extent specific state characteristics influence states’ legitimation practices. For instance, are legitimation practices driven by a state’s general inclination to delegate competences to IOs, or rather by a state’s influence in an IO? Third, we shed light on the consequences states’ (rhetorical) legitimation and de-legitimation practices may have for the ability of IOs to fulfill their mandates. Does legitimation translate into practical support and, if yes, on which conditions? Thus far, we have dealt with these questions in relation to the United Nations Security Council. In a second step, we will extend our analysis to also cover IOs from other policy fields.

Participating Researchers

Martin Binder, University of Reading

Monika Heupel, University of Bamberg


Binder, Martin/Heupel, Monika (2020): The Politics of Legitimation in International Organizations, Journal of Global Security Studies 6:3, DOI:

Binder, Martin/Heupel, Monika (2020): Rising Powers, UN Security Council Reform, and the Failure of Rhetorical Coercion, Global Policy 11:3, 93-103, Special Issue Global Power Shifts: How do International Institutions Adjust? (eds. Andreas Kruck/Bernhard Zangl).

Binder, Martin/Heupel, Monika (2018): Contested Legitimacy: The UN Security Council and Climate Change, in: Charlotte Ku/Shirley Scott (eds.): Climate Change and the UN Security Council, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 186-208.

Binder, Martin/Heupel, Monika (2015): The Legitimacy of the UN Security Council: Evidence from Recent General Assembly Debates, International Studies Quarterly  59:2, 238-250.