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Almost there: Another way of conceptualizing and explaining NGOs' quest for legitimacy in global politics

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For more content, see International Community Law Review.

World politics is no longer about states interacting alone in a state of anarchy, but entails a complexity of interactions between states and a myriad of actors collectively referred to as non-state actors. Unlike non-state actors like multinational corporations (MNCs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), NGOs and other civil society groups and organizations do not enjoy full legal status and are often seen as anomalies in world politics. Yet, despite their alleged anomalous status, non-state actors like NGOs, not only outnumber states, MNCs and IGOs combined, but also are increasingly becoming almost indispensable players in global agenda setting, and in promulgating and enforcing global norms. Using NGOs as an example of non-state actors, this paper argues that NGOs have become or are increasingly becoming legitimate actors contrary to traditional theories of international law and international relations. First, it is argued the ontology of world politics has changed giving rise to multiple sites of authority (MSOA) and multiple sources of legitimacy (MSOL) rendering state consent less relevant as a source of legitimization. Second, NGOs may be deemed to be acquiring legitimacy or international legal personality implicitly. Specifically, recognition of NGOs in international legal instruments, their participation in the creation and enforcement of international law particularly in the environment, human rights, humanitarian areas, and increasing cooptation by states as agents through which to channel development funds are all evidence of NGOs' growing legitimacy in the system consistent with customary international law.

Affiliations: 1: Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware


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