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Practice what you Preach? Limitations to Imposing Democratic Norms on NGOs

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This paper challenges the scholarly tendency of imposing democratic norms on non-governmental organisations (NGOs). For decades there has been a strong debate among International Relations and International Law scholars on the question of whether or not NGOs contribute to the democratic legitimacy of international law. Notwithstanding different arguments, both critics of and adherents seem to be primarily occupied with theorising and criticising the internal democratic legitimacy of NGOs. In this article I question whether this is justifiable. Imposed democratic norms conflict with the inherent unpredictable character of NGOs. Whereas the unpredictability of NGOs in terms of form and content is often perceived as unreliable, it characterises their essential voluntariness, which can be considered their main contribution to democracy.

Affiliations: 1: Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam


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