The UN Security Council, Normative Legitimacy and the Challenge of Specificity

Antoinette Scherz
University of Oslo
This paper discusses how the general and abstract concept of legitimacy applies to international institutions, using the United Nations Security Council as an example. We argue that the evaluation of the Security Council’s legitimacy requires considering three significant and interrelated aspects: its purpose, competences, and procedural standards. We consider two possible interpretations of the Security Council’s purpose: on the one hand, maintaining peace and security, and, on the other, ensuring broader respect for human rights. Both of these purposes are minimally morally acceptable for legitimacy. Second, we distinguish between three different competences of the UNSC: 1) the decision-making competence, 2) the quasi-legislative competence, and 3) the referral competence. On this basis, we argue that different procedural standards are required to legitimise these competences, which leads to a more differentiated understanding of the Security Council’s legitimacy. While maintaining that the membership structure of the Council is a severe problem for its legitimacy, we suggest other procedural standards that can help to improve its overall legitimacy, which include broad transparency, deliberation, and the revisability of the very terms of accountability themselves.
Keywords Legitimacy standards  Meta-coordination view  Autonomy  Competences  Institutional purpose  Feasibility
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2020
DOI 10.1080/13698230.2019.1565720
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 36,570
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.
The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions.Allen Buchanan & Robert O. Keohane - 2006 - Ethics and International Affairs 20 (4):405–437.
Institutional Facts and Principles of Global Political Legitimacy.T. Macdonald - 2016 - Journal of International Political Theory 12 (2):134-151.
Democratic Legitimacy and International Institutions.Thomas Christiano - 2010 - In Samantha Besson & John Tasioulas (eds.), The Philosophy of International Law. Oxford University Press.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Legitimacy and Institutional Purpose.N. P. Adams - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.
Legitimacy, Humanitarian Intervention, and International Institutions.M. Kahler - 2011 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 10 (1):20-45.
Private Security Companies and Institutional Legitimacy.Robert A. Phillips - 2009 - Business Ethics Quarterly 19 (3):403-432.
Moral Expertise and Democratic Legitimacy.Frank Dietrich - 2012 - Analyse & Kritik 34 (2):275-284.
Three Elements of Stakeholder Legitimacy.Adele Santana - 2012 - Journal of Business Ethics 105 (2):257-265.
Institutional Legitimacy.N. P. Adams - 2018 - Journal of Political Philosophy:84-102.
Legitimacy, Justice and Public International Law.Lukas H. Meyer (ed.) - 2009 - Cambridge Univeristy Press.
Democratic Legitimacy and Proceduralist Social Epistemology.Fabienne Peter - 2007 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6 (3):329-353.


Added to PP index

Total downloads

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes

Sign in to use this feature