Author: Andreas Føllesdal

[Andreas Føllesdal is Professor at Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo] This post is part of our symposium on the latest issue of the Leiden Journal of International Law. Other posts in this series can be found in the related posts below. The expansive growth and influence of international courts, tribunals, and quasi-judicial bodies (ICTs) fuels well deserved interest across disciplines far beyond public international law, including political science and political philosophy. How are we to describe, explain, and assess this partial abdication of sovereignty by the main actors of a (formerly) state-centric world order?  Armin von Bogdandy and Ingo Venzke have again joined forces to illuminate these profound issues of the functions and legitimacy of ICTs, tying together and expanding on previous valuable insights (von Bogdandy and Venzke, 2011). Von Bogdandy and Venzke diagnose some previous scholarship of ICTs as suffering from a two-fold myopia. Scholars have tended to focus on only one social function of international courts, and on a single source of legitimation: dispute settlement and state consent. Von Bogdandy and Venzke start with the plausible and well-argued observation that ICTs now cause impact in ways far beyond that of instruments for settling disputes among their creators. These further functions stabilize normative expectations by several means: law making; judicial interpretation; and, the control and (hence) legitimation of other authorities (cf, Alter 2013). Von Bogdandy and Venzke furthermore identify intriguing and far-reaching challenges of ICTs to the state-centred world order paradigm. Three further supplemental and partially competing traditions are those that see ICTs as  agents (‘organs’) of a world community, ‘institutions’ of legal regimes, and as actors who exercise public authority. Implications range from the reduced salience of state consent as the main mode of legitimation of international law and courts, entailing ‘restrictive interpretation’ to the appropriate role of amici curiae briefs and the need to differentiate modes of legitimation amongst the ICTs. The following observations from a fellow traveller point to some topics for further elaboration and development.