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Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

Diversity on the International Bench: Building Legitimacy for International Courts and Tribunals

Project Lead: Andrew Clapham

Timeline: 2019-2022

Keywords: Representation; Democracy; Diversity; International courts; Legitimacy; Gender

Researcher: Neus Torbisco Casals

Funding Organisation: Swiss National Science Foundation, Division 1

The proliferation, and strengthening, of international adjudication over the past two decades has been hailed as a step towards an international rule of law but has also provoked concerns about legitimacy, both in academic and political discourse. As a result, recent scholarship has called for a turn towards a "democratic" model of legitimacy for international courts, with the aim of greater responsiveness to the public. However, this turn has so far neglected an important aspect of the democratic accountability of domestic courts in many countries: their representative character for the societies they adjudicate on.

First, this project takes a theoretical approach and seeks to develop a diversity-sensitive account of the legitimacy, impartiality and accountability of international courts. Second, researchers will conduct an empirical inquiry into one central aspect of the broader diversity problématique – the representation of women in international courts. Thirdly,  the project will develop theoretically and empirically well-grounded proposals for institutional reform. Overall, it aims to critically examine central concepts for international courts, such as legitimacy and impartiality and to provide some theoretical grounds for a stronger reflection of societal diversity.