No Institution Is an Island: Checks and Balances in Global Governance
In: Ingo Venzke & Joana Mendes (eds.), Allocating Authority: Who Should Do What in European and International Law?, 115-139 (Hart Publishing, 2018)
Posted: 16 Mar 2018 Last revised: 9 May 2018
Date Written: January 11, 2018
Although rarer internationally than domestically, instances of checks and balances within and between international institutions do exist. If we broaden the scope of the concept of checks and balances to include vertical checks and balances that exist as a background condition due to the nature of the international legal and political system within which international institutions are embedded, then the set of relevant Control mechanisms becomes even larger. That these ‘self-help’ mechanisms privilege certain actors — usually executives — and through them certain constituencies to the exclusion of others, may be seen as normatively problematic and sub-optimal, and thus as diminishing a mechanism’s overall legitimacy, but it does not detract from such controls’ availability as checks on authority beyond the state.
In this chapter I address select conceptual issues concerning checks and balances in global governance and provide illustrative examples as to their operation in practice. In addition, I articulate conjectures as to why horizontal checks and balances are so much rarer in global than in domestic governance, arguing, inter alia, that the vertical checks available to states as a result of the principal-agent relationship between them and the IOs of which they are members, and the dependency of IOs on states for the implementation of their decisions, provide key explanations as to why additional horizontal checks are usually perceived as unnecessary. The conclusion summarises and points to the need to address the role of non-state actors in future research on relative authority and checks and balances beyond the state.
Keywords: global governance, international institutions, checks and balances, separation of powers, rule of law
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation