Populist Governments and International Law
KFG Working Paper Series, No. 29, Berlin Potsdam Research Group “The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline?”
Accepted for publication in: European Journal of International Law, forthcoming
29 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2019
Date Written: February 2019
The worldwide populist wave has contributed to a perception that international law is currently in a state of crisis. This article examines in how far populist governments have challenged prevailing interpretations of international law. The article links structural features of populism with an analysis of populist governmental strategies and argumentative practices. It demonstrates that, in their rhetoric, populist governments promote an understanding of international law as a mere law of coordination. This is, however, not entirely reflected in their legal practices where an instrumental, cherry-picking approach prevails. The article concludes that policies of populist governments affect the current state of international law on two different levels: In the political sphere their practices alter the general environment in which legal rules are interpreted. In the legal sphere populist governments push for changes in the interpretation of established international legal rules. The article substantiates these propositions by focusing on the principle of non-intervention and foreign funding for NGOs.
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