International Organizations under Pressure

New publication examines the increased normative expectations towards international organizations

UN Security Council (Photo: Flickr/Zack Lee, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0,

International organizations have become an increasingly important and integral part of international politics. They regulate various areas of intergovernmental relations, provide communication forums and promote regional integration processes. Many of these institutions have come under political and public pressure in recent years - despite, or perhaps precisely because of, their ever-increasing relevance and competencies?

This is the topic of the new publication "International Organizations under Pressure", written by Antonia Witt together with her colleagues Klaus Dingwerth, Ina Lehmann, Ellen Reichel and Tobias Weise. On the basis of five case studies (WTO, OAU/AU, IUCN, IAEA, UNHCR), the authors analyze how the normative standards applied for the evaluation of international organizations have changed since the 1970s. It shows that the institutions today are exposed to a much broader and contradictory set of normative expectations from a variety of actors, including those outside their member states.

This is largely due to two long-term developments: First, the human-centered standards of legitimacy are rising, which means that organizations must demonstrate their relevance not only to member states, but also to their respective populations. Secondly, procedural standards of legitimacy are gaining in importance. Thus, international organisations are no longer judged only by what they do, but also by how they come to decisions, manage themselves or coordinate with other organisations. In the face of these more complex and potentially contradictory expectations, their vulnerability to crises increases. They are increasingly coming under pressure.

The publication "International Organizations under Pressure" was released by Oxford University Press on 21 March 2019.