Preliminary announcement: Ph.D.-course on the legitimacy of international law and international institutions

PluriCourts hosts a one week intensive interdisciplinary Ph.D.-course on the legitimacy of international law and international institutions, with a particular focus on international courts, in Oslo, Norway, May 11 to May 15 2020.

More information about the course and registration is available on the event site.

Course content

International law and international institutions play a large role both in international relations and in the domestic affairs of most countries. For example, we have seen a rise in international courts and tribunals, such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the WTO Appellate Body and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Much international law and institutions had an inter-state focus, but now govern much more than that. In European states, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Treaties of the European Union provide internationally binding rules that international tribunals supervise and use to adjudicate disputes, sometimes requiring States to protect individuals in ways that the governments oppose. Their increased influence raises questions about the legitimacy of international law and international institutions generally and international courts and other compliance mechanisms specifically. 

Until relatively recently, the study of legitimacy mainly focused on the state and its right to rule over its citizens. But accounts of state legitimacy are not necessarily pertinent for international institutions. Recent years have seen a significant turn towards the study of the legitimacy and justice of international institutions and international law. The course provides an advanced introduction to the topics and theories raised within this field of research.

Legitimacy is discussed across a number of different disciplines, and this course adopts a multidisciplinary approach, focusing primarily on law, philosophy and political science. These different disciplines might operate with different concepts of legitimacy and hence study different, though related, issues. Thus, philosophy mainly addresses normative legitimacy, which often relate to substantive notions of justice; political science focuses on how these institutions actually work in terms of effectiveness, agency costs, compliance, etc, as well as so-called sociological legitimacy, i.e. on whether an institution is perceived as legitimate; and legal scholarship includes a focus on the legality of institutions, which inter alia turn on whether they comport with notions of the rule of law. Furthermore, within each discipline, there will be competing concepts (and conceptions) of legitimacy. 

The course provides an overview of the main concepts and theories of the legitimacy of international institutions, and of how they relate to each other. The course also provides an overview of some of the theoretical and methodological challenges involved in assessing the legitimacy and justice of international law and international institutions.

The course will be based on active participation and dialogue between the teachers and the course participants.


The course teachers will include:

ECTS credits: 5 


The course is open for PhD-students in law, philosophy, political science and other related disciplines. The course is also open for advanced Master’s level students. Applicants must submit a CV and a short letter of motivation. (More details on the application process will be posted later.)

There is no course fee, but participants must cover travel and accommodation costs themselves.

About PluriCourts

PluriCourts - Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order, is a Centre of Excellence at the Department of Public and International Law, The Faculty of Law, the University of Oslo.

Published Sep. 4, 2019 2:06 PM - Last modified July 21, 2020 8:58 AM