Call for papers: Political and Legal Theory of International Courts and Tribunals 2021

PluriCourts Annual Workshop on the Political and Legal Theory of International Courts and Tribunals 2021: “The Input and Output Legitimacy of International Courts”.

The International Court of Justice
Stock photo: Colourbox

Workshop Description

PluriCourts at the University of Oslo is organising a workshop to bring together scholars of philosophy, political theory and legal theory who study regional and international courts and tribunals (ICs), and in particular issues concerning the input and output legitimacy of ICs.

States have established manifold regional and international ICs to resolve disputes, interpret treaties, and deter illegal behaviour. These ICs cover a range of issues, including human rights, trade, investment, border disputes, and international crimes. ICs’ competences, level of authority, method of interpretation, and geographical reach vary widely. Their increase in number and influence naturally raises the question of whether and why they are legitimate.

An important distinction has been made between the input and output legitimacy of political institutions—a distinction, roughly, between how well different stakeholders are included and represented in the decision-making process of an institution, and how the institution’s decisions bring about valued outcomes. In philosophical and legal debates, a similar distinction is often made between ‘procedure’ and ‘outcome’ (or ‘substance’), and theories of legitimacy can accordingly be classified into ‘proceduralist’ and ‘instrumentalist’ categories, depending on which element they stress as the main ingredient of legitimacy.

When applied to ICs, this distinction raises a number of questions. Unlike domestic courts, ICs are not part of a democratic system of checks and balances, and so a major source of input democracy is missing; neither is there an obvious global public to which ICs could be said to be responsive. Many defenders of ICs stress the beneficial outcomes they provide, raising questions about the nature of those benefits, whether ICs manage to achieve them, and whether these benefits alone are enough to confer legitimacy.

Potential Topics

We invite papers from any discipline that fall within the broad theme of the conference. The workshop welcomes, in particular, papers that contribute to our philosophical and/or normative understanding of ICs, whether this is developed in more abstract terms or in the context of a concrete case study. Potential topics for the workshop could be, but are by no means limited to, the following questions:

  • How should we conceptually approach the legitimacy of international courts?
  • What is the connection between ICs’ normative and descriptive legitimacy?
  • How can we assess the democratic, or more broadly, input-based, legitimacy of ICs?
  • What measures can ICs take to increase their input-based legitimacy?
  • What are the morally relevant outputs of ICs?
  • According to what normative standards can we sort and evaluate the morally relevant outputs of ICs?
  • To what extent can the morally relevant outputs of ICs be sorted as promoting individual or collective rights or, more specifically, individual and collective autonomy?
  • What comparative advantage do ICs have in producing beneficial outcomes?
  • Are the outputs of ICs enough to make them legitimate?
  • What are the tensions between the justice and effectiveness (or other values) of ICs’ decisions, and how should they be resolved?
  • How does deep disagreement over values affect output-based justifications of ICs?
  • How do alternate theories of adjudication affect output-based justifications of ICs?


  • January 4, 2021 Expression of interest with provisional paper title, abstract (max. 400 words)
  • February 8, 2021 Decisions on acceptance of proposals
  • May 30, 2021 Draft papers due
  • June 21-22, 2021 Workshop on Zoom

Contact: Mahalet Tadesse

About PluriCourts

PluriCourts is a multidisciplinary Centre of Excellence whose overriding research objective is to analyse and assess the legitimate present and future roles of the international judiciary in the global legal order. The PluriCourts' Research Plan is available here.

Published Oct. 26, 2020 4:09 PM - Last modified Jan. 13, 2021 12:36 PM