Authority beyond states: Perspectives on international institutions (completed)

This project addresses the exercise of authority by international institutions: its features, its causes and effects, and its implications.


  1. Substantive collaboration aimed at cutting edge research on these topics.
  2. To establish an interdisciplinary network of young, promising researchers in international law, philosophy and political science, by arranging a series of workshops where participants can present their work in progress.
  3. To encourage participants to publish the resulting papers in international, highly visible, peer-reviewed academic journals.

Thematic focus

In the AUSTAT project, we:

  • investigate the growing exercise of authority by international institutions,
  • both empirically and normatively,
  • from a legal, political and philosophical perspective. 

Research issues

Skepticism towards the exercise of authority by international institutions seems to be increasing, both at the European, and the international level. For example, European states have criticized the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for invading too far into formerly well accepted domains of national sovereignty. The UN Security Council’s sanctions regime against blacklisted individuals, including the freezing of bank accounts and banning travel is another good example. Such collective measures against individuals, heretofore unheard of, now challenge international as well as regional institutions like the European Union.  

AUSTAT investigates three sets of issues:

  1. The features of the expanding authority of international institutions. What overarching structures of hierarchy actually emerge among institutions? Which international institutions increasingly seek to exercise authority over states and other international actors, and how? How do such developments in institutional authority challenge established normative conceptions of democracy, the rule of law, legitimacy, and sovereignty?
  2. The causes and effects of this development. How can we explain the increasing exercise of authority by international institutions? What forces drive the process? When these processes signal changes in the rules of international politics, how have agents – including the agents addressed by international authority, such as governments, corporations, NGOs, or individuals – responded to those changes, as well as to international institutions themselves?
  3. The legal and political implications of the increase in the exercise of authority by international institutions. To what extent can we observe a process of legal fragmentation? Are there cross-cutting principles of law, such as proportionality or subsidiarity, which can create unity, and how do they differ from their counterparts in municipal law? If, indeed, we are witnessing a growing exercise of authority by international institutions, to what extent can it include, ignore, or possibly even contradict efforts to promote substantial human rights at the international level?


The papers presented in the project are aimed for publication in international highly visible peer-reviewed academic journals.


Participants in the project's first two workshops were selected from top research institutions in Germany and Norway. Two workshops were held in 2011: In May at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), University of Oslo and in October at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB).

An open call for papers led to a third workshop held at the Centre franco-norvégien en sciences sociales et humaines, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'homme, Paris, France in May 2012. A fourth workshop (invitation only) is planned for November 2012, to be held at the Max Planck Institute for International and Comparative Law in Heidelberg, Germany.


The AUSTAT project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Law Faculty at the University of Oslo.

Tags: Menneskerettigheter, International Law, international theory, international institutions, International Relations, Human Rights
Published May 12, 2011 11:03 AM - Last modified Apr. 1, 2016 1:49 PM