Democratizing International Agreements in the Context of Inter-State Hierarchies


  • Philip Giurlando


This paper aims to contribute to the literature on accountability and world politics by bringing to the discussion some of the insights of scholarship on international hierarchy. This literature goes beyond the well-known debate between realists and liberals, and explores status-based models which highlight how both material and normative factors constitute Great Powers. This elite class of states can help to make international agreements more accountable because they have the material means of enforcement, and because their divergent interests and diverse normative orientations help to broaden representation. When the world’s Great Powers cooperate to solve global problems, and their proposals include mechanisms for dispute resolution overseen by global governance institutions, agreements are more likely to generate ‘legitimacy’, a concept which refers to weaker states’ willingness to accept the decisions of the powerful because of the sense of fairness and the benefits which accrue to those impacted by the agreement. To illustrate an example, the paper will discuss the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an approach to nuclear non-proliferation overseen by the world’s Great Powers and accepted by other members of the international community, strong and weak alike.



A Articles/Books/Reports

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B Treaties

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C Other

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