International Organization Sovereignty: Constructing Institutional and Structural Changes in the International System

27 November 2023, Version 2
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


International relations scholars explore the significance of modern states’ transfer of authority to international organizations (IOs) within the broader debate on changes and continuities in the “institutions” (sovereignty) and “structures” (forms of organizing politics) of the international system. This paper contributes to this dialogue by developing a theory of change to construct the claim of continental sovereignty by the African Union (AU). The theory explains that the transfer/internationalization of authority is transforming IOs into state-like structures possessing sovereignty as transferred authority and creating the international state system. Dominant IOs (e.g., UN) are legitimated by minor IOs, or constituent state structures (e.g., AU). Legitimation crises may occur when minor IOs oppose dominant IOs’ legitimacy claims. So, the rules of IO legitimation must comprise inclusive representations of constituent structures in decision-making organs and the alignment of norms, priorities, or goals with minor IOs. Noncompliance with these rules may cause fundamental changes.


African Union
international organization
international authority


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