A possible paradigm for democracy in international organisation is what I call democratic experimentation.
The aim of it is reinforcing the typical elements of the democratic model – legitimacy, accountability, inclusiveness – inside IOs in the most effective ways, consistently with the specific institutional frame and goals of each organization.
In order to do so, the embryonic forms of legitimacy, accountability and inclusion – already existing in a number of IOs – may be progressively strengthened and may evolve into more effective tools and channels. They may be declined in original ways to be improved gradually.
Why “democratic experimentalism”? Because the need to invent new formulas to adjust to the different fields of action and to the different global public goods involved requires that we proceed empirically by trial and error.
A model in this approach is the European Union, defined as “a new legal order” by the European Court of Justice in the famous Van Gend en Loos decision (1963, Case 26/62). It is a model only in terms of process, i.e. in the ability to proceed by trial and error towards more mature forms of democracy, but not in terms of outcome, which is the product of specific historical, cultural and geographical circumstances.
In other words, each international organization could experience a “legal order formula” of its own for legitimacy, accountability and inclusion, which would be the result of its own specific features and aims. In order to allow such evolution, it is necessary that statutes and founding treaties establishing the IOs foresee a clear and accessible revision procedure and that they are not considered as carved in stone.
Cultural and structural differences among the organisations prevent from finding universal solutions. What is necessary is rather to find a method and agree on the values and objective to be pursued. As was the case with the process of European integration, other international organizations could evolve into sui generis legal orders, never seen before.
The twofold advantage of this approach would be: (i) allowing us to read in a teleological frame a series of small evolutions taking place in the law of international organizations (the multiplication of complaints mechanisms, monitoring bodies, dialogues with civil society); (ii) giving us a key to interpret and measure their progress.
There isn’t yet a ranking of international organisations according to their democratic standards (as there is for States). Nonetheless, it would be possible to build a set of criteria and data to make it possible.
I’m sure that this would be a valuable exercise… and I’d love to contribute.