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Home    |   Print Edition   |   Legitimacy, Collective Authority and Internet Governance: A Reflection on David Caron’s Study of the UN Security Council

Legitimacy, Collective Authority and Internet Governance: A Reflection on David Caron’s Study of the UN Security Council

Mar 31, 2020

David Kaye

Volume 46 (2019) - Issue 1

In his 1993 study in the American Journal of International Law, The Legitimacy of the Collective Authority of the Security Council, David Caron proposed that:

a basic challenge for international governance is to seek designs that promote institutional integrity, and that consequently address in the ordinary course of business the circumstances that make possible the resonance of allegations of illegitimacy. What are the characteristics of a process of decision with integrity, that may be trusted? How does one ensure that an institution is faithful to the promise of the organization, that is, that it acts with integrity?

Consistent with his approach to scholarship across the range of his concerns, Caron addressed two things (at least) at once. In the most immediate sense, he was concerned with the emergent role of “a functioning UN Security Council”— which was then (1991–93) seen as an institution bridging the end of the Cold War and the beginning of what George H.W. Bush called the New World Order—a Council acting with “vitality” to counter a variety of threats to international peace and security. Put more directly, Caron was seeking to understand whether the blowback to a Council that “acted in utterly unprecedented ways” would have concrete implications for its functioning. As he described the moment, he saw “no small measure of irony that, as the international community finally achieved” the capability to pursue its role under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, many “began to have second thoughts about the legitimacy of that body’s use of its collective authority.” Bringing to the discussion a clear-eyed understanding of the political threats facing the Council and world order, he introduced the study by noting that his analysis would eventually turn to policy prescriptions to address the possibility of a legitimacy gap in the Council’s exercise of authority. In a narrow sense, the article was a policy-relevant exploration that he would punctuate with proposals to strengthen the central security institution of international law.