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Political LegitimacyNOMOS LXI$
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Jack Knight and Melissa Schwartzberg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479888696

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479888696.001.0001

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The Political Legitimacy of International NGOs

The Political Legitimacy of International NGOs

Chapter:
(p.231) 8 The Political Legitimacy of International NGOs
Source:
Political Legitimacy
Author(s):

Jennifer C. Rubenstein

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479888696.003.0009

Should large-scale, Western-based humanitarian and development INGOs such as Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders be evaluated based on whether they are politically legitimate? The philosophical literature on political legitimacy has addressed this question with regard to non-state actors in general, but has not said much specifically about INGOs. The INGO literature has discussed issues of political legitimacy, but has focused almost exclusively on one dimension of the concept—the criteria that INGOs must meet to be politically legitimate—while largely overlooking two other dimensions: that political legitimacy is (a) a minimum threshold for (b) the moral right to rule. Bringing the full “three-dimensional” concept of political legitimacy developed in the political philosophy literature to bear on INGOs is valuable in several ways: It flips the script of traditional charity-based approaches, treats aid recipients and other subjects of INGO rule as moral and political agents capable of making and acting on moral judgments, provides a locus of agreement for people who otherwise disagree about INGOs, and works synergistically with democratic criteria for INGO political legitimacy.

Keywords:   NGOs, legitimacy, political legitimacy, non-state actors

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