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BIPR | The Legitimacy of International Organizations
The Legitimacy of International Organizations

November 30, 2020 - 18:30

Online Event

Jonas Tallberg, Stockholm University, Sweden

Event Recap

Jonas Tallberg’s research examines the legitimacy of international organizations. In his presentation he examined whether: elites and citizens hold different views about international organizations and if so why? Tallberg noted that while there has been extensive research on performance and procedures of international organizations, there is no existing scholarship measuring differences between elite and citizens’ confidence in multilateralism institutions. This is particularly important today as international organizations have been attacked by political leaders.

Tallberg and his fellow co-authors selected several international organizations as the focus for their study: The International Criminal Court, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization. They conducted surveys of citizens and elite in five countries around the world: United States, Germany, Philippines and Brazil, and Russia. They sought a diverse group of elites including: party-political elites, bureaucratic elites, business elites, media elites, civil society elites, and academic elites.

The authors found that elites, on average hold more favourable opinions of international organizations compared to citizens. The exception of this general trend as the research found was Philippines, where compared to elites, citizens hold more favourable views about international organizations. Study also found that citizens and elite had the highest level of confidence in the World Health Organization, over other international organizations. However, as Tallberg noted, the survey was completed before the COVID-19 crisis, and so we don’t know whether public confidence has dropped in the institution over its handling of the pandemic.

The gap between public and elite confidence in international organizations is due to: socioeconomic status, political values, geographical identification, and domestic institutional distrust among other factors. The presence of legitimacy gaps, according to the speaker, is one of the factors for which populist politicians may find it profitable to target international organizations. Performance and procedures also matter for the legitimacy of international organizations. These research findings will soon be published in three volumes, forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

Full Audio:

The Legitimacy of International Organizations
International Relations Series

hosted by Professor Nina Hall

Jonas Tallberg
Stockholm University, Sweden

Legitimacy is central to the capacity of international organizations in addressing problems such as climate change, trade protectionism, and human rights abuses. However, despite legitimacy's importance for international organizations, its workings remain poorly understood. That is the core concern of the research program LegGov, coordinated by Professor Tallberg: to offer the first systematic and comprehensive analysis of legitimacy in global governance. To what extent are international organizations regarded as legitimate? What explains that legitimacy? By what processes are international organizations legitimated and delegitimated? What are the consequences of legitimacy (or its absence) for the functioning of international organizations?


Jonas Tallberg is Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University, where he coordinates the research group on global and regional governance - a leading area of research at SU.

Tallberg's primary research interests are global governance and European Union politics. He currently directs the research program Legitimacy in Global Governance (LegGov), funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (2016-2021). Tallberg's book publications include Legitimacy in Global Governance: Sources, Processes, and Consequences (Oxford University Press, forthcoming, co-edited), The Opening Up of International Organizations: Transnational Access in Global Governance (Cambridge University Press, 2013, co-authored), Leadership and Negotiation in the European Union (Cambridge University Press, 2006), and European Governance and Supranational Institutions (Routledge, 2003).

His articles have appeared in journals such as International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, British Journal of Political Science, Review of International Organizations, European Journal of International Relations, Journal of Common Market Studies, Journal of European Public Policy, and West European Politics.

Tallberg has won numerous awards for his research, including the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the German Humboldt Foundation in 2012, the JCMS Prize for the best articles in Journal of Common Market Studies in 2000 and 2004, and the Forskraft Award for the best Swedish dissertation on international relations 1998-2003. He has been awarded research grants from, among others, the European Research Council, the Fulbright Commission, the Swedish Research Council, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, and the Nordic Research Academy.

Tallberg has been a visiting researcher at Harvard University, Stanford University, McGill University, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo, and the European Commission. From 2009 to 2011, he chaired the Democratic Audit of the Centre for Business and Policy Studies (SNS Demokratiråd), and from 2009 to 2015, he served on the Executive Committee of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR). In 2019, Tallberg was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities.
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