[Journal:] International Theory [ISSN:] 1752-9727 [Publisher:] Cambridge University Press [Place:] Cambridge [Volume:] 11 [Year:] 2019 [Issue:] 2 [Pages:] 182-210
This paper applies the concept of emergency powers to the crisis politics of international organizations (IOs). In the recent past, IOs like the UN Security Council, the WHO, and the EU have reacted to large-scale crises by resorting to assertive governance modes bending the limits of their competence and infringing on the rights of the rule-addressees. In contrast to rational and sociological institutionalist notions of mission creep, this paper submits that this practice constitutes ‘authority leaps’ which follow a distinct logic of exceptionalism: the expansion of executive discretion in both the horizontal (lowering of checks and balances) and the vertical (reduction of legal protection of subjects) dimension, justified by reference to political necessity. This ‘IO exceptionalism’, as argued here, represents a class of events which is observable across fundamentally different international institutions and issue areas. It is important not least because emergency politics tend to leave longer-term imprints on a polity’s authority structures. This article shows that the emergency powers of IOs have a tendency to normalize and become permanent features of the institution. Thus IO exceptionalism and its ratcheting up represent a mechanism of abrupt but sustainable authority expansion at the level of IOs.
international organizations crisis politics authority state of emergency constitutionalism mission creep ratchet effect