There are many who question the ability of the prevailing approaches to international interventions in fragile contexts to build legitimacy, particularly the prioritisation by some actors of elections and capacity-building of institutions.
Roberts (2013) argues that international interventions which address and empower elites, while offering citizens the plebiscite, do not represent the creation of legitimate regimes. However, sometimes they do, as in the international stand against apartheid in South Africa. One should also bear in mind that international position is rarely monolithic. Richmond (2008) and Reno (2008) conclude that the prevailing approach to peacebuilding undermines prospects for generating the kind of legitimacy that lies at the heart of a durable social contract between state and society.
Lemay-Hébert (2013) questions whether international interventions, which take the form of international administrations, can ever support state legitimacy as they create a ‘legitimacy dilemma’ where what interveners do to reinforce the legitimacy of the intervention perpetuates their illegitimacy. In other words, the creation of everything that legitimises a western-oriented conception of a state can incite resistance. In the case of Kosovo in particular, it is argued that the interests and politics of the international community were prioritised to the detriment of the context, needs and interests of local constituents.
It should be noted, however, that perceptions of international interventions are not monolithic. In her study of local perceptions of political legitimacy, in relation to the international intervention in Afghanistan, Hove (2012) finds that, if Afghans judge the international intervention as satisfactory, they are more likely to support the state. It seems that the reverse effect is not nearly as strong; the perception of an intervention as unsatisfactory does not significantly weaken support for the state.
- Hove, J. (2012). The insider-outsider paradox: Afghan perceptions of international intervention and trust in state institutions. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Political Science Association, July 11, 2012, Madrid, Spain. See document online
- Lemay-Hébert, N. (2013). Everyday legitimacy and international administration: Global governance and local legitimacy in Kosovo. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 7(1), 87–104. See document online
- Reno, W. (2008). Bottom-up statebuilding? In C. Call & V. Wyeth (Eds.), Building states to build peace. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
- Richmond, O. (2008). Peace in international relations. London: Routledge.
- Roberts, D. (2013). Everyday legitimacy and postconflict states: Introduction. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 7(1), 1–10. See document online