A lot has been written about the irrelevance of international norms and standards to local conceptions of legitimacy (Roberts, 2011;Chandler, 2004). The success of Somaliland in developing a legitimate post-conflict government without any recognition by international fora or compliance with international norms and standards would seem to provide further evidence that international factors are not important in the eyes of local citizens (see Richards 2015).
Morphet (2002) attempted to address this question through qualitative analysis of four case studies of international intervention which relied on international legal norms and standards to different degrees. The case studies included the UN military and civilian intervention in East Timor (UNTAET), the UN military and civilian intervention in Croatia (UNTAES), the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK). Morphet proposed that international interventions are more likely to achieve political legitimacy if peacebuilding is based on international legal standards and norms as opposed to local ones. However, in her analysis, Morphet failed to account for other sources of legitimacy which may have influenced the legitimacy of the different interventions.
According to both Weber and Beetham’s conceptualisation of legitimacy, the influence of international factors on local perceptions of legitimacy is unlikely to be a clear-cut negative or positive one. In a recent assessment of progress in security in Liberia, Karen Barnes Robinson and Craig Valters (2015) found that, although it was difficult to identify the specific contributions of the UN peacekeeping force, UNMIL, to continuing security, it was largely credited by Liberians as the main actor providing security. Barnes Robinson and Valters concluded that the positive perception of UNMIL’s role in providing security was largely due to the symbolism of the UN, in that it represented international standards of justice and security. In the case of Liberia, local perceptions of international justice tend to be largely positive and so a force which represents that international system is likely to contribute to the legitimacy of the ruling regime. In contrast, a country that experiences the contradictions and hypocrisies of the international system, or perceives it as the enemy, is likely to view a UN peacekeeping force as a delegitimising one. In discussions about local perceptions of legitimacy it is, of course, important to note that there is never a coherent or homogenous perception of the influence of international factors and, indeed, individuals may demonstrate what appear to be contradictory attitudes to political regimes. As Roger Mac Ginty (2011) observed in Afghanistan, ‘A farmer might be politically supportive of the Kabul government but subsidise the Taliban through his economic activity.’ (p. 94).
- 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
- Barnes Robinson, K., & Valters, C. (with Strauss, T., & Weah, A.). (2015). Progress in small steps: Security against the odds in Liberia (Case study report). Overseas Development Institute and Development Progress. See document online
- Chandler, D. (2004). The responsibility to protect? Imposing the ‘liberal peace.’ International Peacekeeping, 11(1), 59–81. See document online
- Mac Ginty, R. (2011). International peacebuilding and local resistance: Hybrid forms of peace. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Morphet, S. (2002). Current international civil administration: The need for political legitimacy. International Peacekeeping, 9(2), 140–62. See document online
- Richards, R. (2015). Bringing the outside in: Somaliland, statebuilding and dual hybridity. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 9(1), 1–22. See document online
- Roberts, D. (2011). Post conflict peacebuilding, liberal irrelevance and the locus of legitimacy. International Peacekeeping, 18(4), 410–24. See document online