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Definition of international democracy

Defining democracy cannot avoid being exposed to different interpretations, even in its traditional context represented by the nation-state. Nevertheless, for our purposes we need an operational definition of “international democracy”.

Therefore, as a starting-point we will use the definition provided by Mathias Koenig-Archibugi[1], which will be further developed and suitably modified in order to be applied to regional, sub-regional and inter-regional organizations, in addition to the global ones. Here below we list the main features that an international institution should have to be defined an “international democracy”:


  1. It entrusts supranational institutions with the power to take binding decisions with reference to a given group of internationally relevant issues.
  2. It ensures that members of these institutions represent, and are accountable to citizens, through electoral mechanisms or through clear and formal political delegation relationships.
  3. It promotes the equitable representation of all citizens, linked to principles like the balanced representation of the constitutive territorial units and possibly some kinds of functional representation.
  4. It enables supranational institutions to make decisions in accordance with different decision-making procedures, but excluding veto rights for small minorities, unless legitimate vital interests are at stake.
  5. It entrusts supranational judiciary institutions with the task of settling disputes according to constitutional rules.
  6. It provides strong mechanisms to implement decisions and laws, possibly but not necessarily through a centralized control of coercion instruments.

This list will be extended to further features to get to a more comprehensive meaning of “international democracy”, e.g. women’s participation in institutions, protection of minorities, access to common goods, redistribution of resources, freedom of information and presence of cosmopolitan rights.


[1] M. Koenig-Archibugi, Is global democracy possible?, Paper presented at the Meeting of the Italian Political Science Society (SISP) held in Catania, 20-22 September 2007.

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