Nationalist Challenges to International Legal Institutions in the 21st century

Over the past five years, international institutions have seen legitimacy challenges from states and other actors, as the stresses of economic backsliding encourage nationalist movements across the world. This paper discusses the withdrawal of major states -such as the U.K. and the U.S., as well as some African nations-from involvement with major global institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights, the International Court of Justice, the ICC, and other international agreements such as the Paris climate accord. It examines the underlying root causes for the backlash against globalism in these countries, now manifesting in lack of cooperation and resistance to supranational initiatives, including those that traditionally maintained world stability. Capped off by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the paper reflects, from a historical international law perspective, on what these developments are likely to hold for the future of international judicial institutions.