Nationalist Challenges to International Legal Institutions in the 21st century

Over the past five years, international courts/institutions have seen legitimacy challenges from states and other actors, as the stresses of globalization and 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 International Criminal Court, and other international agreements such as the Paris climate accord. It examines the underlying root for the backlash against globalism in these countries, manifesting in lack of cooperation and resistance to supranational initiatives, including those that traditionally maintained world order and stability. Capped off by Brexit and the election of Donal Trump, the paper reflects on what these developments are likely to hold for the future of international judicial institutions.