Washington International Law Journal


In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) negotiation, this article questions to what extent legitimacy matters in sovereign debt governance and, if so, under what conditions. How can one recognize legitimate governance instruments when informality of governance process and practice is regarded as an important goal? This article sees the implementation of SDGs in the global financial arena as facilitated by legitimate normative instruments that reflect general public interest and demonstrate respect for human rights. The implementation of informal norms should give rise to substantive outcomes that are both sustainable and legitimate, thereby complementing the procedural dimension of any normative instrument. This article evaluates this assumption by reviewing the development and implementation of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Principles on Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing. We conclude that legitimacy is not only a key component in the construction of well-grounded informal laws, but also forms part of a desirable legal framework for the implementation of SDGs.

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