The Participation Principle and the Dialectic of Sovereignty-Sharing

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Seattle University Law Review

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Seattle U. L. Rev.


States around the world are ceding authority to international institutions, devolving powers to lower-level political subdivisions, and granting forms of autonomy to Indigenous peoples and other minority groups. At the same time, states are increasingly offering groups and individuals “participation rights”: opportunities to participate in sovereign prerogatives without exercising control. These opportunities range from providing input into environmental decision-making, to collaborating with law enforcement in community policing programs, to receiving a share of natural-resource revenues. This Article contends that all of these developments represent a dividing up of the collection of rights known as sovereignty, and that participation rights reflect an emerging international norm that considers these rights essential to the legitimate exercise of governmental authority. This Article also argues that the international and domestic forms of sovereignty-sharing stimulate one another in a dialectical process. This helps explain how power allocations and participatory avenues have changed so rapidly in recent decades—and sometimes in ways that states never could have anticipated.

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