Others Publications

Against all odds: strong democratic norms in the African Union

Leininger, Julia
External Publications (2015)

in: Tanja A. Börzel / Vera van Hüllen (eds.), Governance transfer by regional organizations, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 51-67

ISBN: 9-7811-3738-563-5

This policy paper explains why an African democratic norm came into being despite the very heterogeneous membership of the African Union. It offers policy recommendations which address effective defense and promotion of democracy support in Africa.
Non-acceptance of Unconstitutional Change of Government (UCG) is an African norm that was legalized between 2002 and 2012. Today, it is a legally binding norm that holds the national governments of AU member states responsible for maintaining a stable and democratic regime within their countries. Moreover, the notion of UCG has become more democratic. Accordingly, fears that non-acceptance of UCG would support governments that aim to stabilize a non-democratic regime are not realized—at least on the normative level. Despite the reduced space for a pro-autocratic legal interpretation of this norm, it remains the task of AU member states to implement it in a democratic way. The analysis showed that the interplay of five factors influenced the legalization and democratization of the non-acceptance of UCG in the AU. Inner-African factors outweigh the role of OECD donors’ influence. While demand-driven factors explain norm creation until 2002, support-driven factors fostered its legalization and democratization after 2002. On the demand side, a functional approach that guaranteed peace and security on the African continent as well as the vital interests of the hegemonic powers led to the introduction and codification of the non-acceptance of UCG. On the supply side, ECOWAS served as a normative reference model; its member states proactively supported the legalization of the non-acceptance of UCG on the regional level. Moreover, the AU Commission’s contributions make clear that non-acceptance of UCG has become a binding rule and democratic provision. Finally, donors’ financial support of member states and AU organs reinforced regional developments and strengthened the independence of AU organs from their member states.

Further experts

Fiedler, Charlotte

Political Scientist 

Gitt, Florian


Goedeking, Nicholas

Comparative Political Economy 

Gutheil, Lena

Cultural Anthropology 

Haug, Sebastian

Political Science 

Inacio da Cunha, Marcelo

Economics, Geography 

Kachelmann, Matthias

Political Science 

Li, Hangwei

Political Science 

Lorch, Jasmin

Political Science 

Morare, Ditebogo Modiegi

Political Science 

Mross, Karina

Political Science 

Novoselova, Anna

Political Science 

Nowack, Daniel

Political Science 

Stewart, Benjamin

Social Science 

Volz, Ulrich


Wingens, Christopher

Political Science 


Cornelia Hornschild
Publication Coordinator

E-mail Cornelia.Hornschild@idos-research.de
Phone +49 (0)228 94927-135
Fax +49 (0)228 94927-130

Alexandra Fante
Librarian/ Open Access Coordinator

E-Mail Alexandra.Fante@idos-research.de
Telefon +49 (0)228 94927-321
Fax +49 (0)228 94927-130