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Global water law and governance is horizontally and vertically fragmented, very complex, involves both state and non-state parties, and is established under and / or mandated by national, supranational (eu) or international law. Accordingly, it can be qualified as polycentric governance. Any governance system — but a polycentric governance system in particular — raises questions of its legitimacy. The paper aims to look at one specific segment of this legitimacy discourse, namely how an international organization that is a ‘centrepiece’ in a polycentric governance system attempts to legitimize itself: that is, to justify its activities in order to gain social acceptance. For this purpose, the legitimacy narratives of a rather successful river basin organization — the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River — will be analysed as a case study for obtaining a better understanding of the specific nature of polycentric governance and its legitimacy narratives.

In: International Organizations Law Review