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Flashcards in International Organisations Deck (11)
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Transformationalists vs Sceptics

transformationalists (e.g. Scholte, Zürn and Held) and sceptics (e.g. Krasner). In brief, transformationalists argue that:

(A) IOs have acquired a substantial amount of authority in global politics,
(B) this authority is not always the result of a deliberate decision by states to grant it,
(C) even when the authority has been granted to IOs by states, states find it difficult to take it back,
(D) IOs have moved from interacting only with governments to allowing participation of a range of non-state actors, notably transnational NGOs
(E) the higher authority of IOs is increasingly making them the object of political contestation at the national and international level (politicization)
(F) the legitimacy of IOs increasingly depends on their democratic authorization and accountability

Sceptics deny all of these statements. Let’s look at them in turn.


Biermann et al. (2009)

Where opinions tend to diverge is on what causes regime complexity and what its consequences are. Specifically, it is debated whether the pluralism of global governance generates fruitful patterns of cooperation and competition, or whether it generates inefficiency, duplication, and inconsistent policies


Zuern et al. (2012)

In general, political authority means a right to rule that is, in principle, recognized by those subject to the rule, even if specific decisions may be contested. Political authority is distinct from technical or moral authority, i.e. influence based on special knowledge or wisdom. The distinction between political and technical/moral authority is sometimes expressed by contrasting “being in authority” with “being an authority”.


Zuern (2012)

Summarized the ways in which states can be subject to the authority of IOs:

1. Member states of an IO can often be outvoted by other states. Most IOs allow for the possibility of decisions to be taken by some kind majority voting rather than unanimity.
Example: the International Labour Organization adopts international labour conventions by two-third majority voting.

2. Member states are often not “taken just by their word” with regard to their compliance with international rules. They are often subject to monitoring and verification by actors who are not directly under their control, such as supranational bureaucracies and NGOs.
Example: the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inspects industrial facilities.

3. Disputes regarding the interpretation of, and compliance with, international rules are often not addressed only through diplomatic means but also through international courts and other judicial bodies. States are subject to a legal process that they cannot control.
Example: the International Criminal Court

4. When states are found to have violated rules, they are often subject to enforcement measures applied by other states acting under the authority and legitimacy of IOs.
Example: the WTO authorizes retaliatory measures for violations of WTO commitments.

5. States often respond to policy agendas shaped by non-state actors, such as group of experts who are “an authority” (rather than “in authority”) on the policy issue.
Example: the World Health Organization promoted the adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Zürn maintains that over the past two decades or so there has been a trend towards IOs gaining more political authority


Hooghe and Marks (2013)

First, states may pool authority in an IO. Pooling means that states transfer of authority from individual member states to a collective IO member state body in which individual states cannot block decisions. To operationalize this concept, Hooghe and Marks (2013) posit that “the extent of pooling in an IO depends on three conditions: whether the decision rule departs from unanimity to some form of majoritarianism; whether the decision requires ratification; whether the decision is binding rather than voluntary. We assess the extent to which member states pool authority across six domains: policy making, budgetary allocation, financial non-compliance, member state accession, suspension, and constitutional revision.”

Second, states may delegate authority to a third party within an IO. This “third party” could be supranational judges or an assembly of elected parliamentarians, but almost always IOs have secretariats to which a range of functions have been delegated by states, such as organizing meetings, formulate policies, and monitor compliance. Hooghe and Marks (2013) measure delegation by assessing “whether a general secretariat can take the initiative in nine domains: executive functions, executive monopoly, policy initiation, monopoly of policy initiative, budget drafting, financial non-compliance, member state accession, suspension of a member state, and constitutional revision.”


Lenz et al (2014)

Looking at 51 IOs which have been in existence since 1975, the level of pooling in those organizations does not seem to have increased substantially over time.
By contrast, the extent of delegation of authority has increased substantially over time within those organizations, especially for general purpose (as opposed to task-specific) IOs. This is shown by the following graph


Barnett and Finnemore (2004)

Some IOs acquire authority as a result of socially constructed beliefs, which they promote themselves, that they (a) embody a special kind of rational-legal legitimacy as bureaucracies, (b) possess a higher level of expert knowledge than more state bureaucracies; and (c) a special moral authority based on the claim to be representative of the “community’s interests” or defender of the values of the international community, such as peace and human rights.


Pierson (1996)

Taking authority away from IOs is difficult for a number of reasons:
1. Once they are given authority, many IOs gain powerful allies within the member states. Depending on the issue area, these can be sectoral bureaucracies, members of the judiciary, human rights activists, economic interest groups, etc. Within each country, these allies will counterbalance the domestic groups that want to restrict the power of IOs.
2. Changes in the formal rules governing IOs often require unanimity or supermajorities among the member states. This means that a minority of member states can prevent changes to take place. Usually some member states benefit from the authority of an IO enough to resist attempts to curb it.
3. States that want to reduce the power of an IO have a “nuclear option”: threaten to leave the organization. However, the threat of exit is often credible only for a few especially powerful states, and also for such states the economic, social and political disruption that leaving the organization would cause makes exit too costly.
In sum, the authority of IOs exhibits “path dependence”: once authority is pooled and delegated, the domestic and international environment of governments has changed in ways that makes institutional persistence less costly than institutional change.


Tallberg et al. 2014

have assembled a substantial amount of evidence showing that this thesis is correct. They created a composite “index of transnational access”, which contains four dimensions of access of transnational non-state actors (TNAs) in IOs: “First, the depth of access captures the level of involvement offered to TNAs through institutional rules, and covers a continuum from active and direct involvement, sometimes mirroring that of member states, to passive and indirect involvement, such as observing negotiations. Second, the range of access captures the breadth of TNAs entitled to participate, and includes a spectrum from all interested TNAs to only those that fulfil a very restrictive set of selection criteria. (…)The permanence of access captures the extent to which institutional rules grant a permanent right for TNAs to be involved, or whether such privileges are ad hoc or by invitation. The codification of access captures how access is legally regulated, and thus its revocability, by distinguishing between regulation through treaties, secondary legislation, or bureaucratic decisions”

An application of this index to 298 bodies of 50 IOs over the sixty-year period 1950-2010 shows that access has increased very substantially. The following graph shows the change in access for IOs operating in different policy areas: all have increased since 1950.

Tallberg et al find that variation in TNA access within and across IOs is mainly explained by a combination of three factors: functional demand for the resources of TNAs, state concerns with national sovereignty, and domestic democratic standards in the membership of IOs. The last finding is especially interesting: it shows that democratic member states have worked to extend the liberal democratic ideals they value domestically to the sphere of global governance. The following graph shows how domestic democracy and TNA access in IO have evolved over the past 60 years.


Zürn et al. (2012)

Politicization “means making collectively binding decisions a matter or an object of public discussion” (Zürn et al. 2012). Politicization of international institutions may refer to existing as well as to projected international institutions and their policies. Zürn et al. 2012 argue that IOs have increasingly become politicised as a result of the political authority that they have acquired. By acquiring political authority, IOs have
• intruded into new policy areas that were previously subject to domestic politics and policy-making
• moved from technical activities focused on enhancing efficiency to political activities that change the distribution of benefits and burdens between different social groups
As a result of these processes, various social groups become aware that international institutions matter for the pursuit of their goals and thus take a position in favour or against them.

Zürn et al. point at various pieces of evidence in support of their argument, notably:
• Increasing contestation from the Left wing: the so-called “anti-globalization movement”, or better anti-neoliberal movement”, composed of NGOs, grass-root groups, trade unions, church groups, indigenous peoples movements and others, has staged frequent and highly visible protest events since the late 1990s, either at the margins of meetings of major economic multilateral institutions (WTO, G8, IMF) or as autonomous events (World Social Forum, European Social Forum).
• Increasing contestation from the Right wing: right-wing populist parties have posed as defenders of national identities and national culture against international institutions – especially the European Union – that promote migration, multiculturalism, international human rights and the pooling of sovereignty among states for tackling common problems. These institutions are portrayed as “foreign” imposition of alien values.

There is little doubt that the politicization has increased considerably in relation to the European Union, whose salience has increased in recent years. It is also likely that at least part of this politicization is a result of the increasing authority of the EU, as Zürn would argue. The evidence is less abundant in relation to other international organizations. Beyond the EU, the most contested institutions are probably the IMF, NAFTA and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But some global institutions are more politicized in some regions than others – for instance, the International Criminal Court has been exposed to increasing contestation in parts of Africa.


Therien and Dumontier (2009)

Show how the notion of global democracy and various policy implications attached to it rose to prominence in both the discourse and the policies of the UN Secretariat during the 1990s and 2000s.