Felicity in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as a Graduate Instructor for the Harris School’s 2009 International Policy Practicum

Dissertation: “Enhancing Monitoring and Enforcement in Intergovernmental Organizations: When and Why States Grant Consultative Status to NGOs”.  June 2013.

Committee: Duncan Snidal (Chair), Jon Pevehouse, Will Howell

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) are no longer solely owned and occupied by states.  Instead, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) now play a major role in the day-to-day operations and annual strategic meetings of many IGOs.  Yet International Relations scholarship has not kept pace with these realities on the ground; we continue to treat IGOs as if states and the bureaucracies they create are the only important actors in these complex entities.  At least a third of IGOs now grant consultative status to NGOs which provides many non-state actors with a wide and deep ability to access and influence IGO operations. 

This pattern does not appear to have hit stasis but instead has continued to rise both as the supply of NGOs has increased and the demands of IGOs have become more complex.  And yet, this pattern is not symmetric across the broad set of IGOs; many IGOs choose to restrict access to NGOs and purposefully prevent their entry.  These empirical patterns suggest a fundamental question: when and why do IGOs grant consultative status to NGOs?  These relationships are particularly puzzling when we place the sovereignty of states at the center: NGO accreditation could lead to IGO agenda manipulation, increased bargaining costs, and the potential loss of secrecy.  Why do member states allow NGOs to sometimes have a seat at the IGO table?

Instead of NGO consultative status infringing upon states’ independence, I argue that member states grant consultative status to NGOs to maintain their autonomy.  IGO member states grant consultative status to NGOs to assist with monitoring and enforcement efforts.  NGOs can name and shame dissident states without IGO members formally delegating to IGO bureaucrats that might ‘runaway’ with their contractual power. Furthermore states can rely on officially accredited NGOs rather than punishing violator states directly, avoiding collective action challenges and diplomatic costs. 

This has implications for which NGOs gain consultative status.  IGOs can indeed be principals, but the data show that states largely control the NGO consultative status decision.  States choose and support NGOs that act as allies in monitoring and enforcing their interests in the international agreement.  This means that while we recognize the increasing agency of NGOs and the changing nature of global governance, member states remain savvy in formally allowing roles for non-state actors in IGOs. 

But the relationship is certainly not a one-way street: NGOs do not eagerly agree to the onerous requirements associated with consultative status purely out of the ‘goodness of their hearts.’   NGOs are not benevolent information providers.  Instead, NGOs also gain material benefits such as increased legitimacy, fundraising, and an augmented ability to influence global political decisions when they are granted consultative status with IGOs. 

In order to test my predictions, I statistically evaluate an original dataset of NGO consultative status across ~300 IGOs.  I next conduct a quantitative case study of state-level decisions about NGO accreditation in the UN ECOSOC across the last 30 years.  I also triangulate my research with a set of three rich case studies to trace the causal mechanisms.  In particular, these cases examine the material benefits that NGOs derive from consultative status.  I end by suggesting a number of open questions and future areas of research that can build on these initial findings.  The theoretical and policy implications of this project touch on issues of institutional design, compliance, delegation, and the increasing role of non-state actors in world politics.

Published Work

The BRICS and the Future of ‘Informal’ IGOs.  February 2014.  The International Relations and Security Network blog.
I argue that states are increasingly seeing the value of informal IGOs because they provide diplomatic flexibility, rapid crisis response, and an unquestioning respect for national interests.

“Informal Intergovernmental Organizations (IIGOs) and the Spectrum of Intergovernmental Arrangements,” (with Duncan Snidal).  2013.  Review of International Organizations, Vol. 8 (2).
This paper contrasts with the growing IO literature on formal IGOs by theorizing why states might sometimes work through informal IGOs—institutions that are subject to no formal treaty and/or have no permanent secretariat.  We undertake an empirical investigation of an original dataset which includes important IIGO examples such as the various G-groups and show how a state’s choice along the spectrum of intergovernmental arrangements is related to the distribution of power. 

“Consultative and Observer Status of NGOs in Intergovernmental Organizations,” Bob Reinalda (ed.) Handbook of International Organization 2013, Routledge: London
This chapter provides a state-of-the-art overview of NGO consultative status in IGOs.  It provides evidence of the growing trend, reviews existing theoretical explanations, and then provides an original unifying argument that helps explain variation both between units and across time. 

Select Working Papers

“The Penultimate Stick?  When and Why States Are Suspended from Intergovernmental Organizations.”
IGO suspension is often portrayed as the penultimate sanction to punish a state for violating an international agreement, but to date, we know very little about when and why IGO suspensions actually occur.  I provide an original dataset of actual IGO suspensions and their mentions in IGO charters to evaluate which IGOs are more likely to use them, which states are more likely to get suspended, and for what issue areas suspension is most likely to occur.

“Exercising Power or Not?  The Role of State Withdrawal from Intergovernmental Organizations.”
States use the tool of denunciation to withdraw from intergovernmental organizations when they are dissatisfied with the institutional status quo or the actions of other member states.  International relations scholarship, however, has not examined when and why states have used withdrawal as a tool to exert power in international politics over time.  This paper explores the conditions under which states withdraw from IGOs and whether this action has any effect on international political outcomes. 

Enhancing Monitoring and Enforcement in IGOs: When and Why States Grant Consultative Status to NGOs” (from dissertation)
This paper investigates the rise—and variation—in states granting consultative status to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in intergovernmental organizations (IGOs).  I show that IGOs with deeper monitoring and enforcement issues are more likely to grant consultative status to NGOs because they can name and shame dissident states in ways not possible by IGO bureaucrats or member states.  I also show that states select NGOs that can act as allies.  In other words, states formalize relationships with NGOs in IGOs to preserve rather than inhibit their autonomy. 

 Rising Powers and Forum Shopping: the Use of Informal IGOs to Bypass Formal Institutional Constraints” (with Duncan Snidal)
Informal Intergovernmental Organizations (IIGOs) are increasingly used as tools of global governance by both strong and weak states.  In particular, weak-but-rising-power states are utilizing IIGOs to work around institutional constraints that favour existing great powers.  This paper explores how weak-but-rising-power states leverage IIGOs in the areas of international trade and global climate change.

The Punishment Phase: IGO Suspensions After Political Backsliding” (with Inken von Borzyskowski)
This paper examines the factors that influence whether IGOs suspend states when political backsliding occurs. We argue that IGOs are more likely to suspend less powerful states and repeat offenders both because the IGO is less dependent on these states and also because they are more likely to respond to naming and shaming. We also argue that IGOs punish egregious violators more harshly than slight offenders. Our original, global dataset from 1980 to 2007 shows statistical support for these arguments.

Foreign and Ethnic Lobbies in American Foreign Policy: Information versus Elections in Tariff Policy” (with Jon Pevehouse)
There exists almost no systematic evidence on the scope or influence of “foreign agents” on American foreign policy.  This paper is an initial attempt to fill this theoretical and empirical void.  We first distinguish between the often muddled concepts of ethnic lobbies and foreign lobbies and then use an original dataset of FARA contributions to show that more lobbying by international actors tends to lower US trade barriers, even holding various control variables constant.

The Informational Role of Foreign Lobbying in U.S. Foreign Aid: Is U.S. Assistance for Sale?” (with Jon Pevehouse) 
Myriad anecdotal examples show that foreign lobbyists have successfully negotiated better U.S. foreign aid deals, even after scathing domestic events such as coups or human rights abuses.  We leverage an original dataset of FARA contributions to systematically show that recipient countries can indeed influence the level and terms of their foreign assistance by lobbying.