The Power of the Chair: Formal Leadership in International Cooperation
International Studies Quarterly 54 (1): 241-265, 2010
25 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2012
Date Written: 2010
This article addresses the influence wielded by the formal leaders of international cooperation – those state or supranational representatives that chair and direct negotiations in the major decision bodies of multilateral organizations and conferences. This is a topic that so far has received limited systematic attention by IR theorists, who have tended to treat bargaining parties as functionally and formally equivalent, leaving little theoretical space for formal leadership. Drawing on rational choice institutionalism, I introduce a theory that develops a coherent argument for the delegation of authority to the chairmanship, the power resources of negotiation chairs, and the influence of formal leaders over outcomes. I assess the explanatory power of this theory through evidence on formal leadership in three alternative organizational settings: the EU, the GATT/WTO, and UN environmental conferences. I find in favor of the chairmanship as a source of independent influence in international cooperation. Formal leaders perform functions of agenda management, brokerage, and representation that make it more likely for negotiations to succeed, and possess privileged resources that may enable them to steer negotiations toward the agreements they most prefer.
Keywords: leadership, entrepreneurship, chairmanship, chair, leaders, negotiations, international organizations, European Union, GATT, WTO, United Nations
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