Democratic Memberships in International Organizations: Sources of Institutional Design
Review of International Organizations. DOI: 10.1007/s11558-015-9227-7
52 Pages Posted: 26 May 2015 Last revised: 26 Oct 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2016
Domestic regime type has emerged a powerful explanation of multiple phenomena in world politics. This article extends this argument to the design of international organizations (IOs), where a profound development in recent decades is growing access for transnational actors (TNAs). While earlier research has shown that democracy in IO memberships helps to explain IO openness, we know little about the mechanisms that drive this effect. This article unpacks the relationship between democratic memberships and IO design by theorizing and assessing the impact of three different constellations of democracies on the openness of IOs. Empirically, we conduct a multivariate analysis of TNA access to 50 IOs from 1950 to 2010, combined with a case study of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Our main findings are three-fold. First, democracy’s effect on openness is primarily a product of the combined weight of democracies within IOs and their resulting capacity to secure support for their polity preferences. Second, in contrast, we only find limited support for a specific influence of new democracies and democratic major powers on IO openness. Third, decision rules that allow for openness reforms to be adopted by a majority of member states facilitate and strengthen the influence of democracies, by reducing the ability of autocracies to block change. The findings have implications for our understanding of institutional design in global governance and democracy’s effects in world politics.
Keywords: democracy, democratic, political regime, membership, member state, international organization, international institution, openness, access, institutional design
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