The Diffusion of Institutional Design Among Regional Organizations

23 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2016

See all articles by Anja Jetschke

Anja Jetschke

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Patrick Theiner

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) - Deptartment of Political Science

Date Written: January 8, 2016


Why are there clones of the European Union (EU) in Africa and the Caribbean, i.e. regional organizations that are very similar to the institutional design of the EU? Why do regional organizations (RO) in general develop similar goals such as common markets or mechanisms of intervention within and across regions? Are such similarities the outcome of random co-evolution, functional adaptation, or are they the outcome of outside coercion? Questioning the standard explanations for the design of international institutions, the Comparative Regional Organizations Project (CROP) investigates the extent to which institutional designs are determined by processes of diffusion between regional organizations. This is motivated by two observations: First, a number of regional organizations are quite similar in their institutional design. Second, the emergence of regional organizations occurs in waves. Over the last five decades, states have decided at specific points in time to either establish regional organizations or to amend them. Both observations indicate that regional organizations and their member states take their decisions in dependence on the decisions of other regional organizations the similarity might be a consequence of diffusion. The project has begun to systematically survey the characteristics and content of the founding and/or amending documents of more than 100 regional organizations, and developed an index of similarity between texts, and therefore institutions. The paper presents CROPs methodological approach and first substantive insights, such as a quantitative evaluation of the argument that some regional organizations develop a model character for other regional organizations.

Keywords: international organizations; regionalism; regional organization; diffusion; institutional design; regionalism; coding; quantitative textl analysis; treaties; contracts; treaty design

Suggested Citation

Jetschke, Anja and Theiner, Patrick, The Diffusion of Institutional Design Among Regional Organizations (January 8, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Anja Jetschke

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073

Patrick Theiner (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) - Deptartment of Political Science ( email )

Platz der Göttinger Sieben 3
Goettingen, 37073

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