International Organization Membership and Militarized Conflict: A Distributive Perspective
43 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2016
Date Written: August 26, 2016
What explains the correlation between membership in International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and the occurrence of militarized disputes? Existing theories argue that IGOs provide information, solve commitment problems, and socialize states. I offer an alternative take, which highlights the distributive implications of IGO memberships. The international environment is both competitive and interdependent. If some states create a social surplus through institutionalized cooperation, then this may redefine the competitive landscape and create disadvantages for other states. First, IGOs typically advance principles, norms, rules, and policies that fit the ideologies of some actors better than others. Effective IGOs both increase coordination among members and intensify gaps with excluded parties. Second, IGOs sometimes insulate members from coercive sanctions and enhance opportunities for collective actions against outsiders. I examine two observable implications of this theory. Shared IGO memberships correlate with reduced conflict onset among pairs of states that include a major power but not among contiguous states or states involved in territorial disputes. Second, divergence in overall IGO membership portfolios correlates with conflict. An implication is that more IGOs do not necessarily mean more peace. IGO memberships affect the distribution of conflict.
Keywords: International Organizations, War
JEL Classification: F5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation