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Informality and Bias in Studies of International Organizations

Monday February 18, 2019, at 13:30
Room 24.120 (First floor). Mercè Rodoreda 24 building
Research seminar

Research on international organizations (IOs) has progressed considerably. However, most studies have focused on a particular kind of body: formal IOs. For the most part, this focus has been justified since they are quite common and among the most important mechanisms of global governance. However, scholars have noted a considerable diversification of the governance landscape, as states partake in many new forms of institutionalized cooperation. We focus in this paper on a particular subset of these new varieties of governance: informal IOs. We explain the concept of informal IOs and analyze state membership in them using an original time-series cross-sectional dataset. This reveals fascinating new patterns for scholars to explore. However, we also show that existing studies of IOs may be biased since they typically exclude these bodies from their analyses. We do so by using the dataset to revisit several key findings, including (1) that domestic political constraints hinder states from joining IOs, and (2) that democratizing states join more IOs to consolidate democratic reforms. Our findings demonstrate that existing theories of international organization likely apply to a narrower set of cases than has generally been realized and that many important findings may have to be considerably qualified in future research.

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Charles Roger is an Assistant Professor at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI). His research explores the transformations occurring in our system of global governance and how these are shaping—for better or worse—our ability to address cross-border problems. Substantively, it has focused on institutions in the fields of climate change, international trade, finance, and antitrust.

Charles's recent books include The Comparative Politics of Transnational Climate Governance (with Liliana Andonova and Thomas Hale) and Transnational Climate Change Governance (with Harriet Bulkeley et al.). His articles have been published in journals like International Interactions, International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Review, and the Review of International Organizations.

Before joining IBEI, Charles was an SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto. He has also worked with the United Nations and other organizations in various consulting roles, including as a member of the UN High-Level Expert Group on Climate Change, Energy and Low-Carbon Development in Africa and as a contributing author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).