The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 113–140

Early birds: Special interests and the strategic logic of international cooperation


DOI: 10.1007/s11558-010-9099-9

Cite this article as:
Urpelainen, J. Rev Int Organ (2011) 6: 113. doi:10.1007/s11558-010-9099-9


I propose that special interests are particularly influential in international cooperation because they are able to enact pressure on the government already during the negotiations while the issue is not yet salient for the general public. In my formal model, special interests can offer political support to the government in exchange for a discriminatory implementation commitment that benefits them. The government colludes with the special interests if the value of political support exceeds the cost. However, if the government colludes with special interests in country A, the payoff to the government and special interests in country B also decreases because the probability of successful international cooperation decreases. In equilibrium, special interests create a collective-action problem that complicates international cooperation. In addition to providing a new explanation for the power of special interests in international cooperation, the article illuminates how international negotiations and domestic treaty implementation interact. The analysis also reveals a new dimension of flexibility in international cooperation.


Special interestsInternational cooperationPolitical economyInstitutional designGame theory

JEL Classification


Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA