The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 293–317 | Cite as

The International Energy Agency after 35 years: Reform needs and institutional adaptability

  • Thijs Van de Graaf
  • Dries Lesage


Despite the mounting scholarly interest in processes of institutional change in international organizations, still very little is known about how and when such evolutionary dynamics occur. This article hopes to contribute to this young, yet growing body of literature by process-tracing the changes that have occurred in the institutional setup of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Founded during the first oil crisis of 1973–74, the IEA has had to deal with major environmental changes over its lifetime. In response, the agency has diversified away from its original raison d’être, namely managing an emergency oil sharing mechanism, to become a more proactive policy adviser guiding its member governments toward sustainable energy economies. The article seeks to explain the observed patterns of change and inertia, using a theoretic paradigm that builds on theories of “new institutionalism.” The paper argues that the agency’s institutional flexibility can only be fully explained by taking into account a combination of factors: (1) the member states’ choices, in particular the impulses of the G8-members of the IEA; (2) path dependency, especially the institutional link with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and (3) agency by the secretariat and the executive bureau of the IEA.


International Energy Agency Institutional change International organizations Global energy governance New institutionalism 

JEL codes

F53 F55 F59 Q48 Q49 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Governance Research GroupGhent UniversityGentBelgium

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