NGO monitoring and the legitimacy of international cooperation: A strategic analysis

  • Christopher L. Pallas
  • Johannes Urpelainen


States often invite NGOs to monitor international cooperation. Under what circumstances are states likely to take this step? We argue that NGO monitoring allows states to provide domestic publics with credible evidence regarding successful cooperation, but that this credibility carries a cost: if states fail to cooperate, a participating NGO will expose this failure and thus delegitimize the cooperation effort. Our formal analysis indicates that states obtain a dual benefit from NGO participation: in addition to enhanced legitimacy, NGO scrutiny helps states credibly commit to high cooperation levels vis-á-vis each other. The increased costs of failure, however, may deter state use of NGO monitoring. Surprisingly, we find that NGO monitoring is the most useful for states when the cooperation cost is relatively low. We explore the empirical relevance of our theoretical argument in NGO monitoring of World Bank development projects and compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. We also explain why NGO monitoring has been disallowed in the Global Environment Facility. Our analysis provides a firm strategic foundation for the idea that NGO participation sometimes confers benefits to states, and our theory has several empirically falsifiable implications.


Non-governmental organizations International cooperation Monitoring Legitimacy Formal modeling 



We thank Mary Anne Borelli, Nora Keller, the anonymous reviewers, and the editor of the Review of International Organizations for comments and advice.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Conflict Management Program and Department of Political ScienceKennesaw State UniversityKennesawUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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