The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 407–430 | Cite as

Why national parliamentarians join international organizations

  • Thomas MalangEmail author


It is customary to argue that international organizations (IOs) are very much dominated by national executives, with national parliaments wielding no or at best marginal influence. According to this accepted wisdom, there cannot be many reasons for national parliaments and their members to be active within IOs. However, we can observe a movement towards the parliamentarization of IOs, materialized in a growing number of parliamentary bodies with increasing competencies that accompany governmental actions and decisions. My paper wants to shed light on the underlying incentive for members of national parliaments (MPs) to engage in these international parliamentary assemblies (IPAs). Proceeding from the assumption that IPAs can enable parliamentarians to fulfil their representation and control function, I argue that (1) district level factors related to internationalization can explain why some MPs become members of IPAs, and (2) opposition parties can use the information generated in IPAs to control governmental activities in International Organizations. I test the claims with data of all parliamentarians of the recent legislative period of the German Bundestag and personal interviews with 10 IPA members. The results suggest that especially district incentives are positive predictors for membership in the different assemblies, whereas variance in membership can hardly be explained by party-level factors.


International organizations Domestic politics Global governance Democratization Parliamentary assemblies 

JEL classification

F50 F53 F55 



Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association and the PADEMIA workshop “Legislatures and foreign affairs”. I thank Alexander Herzog, Lena Schaffer, the three reviewers, and the editor Axel Dreher for useful comments and help. I also thank Michael Herrmann and Konstantin Käppner for statistical wisdom. I thank Philip Manow for sharing his data. I gratefully acknowledge the willingness of the MPs to answer my interview requests and Michael Hilger from the Bundestag administration to answer my requests concerning the internal functioning of the IPAs. This research was supported by the Office for Equal Opportunities, Family Affairs and Diversity of the University of Konstanz with a grant for “Flexible Arbeitsbedingungen und Freiräume für Postdocs mit Familienaufgaben”

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and Public AdministrationUniversity of KonstanzConstanceGermany

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