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The global governance of international development: Documenting the rise of multi-stakeholder partnerships and identifying underlying theoretical explanations

Abstract

The global governance of development increasingly relies on multi-stakeholder partnerships between states, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. This article takes on two tasks. The first is to describe quantitatively the institutional evolution of the multilateral development system over the past century. The second is to juxtapose four rational-institutionalist explanations for why states establish new organizations as transnational governance initiatives—functionalism, power-oriented theories, domestic politics, and contextual design. The empirical analysis probes these explanations using the new Transnational Public-Private Governance Initiatives in World Politics dataset, which combines several existing data sources to build the most comprehensive data on different forms of institutionalized cooperation in global governance. The results lend most support to the contextual design view, while also yielding support for other accounts. By employing Heckman selection models, the analysis addresses potential selection bias due to unobserved correlation between state choices to create a new organization and its design. A qualitative case study further validates measurement choices and causal mechanisms. These findings have implications for theories of institutional design and development practice, specifically regarding the role of intergovernmental organizations in an increasingly interconnected world.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/summit/2000okinawa/finalcom.htm (Accessed October 5, 2016).

  2. 2.

    www.theglobalfund.org/en/overview/ (Accessed October 5, 2016).

  3. 3.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/19/opinion/stinginess-on-aids.html?scp=1&sq=%22Stinginess%20on%20AIDS%22&st=cse&_r=0 (Accessed October 5, 2016).

  4. 4.

    https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/overview/ (Accessed May 15, 2017).

  5. 5.

    Written communication with a DFID staff member (December 15, 2017).

  6. 6.

    A related benefit is that it is relatively easy to establish whether an organization has a development mandate, given that most organizations report their activities to the benefit of developing countries on their website.

  7. 7.

    Copelovitch and Putnam (2014) propose a refinement of rational institutionalism that incorporates context by measuring the number of prior bilateral treaties submitted by state parties to the UN Treaty Series. Yet, their paper focuses on treaties, whereas our analysis covers different types of organizations.

  8. 8.

    Our theoretical discussion focuses on the strategic choices of states. States are central players in the creation and design of TGIs and IGOs and their preferences have a strong impact on how institutional fields and global governance as a whole develop. Importantly, if they decide to engage in new institutionalized cooperation, states can choose whether they want to use a TGI or IGO. Other actors have more limited institutional options. It is, therefore, useful to focus on the agency and strategies of states in the theoretical argument. Future research may want to examine the strategies and institutional choices of non-state actors in greater detail to complement our analysis.

  9. 9.

    Probably this is a simplification as states might take multiple decisions over individual design features. We will not disaggregate the second stage further here.

  10. 10.

    Uncertainty may be about state preferences, state behavior, and the state of the world (Koremenos et al. 2001). The first two should be less relevant in development, as states have incentives to make their actions for development visible. Uncertainty about the state of the world is relevant but hard to measure given that (unmeasurable) state perceptions matter here. We will capture uncertainty empirically using a number of issue area dummies.

  11. 11.

    http://time.com/4309786/read-donald-trumps-america-first-foreign-policy-speech/ (accessed October 1, 2018).

  12. 12.

    https://www.undispatch.com/heres-trumps-budget-request-impact-united-nations/ (accessed October 1, 2018).

  13. 13.

    Obviously, powerless countries might have no interest to form a new organization under these parameters, which would predict that organizational creation is less likely when power differences are large. We will return to this issue in the empirical analysis.

  14. 14.

    In fact, studies in the New Interdependence Approach tradition examine how domestic institutions affect the ability of politicians to construct the rules and norms governing interdependent relations and how interdependence itself affects domestic institutions (Farrell and Newman 2014; Fioretos 2011; Slaughter 2004).

  15. 15.

    While, in principle, both new IGOs and TGIs can be designed to enhance institutional complementarity in a given governance field, TGIs are particularly suitable and attractive devices to achieve institutional complementarity. TGIs are a different species of cooperative form whose comparative advantage is convening power. Because of their more restrictive membership structure IGOs are less well-equipped to act as convenors. In addition, the complexity of contemporaneous challenges is such that it is ever less possible to foresee which governance functions will actually be needed and that these functions need to be adapted to changing circumstances. Again, IGOs are less convenient to states for that purpose, given much higher costs for institutional or policy change in comparison to TGIs. Thus, pursuing institutional complementarity with respect to existing IGIOs can be achieved more effectively and at lower costs using TGIs rather than new IGOs.

  16. 16.

    Note how this differs from the prediction of a sociological account in which organizations within a field become more similar due to mimetic isomorphism (Di Maggio and Powell 1991).

  17. 17.

    For a full list of sources, see Westerwinter (2019a).

  18. 18.

    Westerwinter (2019a) provides extensive details on the sample generation, operationalization of variables, and a broad range of descriptive statistics.

  19. 19.

    We thank Jon Pevehouse for sharing the data prior to their public release.

  20. 20.

    Examples of informal groups in development not covered by the data are the “Geneva group”—an alliance of originally five states (and today having 18 member states) to usher budgetary restraint at the UN agencies and to promote UN reform (Blanchfield 2008). Another informal club is the “Utstein Group”, established in 1999 by Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, with a commitment to “promoting increased coherence, coordination and cooperation on various issues including those activities variously characterized as conflict prevention, conflict management, and peacebuilding” (OECD 2004).

  21. 21.

    However, TGIs play an important role in resource mobilization and thus often serve as “points of entry” of bilateral donor funds (Reinsberg 2017). It would thus be problematic to consider administrative budgets alone, which would over-represent IGOs.

  22. 22.

    IFAD was established following UNGA Resolution 32/107 in 1978 and the 1974 World Food Conference that was held in response to the famine in Bangladesh.

  23. 23.

    The g7+ is an informal association of seven fragile states established in 2008 with the aim of raising awareness for fragility and mobilizing donor support (Marah 2015).

  24. 24.

    See Figure A1 in the supplemental appendix.

  25. 25.

    For an analysis of issue-task similarity of new entrants to the regime over time, see Figure A2.

  26. 26.

    The database distinguishes eight issue areas (security, environment, health, human rights, trade and commerce, finance, social affairs, and technical issues) and eight governance functions (gathering information, agenda-setting, service provision, funding, capacity-building, standard-setting, policy implementation, and monitoring behavior). This implies any organization can be characterized by a 16-dimensional vector of issue−task combinations.

  27. 27.

    The obvious exception is the contextual design variable, which takes into account all information up to the foundational year.

  28. 28.

    The ideal approach would be to measure all variables among the potential members of an organization. Yet, as it is unclear what the set of potential members is, this approach to theory-testing is not feasible.

  29. 29.

    Formally, a profile is an n-tupel (n = 16) of binary variables, given 8 issue areas and 8 governance tasks.

  30. 30.

    We add N1 = 2000 observations in the first stage. This number is arbitrary but not consequential for the findings. Note that the second stage is still based on only the observed organizations (N2 = 559), but its estimates take potential unobservable selection effects into account.

  31. 31.

    Nonetheless, for the purpose of testing robustness, we implement this alternative approach in the Appendix and confirm that our core results hold (see Table A5).

  32. 32.

    To avoid a tautological correlation, this count only considers organizations other than the one corresponding to a given observation in the dataset.

  33. 33.

    Indeed, the logged number of co-creations is not a significant predictor of organizational types.

  34. 34.

    We always interpret the highest of the coefficients to obtain an upper bound.

  35. 35.

    The predicted probabilty of creation is 91% and the predicted probability of a TGI design is 65%.

  36. 36.

    http://www.who.int/ifcs/en/.

  37. 37.

    http://www.who.int/ifcs/en/.

  38. 38.

    https://www.who.int/ifcs/financing/en/.

  39. 39.

    http://www.who.int/ifcs/standingcommittee/en/.

  40. 40.

    http://www.who.int/ifcs/page2/en/.

  41. 41.

    Interview #1.

  42. 42.

    UNEP/IPCS/IMCRAM/exp./4. The proposal text was incorporated into the text for Chapter 19 of the Agenda 21 (the resolution adopted at the Rio conference) dedicated to sound management of chemicals (although the issue of chemical waste was a separate chapter).

  43. 43.

    Indeed, unlike the existing forums, IFCS had the remarkable feature of allowing all forum stakeholders to raise any issue related to chemical safety at any time.

  44. 44.

    http://www.who.int/ifcs/champions/en/.

  45. 45.

    Interview #1.

  46. 46.

    Interview #2.

  47. 47.

    States have been seeking internationally agreed-upon standards on hazardous materials and labeling schemes at the Rio Earth summit, but progress was slow, presumably because developing countries lacked the capacity to implement the standards. IFCS helped improve knowledge of health hazards related to chemicals and facilitated GHF training for developing countries through UNITAR (Interview #3).

  48. 48.

    Interview #1.

  49. 49.

    Interviews #1, #2, and #3.

  50. 50.

    Interview #1.

  51. 51.

    Interview #3.

  52. 52.

    Interview #2. Similarly, the IFCS website states, “[t]he IFCS provides countries the opportunity to place issues on the international agenda and emphasize special needs and concerns with respect to improving chemicals management. All participants, including developing countries and NGOs, find it a useful mechanism to bring emerging and contentious issues to the international agenda.” (http://www.who.int/ifcs/page2/en/).

  53. 53.

    Interview #1.

  54. 54.

    Interview #3. For a discussion of earmarked funding, particularly through trust funds, see, e.g., Reinsberg et al. (2015).

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Acknowledgements

We thank Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Alvise Favotto, Matt Gordon, Christopher Kilby, Kelly Kollman, Miles Kahler, Jason Sharman, and participants of the ECPR Joint Sessions in Pisa (April 25-28, 2016), the project workshops on the Politics of Informal Governance in St. Gallen (October 6-7, 2016) and Geneva (May 19-20, 2017), and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. We are grateful to all interviewees for their time and their willingness to support this project. Funding from the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) is gratefully acknowledged. Oliver Westerwinter also gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.

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Reinsberg, B., Westerwinter, O. The global governance of international development: Documenting the rise of multi-stakeholder partnerships and identifying underlying theoretical explanations. Rev Int Organ 16, 59–94 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11558-019-09362-0

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Keywords

  • Global governance
  • Multilateral development organizations
  • Aid architecture
  • Informal governance
  • Transnational governance
  • Regime complex
  • Trust funds

JEL classification

  • F30
  • F55
  • H87
  • O19