The Authority of International Organizations and Institutional Overlap

Prof. Dr. Tobias Lenz
2018 - 2021
Volkswagen Foundation | Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony
Niedersächsisches Vorab-Programm: Research Cooperation Lower Saxony - Israel

Prof. Dr. Yoram Haftel (Co-PI), Department of International Relations, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem



Research Questions:

  • What are the implications of differences in IO authority for institutional overlap? (Q1)
  • Given conditions of institutional overlap, which IO characteristics lead to more or less authority? (Q2)

Contribution to International Research:

The project brings together two strands of research that have largely developed in isolation. The first one is work on international authority, which has documented wide variation in the authority of IOs, and inquired into the sources and consequences of such variation. The second strand concerns work on institutional overlap, defined as two or more IOs that have similar (but not necessarily identical) membership and are active in similar issue areas, which provides opportunities for states to choose strategically between different institutional venues. Coming to grips with institutional overlap is of key importance to international research because overlap is an increasingly common phenomenon in IOs, with potentially ambiguous consequences for the effectiveness of international cooperation. This project seeks to inquire into the conditions under which the phenomena are related.

Research Design and Methods:

In seeking answers to these questions, this project pools the complementary expertise of the two Principal Investigators (PIs) to pursue three main objectives:

  • Combining the theoretical expertise on institutional design/overlap (Haftel) and international authority/diffusion (Lenz) to develop a coherent theoretical framework that links the dynamics of IO authority to the question of institutional overlap by extending a state-of-the-art theory of institutional change (Jupille et al. 2013);

  • To systematically map authority and overlap in 1) a sample of 76 global and regional IOs from 1950 to 2020 on a worldwide scale, building on the notable recent work of Hooghe et al. (2017); and in 2) the two macro-regions with the highest density of institutional overlap, Africa and the Americas;

  • To evaluate the empirical validity of the theoretical hypotheses in a mixed-methods research design that combines quantitative (Haftel) and qualitative (Lenz) research methods. Specifically, the project combines statistical analyses of the worldwide sample of 76 IOs and of two “dense” regional institutional complexes in Africa and the Americas with two in-depth case studies of the dynamics of institutional overlap in Africa.