International Institutions

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

"Institutional Diffusion in International Environmental Affairs," with Robert O. Keohane. 2012. International Affairs 88(3): 523-541. (Published in a special issue on "Rio+20 and the Global Environment: Reflections on Theory and Practice")

Abstract: We explore institutional diffusion in international environmental governance, specifying the conditions under which an existing set of institutions provides a template for new institutions. Prior institutional experiences can help to resolve bargaining problems, reduce transaction costs, and provide information about likely performance. We discuss five examples of institutional diffusion in international environmental affairs and outline some causal mechanisms and conditions that facilitate or block the diffusion of institutional characteristics. As a baseline analysis, based on assumptions that abstract from politics, we develop a functional argument about the conditions under which mimetic diffusion, reflecting a pattern of imitation, can occur. Although we focus in this short article on this functional argument, we recognize that state interests and power, ideology, and private interests also play significant roles in facilitating or inhibiting institutional diffusion in international environmental affairs.

Presented at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (London), Yale University, and the 2012 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association.

Working Paper

“Institutional Landscapes and International Environmental Negotiations" (with Robert O. Keohane) (under review)

Abstract: Does the landscape of international agreements and institutions shape how governments settle negotiations on institutional design? We test an institutional explanation for negotiated settlements, according to which governments seek to reduce uncertainty over potential settlements. Governments use the landscape of agreements and institutions to reduce uncertainty over potential settlements in reaching agreement on institutional design. The analysis focuses on recent United Nations negotiations on a mercury treaty and an intergovernmental biodiversity organization. Original survey data from government negotiators and non-government participants involved in these negotiations support the uncertainty reduction hypothesis. Governments were inclined to use agreements and institutions to reduce uncertainty over potential settlements in negotiating the mercury treaty to a greater extent than in negotiating the biodiversity organization because of differences in the two institutional landscapes. Overall, participants considered the records of existing agreements or institutions while seeking to improve the future performance of the one under negotiation. Some aspects of the institutional landscape do affect state choices over institutional design in multilateral negotiations.

Presented at Columbia University (“Workshop on Advancing International Climate Change Cooperation,” April 2014).