My research agenda is situated at the intersections of political representation, institutional design, and global governance. It is motivated by two questions: What are the determinants of formal representation in international institutions? And how and why does formal representation affect the performance of these institutions? The aim of my work is both positive and normative. I seek to improve our body of knowledge about how state actors purposefully shape representation to achieve their aims, as well as how representation, like other aspects of design, can have unintended effects as time goes on. However, there is an important normative dimension here, too. Representation has distributional consequences. It elevates the voices of some and diminishes the voices of others, and often does so in ways that undermine fairness, equity, and effectiveness, notwithstanding norms of sovereign equality. Re-thinking representation will be a critical prerequisite to future global stability and cooperation.
 

"Power and Representation in Intergovernmental Organizations."

What drives representation in global governance? Such a fundamental question has yet to receive a systematic treatment from the field of international relations (IR)—until now. Departing from the substantive and normative approaches that have long characterized studies of political representation at the domestic level, I adopt a positive conception appropriate to global governance, namely, that representation signifies agents acting on behalf of principals following a transfer of authority. Under this framework I investigate the determinants of representation—defined by actor, principle, and power—across intergovernmental organizations and time. Using a new dataset comprised of 76 organizations (and their constituent organizational bodies), drawn randomly from a newly created population of intergovernmental organizations (that span the spectrum of institutional formality), I contend concerns about an organization's legitimacy, demand for functional benefits, and institutional flexibility best explain representation at the point of institutional creation and moments of evolutionary adjustment.

"Non-Permanent Membership on the United Nations Security Council: The Politics of Election, 1966-2018."

States have long sought membership on the UN Security Council (UNSC), but never before have non-permanent seats represented as many states, and elicited as much competition, as they do now. Yet we know little about who gets elected and why. Electoral outcomes face formal and informal constraints, but states may win for reasons unrelated to institutional criteria. To address this discrepancy between factors conditioning elections and real explanations for outcomes, I combine theories of reputation and representation to argue that more reputable states—ones that contribute to UN peacekeeping, avoid initiating conflict, and participate in international organizations—win election more often than their counterparts. In contrast, states most representative of regional ideology hold no advantage when vying for non-permanent seats; representation according to economic rather than geographical criteria would better serve state preferences.

"Leave No IGO Behind: Bringing Semiformal Organizations Into the

Intergovernmental Fold."

Scholars of international organization have recently shown formal, treaty-based organizations are not the only game in town for states seeking institutionalized forms of international cooperation. At the other end of the intergovernmental spectrum are informal organizations, such as the G-groups, which are purposefully designed to avoid binding and permanent entanglements. But lost in this binary discussion is a class of organization that fits neither archetype and yet is a commonly selected arrangement on the menu of institutional options: semiformal intergovernmental organizations (SIGOs). SIGOs are arrangements between three or more recognized states whose interactions are supported by either a binding constitutive agreement or a permanent secretariat, but not both. With the aid of a new dataset, I argue SIGOs are more than a step on the staircase to formalization. They serve distinct functions (and ends) unmet by their formal and informal peers, and our understanding of IO is incomplete without their accounting.

"Past Is Prologue: Theorizing Succession in Intergovernmental Organizations."

 

There is an implicit but longstanding background assumption across studies of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs): new IGOs are new. On its face this assumption seems reasonable, if tautological; when an IGO is "born" it embodies a set of rules, practices, and potentially purposes that had not existed up to that point. But in reality nearly one-quarter of the IGO population is part of an institutional lineage encompassing the lives of two or more organizations. Drawing on international treaty and corporate law literatures, I shed light on the under-examined phenomenon of succession in international organization, or the transfer of functions, tasks, and rules between organizations. I theorize four types -- acquisition, replacement, merger, and spinoff (ARMS) -- arguing succession and succession type are significant determinants of IGO performance.

"Revisiting the Governance Triangle: The Evolution of Regulatory Standards Schemes," coauthored with Kenneth W. Abbott and Duncan Snidal.

The Governance Triangle heuristic, introduced in 2009, allows us to map how states and state-based IGOs, firms and NGOs, individually and in diverse combinations, collaborate and compete in setting transnational standards for business on labor and environmental issues. Based on a new, comprehensive dataset of transnational labor and environmental regulatory schemes, we use the Triangle to show cross-sectional patterns of scheme creation and dispersion at ten-year intervals between 1985 and 2015. This allows us to investigate general patterns of development, the changing nature of individual schemes over time, and the partial convergence of some schemes. We document an explosive proliferation of transnational regulatory schemes until 2007; since then, however, we observe a drop in scheme creation and a sorting-out of existing schemes through merger or failure. Our data also allow us to assess the regulatory strengths and limitations of diverse schemes, in terms of their regulatory activities (standard-setting, implementing, monitoring and enforcing) and the competencies different participating actors provide them. Finally, we document efforts by states and IGOs to orchestrate the creation and growth of transnational regulatory schemes.

 © 2019 by Jeffrey A. Wright.

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