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Newcomer Behaviour in International Organisations – Any different than that of the Oldies?

Simone Günther
University of Zurich
Simone Günther
University of Zurich
Open Panel

Abstract

By now, there is a relatively profound knowledge on the creation and role of international organisations (IOs). It is frequently argued, e.g., that governments decide to accede to IOs due to the benefits from cooperation with other states. Yet, there is still little knowledge about which kinds of behaviour these new members choose in order to achieve their goals after acceding to the IO. Some governments decide to exploit IOs directly to their advantage disregarding the IO’s internal norms. Other newcomers, however, choose to adapt smoothly to the new environment and comply well with the IO’s norms and rules. Why is this the case? It seems to be neither a simple matter of size (as there are big newcomers who comply as well as those who do not, and there is also variance in behaviour among smaller newcomers), nor a simple function of the utility newcomers derive from the IO membership. In addition, the question arises why newcomer behaviour should differ at all from that of long-term member states. From a rational choice perspective, member states in IOs choose their behaviour depending on the utility they want to derive from this behaviour: If they are convinced that behaving disruptively optimises their gain out of an IO, they are likely to choose this strategy, whether they are a newcomer or not. By contrast, sociological theories would hold that newcomers in IOs are in a different position at the beginning of their membership as they are confronted with a new environment in which they have to learn the rules and norms. I try to answer these questions within an encompassing study on the behavioural strategies of newcomers and long-standing members in different IOs (Council of Europe, NATO, WTO), using quantitative indicators for state behaviour and original data generated by extensive media analyses.