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In defence of assessed contributions: What explains variation in International Organizations’ sanctions for member states' non-payment?

Africa
European Union
Governance
International Relations
Qualitative
Comparative Perspective
Council of Europe
Policy Implementation
Ueli Staeger
University of Geneva
Frank Mattheis
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Ueli Staeger
University of Geneva

Abstract

Most International Organizations (IOs) find it increasingly difficult to mobilize the financial resources that have been formally assigned to them. Member states pay late or try to negotiate a reduction of their contributions. IOs have reacted in different ways to stabilize their income. Many seek to diversify resource mobilization by tapping into new sources such as private actors. Directly defying members about paying their assessed contributions remains more contentious. How do we explain variation in the design and concrete application of IO sanctions dealing with the non-payment of assessed contributions? By comparing IOs’ sanctions regimes and their evolution over time, this article analyzes an understudied aspect of IO governance, namely the inconsistencies between IOs regarding both the existence and the application of sanction regimes. We explain variation in IO sanctions by analysing the drivers of decision-making processes and voting rules, as well as the autonomy and capacity of the secretariat in the sanctions process. Our argument covers both the variation in design and in concrete application of sanctions. The design of a sanctions regime is explained by the degree of IO’s financial resilience and the IO’s organizational culture that varies between consensus and majority-voting. For example, a cash-strapped and majority-voting IO is more likely to have a strong set of sanctions. Regarding the concrete application of its sanctions rules, variation can be explained through the debtor’s position vis-à-vis the power distribution in the IO, through the availability of alternative income sources for the IO and through the debtor’s objective ‘ability to pay’. Concretely, even if an IO has a strong sanctions regime in place, it is likely to skirt away from sanctioning a dominant member state, especially if external funding is available. The empirical part of the paper analyses sanctions in relation to financial contributions in multiple IOs. We select cases that offer variation in terms of organizational and contextual attributes and explain four different types of approaches to sanctions, ranging from no sanctions to fully enforced sanctions. We include the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE), the African Union (AU), the South African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations (UN). Through case studies of the relevant provisions and their practical applications, we shed light on variation in the design and practical use of sanctions rules. We systematically compare different funding rules, sanctions regimes and trace specific applications of the regimes against member states. The paper contributes to debates on the changing face of resource mobilization in IOs and on innovation in institutional design. Specifically, we point to the changing role of assessed member states contributions in sustaining IOs.