This paper deals with peer reviews among states as an instrument of global governance. In particular, it suggests measuring their significance through the novel concept of authority. Existing research on peer reviews usually assesses the relevance of review outcomes by looking at their impact on subsequent domestic change. However, this influence can be underestimated in the case of long-term indirect effects of peer reviews, or overestimated when change is triggered by a pre-existing intention of the government to reform policy.
We define the authority of peer reviews as a shared belief among participants in the appropriateness of the mission, procedure and outcomes of a peer review. We expect that it becomes more difficult for the reviewed to ignore review outcomes and easier for reviewers to organize peer pressure, when authority exists. Authority thus is understood as an impersonal quality of a peer reviewing procedure that is separate from the political or economic power of participant states. The existence of authority beliefs is not a sufficient condition for domestic policy change in line with review recommendations. However, it is a necessary condition as in the absence of authority beliefs policy change is caused by factors independent of the review.
We combine two indicators to empirically identify authority: First, authority beliefs as expressed in questionnaire-based surveys and interviews with participants in peer reviewing schemes and second, participant behaviour in the review procedure.
The paper is written in the context of an externally funded project comparing peer reviewing procedures in different IOs and policy fields. While the paper mostly deals with methodological and conceptual issues, it also presents the initial findings from exploratory interviews that were conducted to test the usability of our conceptualisation and operationalisation of authority. For this, we interviewed individuals working at IOs (OECD, CoE, UN) and national stakeholders.