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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Institutional Design of Global Governance: Power and Autonomy of the Heads and the boards of International Governmental Organisations

Xavier Fernández i Marín
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Xavier Fernández i Marín
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Angel Saz-Carranza

Marie Vandendriessche
ESADEgeo (Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics), ESADE Business School

The proposed paper presents results of ESADEgeo's research project on global governance, focusing on the institutional aspects of the heads and boards of International Governmental Organizations (IGOs). The paper argues that focusing on IGO heads and boards is an important factor in understanding the dynamics of global governance mechanisms, as both are integral parts of IGO institutional design. By proposing measures of power and potential for the autonomy for both figures, the paper contributes to the debate on the autonomy of heads and boards and the relationship between them. The proposed measures are based on the attributions assigned to both, as well as on the mechanisms, procedures and organisms that select and control them.

Data comes from a new dataset on the institutional characteristics of IGOs and includes all IGOs with member states on all five continents, with a total of 68 organizations. Item-response theory and mixed factor analysis are used to generate scores of latent power and potential for autonomy. The scores are then contrasted against a set of explanatory variables derived from political and administrative approaches and from corporate governance theories.

The findings emphasize the wide variation of power and autonomy given to heads and boards across different organizations. They also allow for explanation of such variation through either political factors (such as US or other leading countries’ membership, number and nature of member states) or more administrative characteristics (such as budget, age of the organization and its institutionalization). Moving on from the debate of whether IGOs matter to how they work, the findings contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of decision-making inside International Governmental Organizations. Understanding such institutions is crucial in a context of blurring sovereignty and the growing necessity of reaching global compromises.7
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