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Stabilizing Authoritarian Rule: The Role of International Organizations

July 27, 2022
Christina Cottiero and Stephan Haggard

Working Paper

In this working paper, IGCC researchers Christina Cottiero and Stephan Haggard research whether autocracies cooperate to promote authoritarianism and impede democracy in regional organizations where they are the majority over democracies.


Research has demonstrated how membership in democratic regional organizations can strengthen prospects for democracy. However, a significant number of regional organizations are dominated by autocratic members who have very different preferences: to limit democratic contagion and consolidate authoritarian rule against democratic challengers. IGCC affiliates Christina Cottiero and Stephan Haggard outline a menu of mechanisms through which regional organizations with authoritarian members might have pernicious effects on the prospects for democratic rule. They use cross-national quantitative analyses to demonstrate that membership in deeply authoritarian international organizations is associated with autocratization. They supplement the quantitative results with an analysis of 29 of the most authoritarian regional organizations and illustrative case studies. The multi-method approach strengthens inference by showing that authoritarian international organizations do in fact engage in behaviors inimical to democratic rule.

This working paper is part of an IGCC series on authoritarian regimes and international organizations, which was made possible in part by generous support from the Smith Richardson Foundation.

This paper was published by the International Studies Quarterly and can be found here.