Enlightened Dictators? Good Governance In Autocratic International Organizations
A large and growing number of international organizations (IOs) are made up and governed by illiberal or outright authoritarian regimes. Many of these authoritarian IOs (AIOs) formally adopt good governance mandates, linking goals like democracy promotion, anti-corruption policies, and human rights to their broader mission. Why do AIOs adopt good governance mandates that appear to conflict with the norms and standards these regimes apply at home? Emilie Hafner-Burton, Jon Pevehouse, and Christina Schneider argue that AIOs adopt these standards when they face substantial pressure from inside or outside the IO to adopt them. Central to our argument is that not all aspects of good governance are inherently or equally threatening to autocratic regimes. They pursue strategies that minimize the threat by externalizing policy outside the membership and strategically defining the goals to avoid or enact. This allows autocratic governments to uptake good governance talk but lessen any deep commitment to the norms and sometimes even to use them strategically to project their own power outside of the organization. Using data on 48 regional IOs with primarily autocratic membership between 1945 and 2015, they demonstrate that AIOs facing pressure from external good governance promoters will adopt good governance mandates but strategically shape those mandates in their favor if they can form bargaining coalitions with likeminded governments. The findings have sobering implications for the future of good governance promotion through IOs.
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.
Thumbnail credit: President of the Russian Federation