Citizens are increasingly being marginalized by intergovernmental organizations for the attention of national politicians and influence over domestic policies, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

The study, conducted by Cingranelli, Mikhail Filippov, associate professor of political science, and Rodwan Abouhardb, associate professor of international relations at University College London, shows that on average the greater the number of memberships to intergovernmental organizations, the lower the quality of government. This is true regardless of whether the country is a member of globally influential organizations, such as WTO, IMF or World Bank; or international organizations, which are typically less powerful, such as the World Health Organization.

This study is a part of a longstanding research project on the negative impacts of the activities of International organization. Abouharb and Cingranelli initiated this project with the publication of their 2007 book Human Rights and Structural Adjustment. It showed that the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank had led to worsened human rights in the global south. 

M. Rodwan Abouharb et al, Too Many Cooks: Multiple International Principals Can Spoil the Quality of Governance, Social Sciences (2019).  

DOI: 10.3390/socsci8050139

Abstract:  We contribute to the research stream emphasizing the competition between international organizations and citizens for influence over the domestic policy choices of national politicians. Drawing upon previous theoretical and empirical work on the common agency problem, we contend that the joint influence of a country’s memberships in multiple international governmental organizations (IGOs) generates consistent, unintended, disruptive effects, which reduces domestic accountability and can worsen the quality of a domestic government. Even if we assume that joining any particular IGO is beneficial for member states, the competing demands of multiple IGO memberships could undermine the quality of their governments. Our comparative, cross-national empirical findings support this theoretical expectation. Countries participating in a larger number of IGOs tend to have poorer scores on five widely used indicators of the quality of a domestic government. Future research should identify the types of policies and countries where the negative externalities of international cooperation on domestic accountability are greatest.

Keywords: multiple principalsinternational governmental organizationsdomestic accountabilityagency lossquality of domestic government