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International Organizations 101: Measuring the Influence


With growing interdependence and globalization, the international arena started to evolve and international organizations (IOs) have become significant actors in world politics. In this sense, understanding the functioning of International Organizations reveals the privileges and limits they create while providing insight into a part of contemporary world politics. This 101 series is dedicated to discussing the evolution and basics of intergovernmental organizations.

International Organizations 101 series is divided into 6 sections:

International Organizations 101: Measuring the Influence

IOs enforce and provide a space for collective action on a large scale through various instruments. They facilitate communication of states, provide mediation for clashing interests through dispute settlement mechanisms and adopt different means to solve mutual problems in good faith. Since cross-border issues are becoming increasingly complex and challenging in today's globalized world, the problems cannot be addressed effectively through domestic action alone, nor can they be solved by IOs without the involvement of their constituencies (OECD, 2019). While IOs have achieved significant success globally, their effectiveness is hindered by mismanagement and inadequacies in the decision-making process and operations. The last article of this 101 series discusses the influence of IOs on their respective mandates.

Figure 1: Members of the Security Council sit during a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York

As IOs are given the status of legal persons, international law ensures that they perform effectively and efficiently. In this sense, two functions of law became crucial: law as a constitutor and enabler, securing the effectiveness of international organizations, and law as a constrainer, improving the accountability of international organizations (Peters, 2016). In the EU, the constitutive role of the law was most effectively shaped and employed by the ECJ, the first driver of the EU’s constitutionalization (Peters, 2016). It is still regarded as one of the key elements of EU integration. It became a principle that divergent national laws from member states should not be applied if they conflict with European Union laws, increasing the effectiveness of the organization. In addition, ECJ provides a solid ground for the EU to fulfil its primary mandate. The Court deals primarily with cases brought by Brussels against member states for noncompliance with regulations or treaties. For example, the European environmental commissioner has waged a running war against the government of Italy over the mountains of uncollected trash around Naples (Flamini, 2012). And last year, in a suit filed by the commission, the ECJ ordered the French government to protect some of the rapidly vanishing species (Flamini, 2012). Despite the existence of data proving the guidance of member states over Court decisions, it is found that the Court’s constitutionalized jurisprudence impacts heavily on European and member state policy-making (Blauberger & Schmidt, 2017).

Similar to this, peacekeeping operations of the UN being constitutionalized by international law provide immunity from domestic jurisdiction. Thus, the UN’s primary mandate of maintaining international peace is deemed to be effectively implemented. However, certain legal designs of IOs may also prevent them from taking the necessary measures, resulting in deficiencies in fulfilling their effectiveness and responsibilities. “Effectiveness deficits stem not only from waste or mismanagement but also from legal design. The best-known example is the blocage of the UN Security Council through use (and abuse) of the veto power by a P 5, thereby preventing the Council from exercising its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” (Peters, 2016). Non-permanent members feared the possibility of the Security Council being ineffective if one of the permanent members threatened international peace, and were concerned about their leverage to pursue national interests. The permanent members claiming their dominance in terms of influence only reinforced this argument. In addition to this, the disagreements of permanent members reduce the ability of the UN to take action. For instance, China and Russia vetoed a U.S.-led push to impose more United Nations sanctions on North Korea over its renewed ballistic missile launches, publicly splitting the U.N. Security Council for the first time since it started punishing Pyongyang in 2006 (Nichols, 2022). In addition, permanent members may use the veto power to protect other states they are allied with. Thus, this intercepts UN to take action for fulfilling its mandate by preventing it to take action and against human rights violations. Malaysia, for example, complained to the UN Security Council in 1964 about Indonesia's aggression by dropping armed paratroopers on its territory (Wouters & Ruys, 2005). However, USSR vetoed a draft resolution to block intervention (Wouters & Ruys, 2005), since it was focusing to improve relationships with Indonesia. Indonesia went free from the colonial rule of the Netherlands. To prevent further pressure of the West and to strengthen Asian countries, it allied with USSR. To secure its place as one of the sıper powers, USSR recognized the new government of Indonesia and improved the diplomatic and economiz relationships. In fact, Indonesia was one of the first countries to receive large quantities of Soviet aid, and from 1945 to 1965 the Soviet Union channeled more resources to Indonesia than to any other developing country except Egypt (Boden, 2008). Similar to this, the Bretton Woods institutions have been confronted with the critique of inadequate representation of the global south, especially BRIC countries, and their failure to react to the financial crises since 2007 (Peters, 2016).

Figure 2: Climate Action Starting Now

“International organizations have further sought to improve internal and external effectiveness through new public management, public-private partnerships, and outright privatization (Peters, 2016). As it was explained in detail in the third article of this series, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) refers to government agencies and private companies collaborating to finance, construct, and operate public infrastructure projects, such as transportation networks, parks, and convention centers. Service delivery efficiency and effectiveness can be improved by leveraging private-sector expertise in innovation and technology. Meanwhile, the public sector provides incentives to the private sector for it to complete projects on time and within budget. As they have the necessary capital and have looser bureaucratic structures, MNCs in particular provide efficient and faster project execution. However, there must be flexibility to allow positive changes to PPP programs and projects to take place (Philip, 2016). The PPP law, and other related laws, evolve to enable the implementation of these arrangements and the legal framework, processes, practices and organization of PPP implementation in the earlier phases of developing a PPP program will inevitably be modified with changed circumstances (Philip, 2016). Since this is the recourse to the forms of private law, the price of more flexibility and more effectiveness-orientation of the novel formats might cause losses in terms of accountability (Peters, 2016). For instance, toll roads were banned in US until 1991. However, the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act explicitly authorized their use and incentivized highway construction firms, and so the Dulles Greenway Project started (Vining & Boardman & Poschmann, 2004). Despite this, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) recently concluded that: “Active private sector sponsorship and investment has been used to a limited extent in the United States to fund construct, and operate major highway and transit projects; as a consequence, the nation’s experience with active private sector sponsorship and investment has been limited” (Vining & Boardman & Poschmann, 2004). The project was designed to benefit both the public and the private sector, yet its financial costs on the public were significant. This highlights the importance of the constraining function of the law.

Figure 3: Is the world economy going back to the 1970s?

However, the concern for accountability raises the question of who is to be accountable. The International Criminal Court, for example, has been accused of being a neocolonial instrument, and Rwanda said in the Security Council: “It is unfortunate that the ICC will continue to lose face and credibility in the world as long as it continues to be used as a tool for the big powers against the developing nations.” (Peters, 2016). As independent entities, IOs bring obligations for their members to deal with issues of mutual concern in good faith. Thus, at first glance, it can be said that IOs are responsible for the global society, taking joint action to solve common problems. However, the actions of IOs having to be approved by their member states decreases the effectiveness of decision-making and operations. These flaws do not allow for sufficient diversity and the primacy of national interests undermines international cooperation. Despite its widespread use in studies of domestic political institutions, the concept of "independence" has not been applied to international institutions in a systematic manner (Haftel & Thompson, 2006). Most arguments about IOs' ability to promote cooperation and mitigate conflict are based on the implicit assumption that such institutions have some independence from states, and yet the field has failed to conceptualize (Haftel & Thompson, 2006). For instance, the USSR-Indonesian partnership mentioned above illustrates the effects of ambiguity in the concept of independence.

Figure 4: A broken system needs urgent repairs

The effectiveness of international organizations on certain issues and the need for them by the global community are undeniable. The basic idea is that the raison d’être of international organizations is the fulfillment of specific tasks (functions), which have become necessary to tackle problems that concern more than one state (Peters, 2016). International organizations are under a lot of pressure to meet expectations, but their capabilities are limited in reality. This is primarily due to institutional flaws and the primacy of national interests over collective action. The clash between national interests and the sovereignty of IOs creates tension among the members, preventing efficient and effective action and leads to concerns about whether they are actually independent entities. Certainly, IOs need reforms and re-regulations in their operations. Nevertheless, how realistic is this expectation remains obscure under today's political climate. IOs making and implementing decisions without the manipulation of their respective members would be the ideal situation. However, the total separation of these institutions from the entities that created them is impossible. Under the current system, IOs will not be any more effective than they have been until now.

Bibliographical References

Blauberger, M., & Schmidt, S. K. (2017). The European Court of Justice and its political impact. West European Politics, 40(4), 907–918.

Boden, R. (2008). Cold War Economics: Soviet Aid to Indonesia. Journal of Cold War Studies, 10(3), 110–128.

Flamini, R. (2012). Judicial Reach: The Ever-Expanding European Court of Justice. World Affairs, 175(4), 55–61.

Haftel, Y. Z., & Thompson, A. (2006). The independence of International Organizations. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50(2), 253–275.

Nichols, M. (2022, May 26). China, Russia veto U.S. push for more U.N. sanctions on North Korea. Reuters. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from

OECD. (2019). The Contribution of International Organisations to a Rule-Based International System. OECD.

Peters, A. (2016). International Organizations: Effectiveness and accountability. SSRN Electronic Journal. Philip, K. (2016). Preparing a Public-Private Partnership Law: Observations from the International Experience. East Asia Working Papers.


Wouters, J., & Ruys, T. (2005). Use and Abuse of the Veto Power. In SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM: A NEW VETO FOR A NEW CENTURY? (pp. 9–18). Egmont Institute.

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1 commentaire

Pelin Burcu Ozturk
Pelin Burcu Ozturk
25 juil. 2022

To conclude a technical series like this, discussing the influence of IOs could be the best approach. I enjoyed reading a summary of organizations and their global effects on the world despite high tension about their effectiveness. I'd love to read another article about the relation between IOs and current political environment from the concept of "independence" though, a discussion about IOs' effectiveness and the current system would be quite interesting.

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Deniz Aktunç

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