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Lecture | Seminar

FGGA Research Seminar: From Power to Representation: the changing trade-off between control and representative legitimacy in the staffing of international organisations

Wednesday 5 December 2018
No registration is needed for the seminar. After the seminar, refreshments will be served. Download The Research Paper.
FGGA Research Seminars
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague


States seek to place their nationals in positions of influence within the secretariats of international organizations (IOs). At the same time, however, IO secretariats need to be meritocratic and representative if they are to be legitimated. The result is a trade-off between control, on the one hand, and legitimation pressures, meritocratic and representative, on the other. We develop a model arguing that IOs need to strike a balance between these two competing pressures, and that the particular balance depends on the visibility and exposure of the IOs. The more exposed IOs are likely to favour representative legitimation demands relatively more than the less exposed ones, while the reverse is likely to be true for control.

To test the validity of this model, we present results from a large original dataset covering all states’ representation in the professional staff of all 36 bodies of the United Nations Family, for the years 1996-2015. The empirical findings support the theoretical propositions. First, the observed pattern of national representation on IO secretariats is consistent with a trade-off between control and functional as well as representative legitimation. Second, however, the particular balance strongly depends on IO exposure: IOs with high public exposure appear to favour representative legitimacy over control by powerful states, while IOs with low public exposure favour control over legitimacy. Third, the difference in the staffing patterns between highly visible and less exposed IOs has grown over time.


Michal Parízek is an assistant professor of international relations at the Institute of Political Studies at Charles University in Prague. His research focuses on the functioning of international institutions, with a particular interest in international public administrations. He is currently working on a project entitled ‘Global Bureaucracy: The politics of international organizations staffing’, funded by the Czech Science Foundation. His work has been published in The Review of International Organizations, Journal of European Integration and Comparative European Politics.

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