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Political scientist Gisela Hirschmann awarded Thyssen research grant

Gisela Hirschmann, lecturer and researcher at Leiden University’s Institute of Political Science, has been awarded a 2-year grant of € 170.000 by the German Fritz Thyssen Foundation to study how international organisations react to budget cuts, membership withdrawals and systematic non-compliance by member states.

The crisis of multilateralism

International organisations (IOs) play a key role in promoting multilateral cooperation on critical transnational issues. In response to the expanding authority of IOs since 1945, however, a growing number of states claim that IOs have become too intrusive and have hence taken measures to (re-)assert their sovereignty. This has culminated in the recent crisis of multilateralism, exemplified by the United States’ decrease in their financial contributions to the UN, the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and the threat from African states to leave the International Criminal Court. These actions significantly threaten the legitimacy and the effectiveness of IOs.

This prompts the question how IOs react to budgetary measures, membership withdrawals, or systematic non-compliance with core values by member states. And what factors explain the different ways in which IOs respond to these sovereignty challenges?

Hunkering, adaptation, or resilience?

Gisela Hirschmann, political scientist at Leiden University, will investigate the conditions under which IOs may respond to sovereignty challenges by adopting one of three strategies: hunkering (keeping a low profile to continue their policies without changes); adaptation (policy changes to maintain the support of the challenging member state(s)); or resilience (developing organizational capacities in order to limit the (re-)assertion of sovereignty by member states).

A 2-year grant, worth € 170.000, of the German Fritz Thyssen Foundation allows Hirschmann to compare six contemporary and historical cases of sovereignty challenges against four different IOs (European Union, International Criminal Court, League of Nations and United Nations), examining how the IOs’ reactions are influenced by the type of challenge, the IOs’ institutional characteristics and the status of the challenging member states. Ultimately, Hirschmann aims to generate innovative and systematic insights for a better understanding of the independent role of IOs in maintaining the multilateral system.

Gisela Hirschmann (photo: Ruben Verheul)

The Thyssen Foundation

The Fritz Thyssen Foundation was established in Germany in 1959 as a private individual foundation to promote science and research. The Foundation supports research in the fields of history, language and culture, state, economics and society as well as medicine, devoting special attention to support for junior researchers.

Hirschmann’s research is funded by the Foundation’s State, Economy & Society programme, which targets research on the preconditions leading to and the results arising from change in modern societies.

Further reading

Profile page Gisela Hirschmann

Fritz Thyssen Foundation: State, Economy & Society

Header image: Banksy’s take on the Brexit. Mural (detail) on the Castle Amusements building in Dover, Kent (UK). Photo: Dunk (Flickr).

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