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Being able to host international organisations by taking that extra step

The number of international organisations has increased over the last decades. As has the number of cities interested in housing these organisations. International organisations bring wealth to cities and help improve their reputation. They often act as a magnet for other international corporations. Rosa Groen investigated what it is that makes cities successful in persuading an international organisation to settle there. PhD ceremony: Thursday 24 November.

The competition between cities to attract international organisations has increased tremendously. Cities and host countries are really trying to appeal to these organisations. But the procedures and strategies on how to achieve this have not been properly analysed. In her dissertation, Rosa looked into the successes and failures of governance networks working to attract international organisations in four small and medium sized cities: Geneva, The Hague, Vienna, and Copenhagen.
Groen: ‘By researching eight case studies, half of which that had been successful and half that had failed, I have tried to explain why some efforts had been successful and others not. I conducted 175 interviews with 150 people involved in the processes. The most successful networks are willing to ‘go the extra mile’. This expression frequently came up during the interviews and shows that striving to achieve the maximum result is a requirement for network success.’

Outward focus of networks

The most important conclusion of the research is that networks that are hoping to attract such an organisation should be looking outward. Groen: ‘These policy networks, who are usually consist of six to twelve people, should be focussed on the organisation they are hoping to persuade, its wishes, and people. It is important that these networks activate their contacts abroad and collect information pertaining specifically to that organisation. They should also continue to stay in touch with established international organisations and the international community. Which is why it is important to maintain continuity by not changing key positions within the city too often.’

The right people

A second conclusion addresses the composition of the networks that are working to attract and retain international institutions. If the responsibility lies with only one central department, it is less effective. Groen: ‘Research has shown that being able to involve the right people – or institutional connectors – is important for the policy networks. These are people that are able to free up just that little bit of extra budget, or that can persuade that one member state to vote for their host country. Which is why it is essential that the importance of retaining and attracting international organisations is actively conveyed to the representing departments, political and otherwise. Regularly making mention of this importance during interdepartmental meetings would be really helpful, for instance.’

More diverse is more successful

A third conclusion focusses on the diversity and size of the policy networks. ‘The more diverse the group working to attract an international organisation, the more successful. When, for instance, knowledge institutions, NGOs, representatives of similar international organisations, and ambassadors are involved, the process is more likely to succeed. It also helps when it is a larger group of people. All actors in such an extensive network can in turn get others interested in the intended organisation.’

Will the Netherlands take the extra step?

The Netherlands has just withdrawn from the competition to attract the Anti Money Laundering Authority. This is a yet to be established European agency that will open its doors in Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Austria, or Spain in the upcoming year. Having the headquarters of this authority here could have improved the Netherland’s reputation when it comes to fighting money laundering and terrorism financing. However, the government should really be committed to engaging with such an agency, and during the process it became clear that that could not be guaranteed. Groen: ‘Unfortunately, the Netherlands was not successful in taking that extra step trying to persuade this organisation.’

PhD Ceremony: Thursday 24 November

Watch this PhD defence online via livestream

Rosa Groen obtained her PhD via the Dual PhD Centre of Leiden University. Rosa Groen combined her PhD track with a position as lecturer-researcher at the European Impact Hub and the European Studies programme of the The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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