- Why Do States Enter International Organizations?
- Democratization and IO Membership
- A Statistical Model of IO Membership
- The Results
- Assessing the Stability and Validity of the Results
- The Effect of IO Members' Regime Type
- IO Membership and Backsliding by Democratizing Countries
Democratization and International Organizations
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 January 2006
- Why Do States Enter International Organizations?
- Democratization and IO Membership
- A Statistical Model of IO Membership
- The Results
- Assessing the Stability and Validity of the Results
- The Effect of IO Members' Regime Type
- IO Membership and Backsliding by Democratizing Countries
International organizations (IOs) have become increasingly pervasive features of the global landscape. While the implications of this development have been studied extensively, relatively little research has examined the factors that prompt states to enter IOs. We argue that democratization is an especially potent impetus to IO membership. Democratizing countries are likely to enter IOs because leaders have difficulty credibly committing to sustain liberal reforms and the consolidation of democracy. Chief executives often have an incentive to solidify their position during democratic transitions by rolling back political liberalization. Entering an IO can help leaders in transitional states credibly commit to carry out democratic reforms, especially if the organization is composed primarily of democratic members. Tests of this hypothesis, based on a new data set of IOs covering the period from 1965 to 2000, confirm that democratization spurs states to join IOs.Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2004 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago; the 2004 annual convention of the International Studies Association, Montreal; and seminars at the State University of New York at Albany and Yale University. For helpful comments and suggestions, we are grateful to participants in these seminars and to Marc Busch, Benjamin Fordham, Yoram Haftel, Lisa Martin, Timothy McKeown, Helen Milner, Ronald Mitchell, Andrew Moravcsik, B. Peter Rosendorff, Bruce Russett, and two anonymous referees.
- Research Article
- © 2006 The IO Foundation and Cambridge University Press
In recent years, international organizations (IOs) have become increasingly pervasive features of the global landscape. Both the number of such organizations and the range of issue-areas they cover have grown rapidly. The implications of this development have been studied extensively and hotly debated in the field of international relations. Whereas some researchers believe that IOs have little effect on state behavior, many observers argue that the proliferation of these institutions will facilitate interstate cooperation and help to resolve the interstate conflicts that do arise.1
We argue that changes in a state's regime type are crucially important in this regard. Countries undergoing a democratic transition are especially likely to enter IOs because leaders have difficulty credibly committing to sustain liberal reforms and the consolidation of democracy. Chief executives often have an incentive to solidify their position during democratic transitions by rolling back political liberalization. Entering an IO can help leaders in transitional states credibly commit to carry out democratic reforms and can reduce the prospect of reversions to authoritarianism, especially if the organization is composed primarily of democratic members.
To test this claim, we examine whether regime change has influenced IO membership from 1965 to 2000. Consistent with our argument, we find strong evidence that democratic transitions prompt states to enter these organizations. Furthermore, states in the throes of democratization tend to join IOs composed of democratic members; and the likelihood that a democratizing state will subsequently backslide in an autocratic direction is reduced if it enters a relatively democratic organization. Consequently, political liberalization and IO membership seem to go hand in hand.
Why Do States Enter International Organizations?
IOs are “associations established by governments or their representatives that are sufficiently institutionalized to require regular meetings, rules governing decision- making, a permanent staff, and a headquarters.”2345
Our contention, however, is that a key impetus to IO membership emanates from the domestic political arena, particularly from transitions toward democracy. This is not to imply that international factors are unimportant influences on IO membership, as we discuss at greater length below. Nonetheless, states frequently join international institutions with an eye toward domestic politics, an issue that has received very little attention to date.
The scholarship that does exist on the domestic sources of IO membership focuses primarily on regional organizations.678
The most direct analysis of regime type and IO membership was undertaken by Jacobson and his colleagues.91011
Democratization and IO Membership
The aim of this article is to provide a more systematic analysis of whether democratization influences the propensity of states to join IOs. The past three decades have been marked by a wave of democratization: dozens of countries throughout the world have undergone transitions to democracy.12
The credibility problems faced by democratizing states emanate from the uncertainty that accompanies a democratic transition. In some cases, leaders in nascent democracies limit reform, consolidate their personal power, or attempt to distort and weaken emerging democratic institutions, limiting the consolidation of democracy.13
First, some transitional governments initiate reforms that they have no intention of completing, especially if incomplete reforms yield rents for key constituencies or create institutions that solidify the leader's hold on power.141516
Whitehead 1989, 78.
Second, transitional regimes may have time-inconsistent preferences. A regime's optimal policy ex ante may differ from its evaluations of proper policy ex post.1718
The inability of democratizing states to make credible commitments can generate various problems. Elites often distrust one another in the transitional period and fear that the new regime will not serve their interests.192021
Whitehead 1989, 94.
Furthermore, the inability of transitional states to make credible commitments can cause economic harm. Firms and financial institutions may be reluctant to invest in or aid democratizing countries that are unable to demonstrate that they will follow through on political liberalization and enact sound economic policy.2223
Membership in IOs can help the leader of a democratizing country credibly commit to reform efforts by establishing a mechanism that increases the cost of deviating from these efforts and backsliding. This mechanism stems from information provided by the organization about members' actions, conditions imposed by the organization for new members, and the reputational impact of violating an IO's rules. Accepting conditionality heightens the credibility of a democratizing regime's commitment to reform, because monitoring and enforcement are handled by a third party with the ability to publicly sound an alarm in the event that reform efforts falter.24
Conditions and conditionality refer to any terms of joining an organization, including the terms of economic arrangements that a state may join.
In addition, the costs associated with membership (fulfilling the initial conditions as well as the traditional costs of membership) lend credibility to the regime's commitment to the IO by conveying to domestic and international audiences that its accession is not “cheap talk.” The IO-imposed conditions also raise the costs of limiting reform because any reversal can jeopardize the benefits stemming from membership in the organization. Equally, membership can create expectations about the behavior of a democratizing regime (regardless of whether the institution sets conditions for membership), generating audience costs for the government if these expectations are not met.25
Moravcsik 2000, 228.
Pinto 1993, 42.
Tarschys 1995, 62–64.
In addition, various IOs require participants to adhere to practices that are likely to ease tensions among competing groups within a democratizing country. For example, the European Union (EU) stipulates that members must respect property rights. As Whitehead argues, this requirement has “offered critical external guarantees to the business and propertied classes of southern Europe.”29
Whitehead 1996, 271.
Powell 1996, 297.
Pridham 2001, 76. Indeed, while there is some variation in public support for EU membership across countries and over time, such support tends to be quite strong. See Henderson 2000, 239; and Haerpfer 2002. In our empirical tests, we consider association status as membership, but do not count observer status.
In some cases, joining an IO can also help a democratizing state send a credible signal to international audiences about its commitment to follow through on political reform. For example, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic formed the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA) in 1991 at least partly to demonstrate to the EU that they were committed to both political and economic liberalization.33
Reneging on conditions set out by an IO can be costly for a democratizing states, serving as a deterrent to influential groups within government that have reason to derail liberal reforms and thus increasing the credibility of commitments to sustain such programs. Violating the terms of membership is likely to lead to a suspension of specific benefits and even risks expulsion from the organization. In fact, IOs do punish violators. For example, the European Community (EC) suspended Greece's associate membership in 1967 after the military came to power.34
Whitehead 1993, 154.
More recently, the EU “strictly enforced” the conditions of its Association Agreement with Slovakia when President Vladimir Meciar's behavior toward Slovakia's Hungarian minority and his political opponents did not meet EU standards.36
Pridham 2001, 87.
Of course, there are likely to be some groups in a democratizing society that have no interest in liberalization. Some of them may have the ability to jeopardize the transition. The military, for example, can pose such a threat. It is not unusual for the military's position in society to weaken during a democratic transition.39
See, for example, Agüero 1995.
Naturally, we do not expect our nine partners in the Community to become the guardians of Greek democracy. By joining a broader group of like-minded Western democracies, however, our own democratic institutions will be reinforced, through constant contact and interchange, but mainly because from now on Greece will share the destiny of its Community partners…. They [prospective dictators] are bound to know that the abolition of democracy entails immediate ostracism from the Community. This could have grave internal and external consequences. So, in this respect, the EC is a safe haven.41
Quoted in Pridham 1991, 226; brackets in original.
Even if the conditionality policy of the IO is unclear or there is a possibility of nonenforcement by the organization itself, reneging on international agreements imposes reputational and domestic audience costs on the regime. Concluding an international agreement places a transitional state's reputation on the line. Any reversal, backsliding, or abrogation of its treaty obligations can damage the state's reputation, even if these actions do not elicit sanctions from the organization. Accession itself can be a form of “international recognition of a country's democratic credentials.”42
Klebes 1999, 3.
Pridham 1994, 26–27.
Story and Pollack 1991, 134.
Financial Times, 1 December 1986, S1.
Similarly, in Central and Eastern Europe, joining IOs has been viewed as an important signal to mass publics and a key means to lock in democratic institutions. As one Romanian scholar opined, “I do not, in all fairness, know whether Romania's joining Europe is the only formula for a good future for the Romanians…. But it is my strongest belief that Europe is the only strong incentive, for both the political class and the people, to further the democratization of the country.”46
Pippidi 1999, 148–49.
Thus one strategy for leaders in nascent democracies who want to consolidate democracy is to tie their own hands while sending a costly signal to international and domestic observers that they are serious about political reform. One way to accomplish this goal is by entering an IO. Of course, membership in such organizations is far more likely to achieve this end if the other participants are relatively democratic. A transitional democracy joining the Warsaw Pact, for example, would undoubtedly find that the associated credibility of its commitment to reform is far weaker than a similar state that enters the EU. Nonetheless, we begin with a more general analysis of whether democratization influences IO membership. We then address whether the regime type of existing IO members influences the propensity of democratizing states to join these organizations.
In testing our argument, it will be important to ensure that any observed effect of democratization on IO membership does not stem from a more general tendency for democracies—whether stable or transitional—to enter international institutions. There are various reasons why democracies of all sorts might be drawn to such organizations. Some observers have argued that established democracies tend to join IOs—especially those populated by other democracies—because doing so helps to reinforce and strengthen their democratic institutions.4748
Still another reason why democratic leaders tend to join IOs is that voters have difficulty distinguishing between events that adversely affect the country and that are beyond the leader's control and adverse consequences arising from the leader's poor performance in office. As a result, voters may remove a democratic head of state from office because they believe the leader has done a bad job when in fact this is not the case. Joining an IO can help chief executives to guard against this possibility. Such institutions often are able to furnish reliable information about the behavior of member-states. Countries that violate their commitments to an IO will trip an alarm sounded by other members or the organization itself. By publicizing the actions of democratic leaders, IOs help them to avoid being turned out of office because voters mistakenly believe the leaders have performed poorly. In nondemocracies, by contrast, electoral dynamics are far less important, giving leaders much less incentive to join IOs.49
In the following analysis, we will consider the effects of both democracy and democratization on the rate at which states enter IOs in order to ensure that democratization's impact on IO membership is not just an outgrowth of democracy. Our argument is not that democratization is a more important influence on such membership than democracy. Whether that is the case is an empirical matter and we will provide some of the first evidence bearing on it. Rather, our argument is that regardless of whether democracies tend to join international institutions, democratic transitions are an independent impetus to IO membership. We now turn to a test of this argument.
A Statistical Model of IO Membership
To analyze the effects of transitions to democracy on the frequency with which states enter IOs, we estimate the following model:
Our dependent variable, Δ#io, is the change in the number of IOs to which each state, i, is a party from year t to year t + 1. We code this variable using the new Intergovernmental Organizations version 2.1 data from the Correlates of War (COW) Project.50
Pevehouse, Nordstrom, and Warnke 2004. Note that version 2.1 of this data set contains some corrections to version 2.0.
Data on IO membership exist before 1965; but from 1815 to 1965, the data are coded in five-year increments, which is not suitable for our analysis.
This includes IOs in which state i is an associate member. We exclude IOs where the state is an observer.
To test our hypothesis, we include an independent variable indicating whether state i experienced a democratic transition. To construct this variable, we use a 21-point index of regime type developed by Gurr and his colleagues that we refer to as regime type.5354regime type > 6 as democracies, those where regime type < −6 as autocracies, and all remaining countries as incoherent or “anocratic” regimes.55democratization equals 1 if state i changes from a nondemocratic polity (either autocracy or anocracy) to a democracy or from an autocracy to an anocracy between t − 5 and t, 0 otherwise. Our expectation is that the coefficient of democratization will be positive, because states undergoing a democratic transition have particular reason to join IOs.
To ensure that the effect of democratization does not reflect a more general tendency for regime change of any sort to influence IO membership, we include autocratization. This variable equals 1 if state i changes from either a democracy or an anocracy to an autocracy or from a democracy to an anocracy between t − 5 and t, 0 otherwise. Equally, to ensure that the influence of democratization does not stem from a more general tendency for democracies to enter IOs at a more rapid clip than other states, we include regime type, which is Gurr's 21-point index of state i's regime type in year t. If, in contrast to our argument, the effect of democratization is merely an outgrowth of such a tendency, then the coefficient estimate of regime type will be positive and statistically significant and the coefficient estimate of democratization will not be statistically significant. Our expectation, however, is that the latter estimate will be positive and significant even after accounting for the influence of regime type.
In order to adequately analyze the effect of democratization on changes in IO membership, it is crucial that we control for other factors that also may prompt states to enter or exit international institutions. Five of these factors are political. First, major power is a dichotomous variable coded 1 if state i is considered a great power in year t by the COW Project.56
Singer and Small 1994. During the period we analyze, the major powers were China, France, Great Britain, Russia/Soviet Union, and the United States.
These dates are compiled by Gleditsch and Ward 1999.
Third, former communist is a dummy variable that equals 1 if state i was ruled by a communist government during some portion of the period from 1965 to 2000 and it is no longer ruled by this type of government in year t. This variable equals 0 otherwise.61
The communist countries in our sample are Albania (until 1991), Bulgaria (until 1989), Cambodia (1976–90), China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (until 1989), East Germany (until 1989), Hungary (until 1989), Laos (1975–91), Mongolia (until 1990), North Korea, Poland (until 1989), Romania (until 1988), the Soviet Union (until 1991), Yugoslavia (until 1991), and Vietnam.
In addition to political factors, we analyze three key aspects of each state's economy. Past research has linked economic wealth and size to both IO membership rates and democratic transitions, so it is important to control for these factors.67
Mansfield, Milner, and Rosendorff 2000. Data on development, gdp, and openness are taken from the Penn World Table. Heston, Summers, and Aten 2002. The first two variables are measured in constant (1995) US dollars.
We also include a trend (year) in the model to ensure that any observed relationship between regime type and IO membership does not stem from the spread of both democracy and international institutions over time.70io, which is the total number of IOs that state i belongs to in year t. As a state participates in a growing number of IOs, the marginal benefit of joining an additional one may decline. Further, the number of existing IOs that a state does not belong to shrinks as it joins more organizations, reducing the number it could join in the future. As such, #io may be inversely related to the change in IO membership. Alternatively, this relationship may be direct. States that participate in a large number IOs may be “joiners,” predisposed to enter many international institutions, whereas those that belong to few IOs may have a general aversion to joining such organizations. Regardless, we need to account for this factor because it is likely to be related to regime change.7172
We use the COW project's definition of geographic regions. See Singer and Small 1994.
Table 1 presents descriptive statistics for each of the variables used in this model (as well as some variables analyzed later). To estimate the model, we use ordinary least squares. Tests of statistical significance are based on panel-corrected standard errors, which account for heteroskedastic disturbances and contemporaneous correlation across each panel.74
It is important to recognize that our findings are not at odds with recent research indicating that democratization promotes war and that participation in IOs reduces the prospect of conflict. See Russett and Oneal 2001; Mansfield and Snyder 2005. First, that research emphasizes the conflict-promoting effects of a particular aspect of democratization, namely, transitions that stall before the establishment of a coherent democracy in countries where political institutions are weak. Second, the existing literature focuses on whether the likelihood of conflict between states depends on their participation in IOs, rather than on their initial entry into IOs. Furthermore, there is considerable disagreement about whether IO membership actually inhibits conflict. Some studies have found that IOs increase conflict under certain circumstances; others have found that whether IOs dampen hostilities depends on the type of IO being analyzed. See Kinsella and Russett 2002; Boehmer, Gartzke, and Nordstrom 2004; Pevehouse and Russett forthcoming.
We express all marginal effects calculations as the predicted change in IO memberships. To make these calculations, we set all continuous variables to their mean value and all discrete variables to their modal value. All of the regional indicator variables are set to zero.
In addition to democratizing countries, democracies have a marked tendency to join IOs. The estimate of regime type is positive and statistically significant, indicating that more democratic states join IOs at a more rapid rate than less democratic countries. In fact, increasing regime type from what is often considered to be the threshold for an autocracy (−7) to the threshold for a democracy (+7) yields a nearly 20 percent rise in the predicted number of IOs that a given state enters in a given year.78
Turning to the remaining variables, the coefficient estimates of major power and former communist are positive and statistically significant. Whether IOs are used by great powers to promote their own agendas, preserve their favored rules, increase burden sharing, or foster international cooperation, these states accede to international institutions at a rate more than 40 percent higher in any given year than their weaker counterparts. States that had been ruled by communist governments enter IOs at a rate about 80 percent higher than other states, once these governments fall from power.79
We also included a dummy variable indicating whether the Cold War had ended. The estimate of this variable was not statistically significant and including it did not appreciably change the remaining estimates.
For example, Snidal 1985.
There is also a tendency for states that participate in more IOs to experience an increase in IO membership. The estimate of #io is positive and statistically significant, indicating that some states have a deep and ongoing interest in participating in IOs whereas other states do not. Equally, the region-specific variables are jointly significant (χ2 = 8.67, p < .01), reflecting the tendency for many IOs to be regional in nature and for patterns of IO membership to be similar within geographic regions. However, there is no evidence that the number of years a state has been sovereign, the extent of its economic development, its GDP, or its degree of commercial openness influence changes in IO membership.
Assessing the Stability and Validity of the Results
Having generated a set of initial results, we now turn to some supplementary tests of our argument. First, we have implicitly assumed that the supply of IOs does not vary across countries; that is, that all countries have equal access to membership in such organizations. But many IOs are not universal, most obviously those that are limited to members in the same geographic region.81
A number of IOs seem to emphasize democracy as a condition of membership. As such, it could be that democratic and democratizing countries enter more IOs because they have access to more organizations than other states. However, this is unlikely to be much of a problem for our analysis. First, few IOs make any explicit reference to the regime type of members. Second, even those that do make such reference sometimes sidestep the issue in practice. For example, although the NATO preamble contains references to democracy as a underlying principle, one of its founding members was a European dictatorship (Portugal) and military coups in member states resulted in neither major changes within NATO nor pressure to end authoritarian rule (Greece and Turkey). The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is another example of imprecise conditionality—the implicit U.S. criterion for NAFTA expansion seems to include democracy, although there are no formal written conditions. Whitehead 1993. Third, while some IOs may have stressed democracy as a condition for membership, others (most notably those that were established by the Soviet Union to manage the Communist bloc) were restricted to autocracies. Hence, there is little reason to worry that our results are driven by a tendency for democracies to have greater access to IOs than other countries.
As shown in the second column of Table 2, the estimate of this variable is positive and statistically significant, indicating that states that already belong to a large number of the IOs they have access to are inherently “joiners” and tend to enter even more organizations. States that participate in few IOs have an aversion to these organizations and continue to eschew membership. Most important for our purposes, however, is that regardless of whether we replace #io with saturation, the estimated effect of democratization (as well as the other independent variables in the model) is virtually identical. In the remainder of this article, we include saturation rather than #io in our models of IO membership, although this decision has no bearing on any of the following results.
Second, we estimate the model after eliminating development, gdp, and openness. As shown in Table 1, there are roughly 25 percent more data for the remaining variables in our analysis than for these three variables. Furthermore, there is an overwhelming tendency for the countries that are missing data for these three variables, but that have complete information for the remaining variables in our model, to be autocracies. This tendency could introduce a source of bias in our earlier results. Equally, none of these factors has a statistically significant influence on IO membership. The results reported in the third column of Table 2 clearly indicate that removing these variables from the model has relatively little effect on the estimated coefficient of democratization, although the estimate of autocratization is no longer statistically significant. In the interests of analyzing the broadest and most representative sample possible and because these economic variables have little influence on changes in IO membership, we exclude them from the following analysis. However, it is important to recognize that this change in the model's specification has little bearing on the results presented below.
Third, we mentioned earlier that in coding the dependent variable, we do not consider members of an IO that disbands to be exiting the organization because its participants usually have no choice but to leave. Nonetheless, to ensure that this coding decision does not unduly influence our results, we include in Δ#io cases where an organization ceases to exist and then reestimate the model. As shown in the fourth column of Table 2, there is no evidence that the influence of democratization or any of the control variables except saturation and a few of the regional indicators depend on how we code members of disbanded IOs.
Fourth, it is useful to more fully evaluate the effects of stable and transitional regimes on IO membership. In our analysis of regime change, the reference category is a stable regime. Hence the positive coefficients of democratization in Table 2 indicate that democratizing countries are more likely to join IOs than countries that do not undergo any sort of regime change. It is possible, however, that different types of stable regimes vary in their propensity to enter such organizations. We therefore replace regime type with one indicator variable (stable democracy) that is coded 1 if a state remains a democracy from year t − 5 to year t, and another variable (stable autocracy) that is coded 1 if a state remains autocratic during this interval. The reference category in this analysis is a stable anocracy.
As reported in the last column of Table 2, the coefficient estimate of democratization continues to be positive and statistically significant. A state making a transition to democracy experiences a higher rate of entry into IOs than any other regime type considered here: such states experience more than a 50 percent rise in IO membership relative to stable autocracies and autocratizing countries, a greater than 30 percent increase in IO membership relative to stable anocracies, and more than a 10 percent rise in IO membership compared to stable democracies.
These results and our earlier findings provide strong evidence that democratization promotes IO membership, even after accounting for the effects of democracy. As another way to address this issue, we include in our model a variable indicating the number of consecutive years that a state has been a democracy as of year t. Regardless of whether we use regime type or stable democracy and stable autocracy to measure a state's regime type and regardless of whether we include democratization and autocratization in the model, the estimate of this variable is negative and statistically significant. Consequently, democratic states are most likely to enter IOs immediately after they become democratic. They become less likely to enter IOs as democracy matures.
Fifth, it is possible that our results stem from the fact that both stable and transitional democracies have common interests, which in turn predisposes them to join many of the same IOs.8283
Sixth, it is important to ensure that our results do not reflect any reverse causality that could arise if changes in IO membership influence democratization. Recent research, for example, indicates that regional organizations composed of democratic countries have stimulated both democratization and the consolidation of democracy.84io from year t − 1 to year t and democratization from year t to year t + 5. Then we estimate a logistic regression of democratization on Δ#io, a set of region-specific variables, and a spline function of the number of years since state i last experienced a democratic transition to account for any temporal dependence in the data.85democratization.86
These results are not inconsistent with Pevehouse's findings, because there is a sizeable difference in the sample of IOs used in his study and in ours. Pevehouse 2005. While we examine all IOs, Pevehouse examines only regional organizations. Moreover, his statistical association was between the level of democracy within an IO and democratization, whereas we examine the change in the number of IOs.
We also analyze whether IO membership influences regime type by measuring Δ#io from year t−1 to year t and regime type in year t. Then we regress regime type on Δ#io and a set of region-specific variables using feasible generalized least squares, a technique that involves using ordinary least squares to estimate the model and then purging the errors of serial correlation. Here we assume that the serial correlation is first order (that is, AR) and base tests of statistical significance on panel-corrected standard errors that account for any heteroskedasticity and contemporaneous correlation of the errors across countries. On this technique, see Beck and Katz 1995. The results furnish no evidence that changes in IO membership influence a state's regime type.
Finally, although our argument focuses primarily on the domestic political conditions that prompt states to join IOs, the value of Δ#io is determined by the frequency with which states enter and exit these organizations. It is useful to analyze separately the influences on joining and leaving IOs. To this end, we estimate two models. The dependent variable in the first model is the number of IOs that state i joined from year t to year t + 1; the dependent variable in the second is the number of IOs that state i left during this interval. The independent variables in each model are those included in our earlier analysis, specifically model (1.3) in Table 2. Because the error terms in these two models are likely to be related, it is more efficient to estimate the models jointly rather than separately.88
Greene 1993, 489.
Various studies employ count models in which the underlying process generating the dependent variable is assumed to have a Poisson distribution. A key feature of this distribution is the assumption that the probability of an event occurring in a given interval of time is independent of previous events in the interval and that the rate at which events take place in this interval is constant and does not depend on previous events. We find statistically significant evidence that this assumption is violated for both the joining and the leaving model, indicating that a negative binomial specification should be used. On this issue, see King 1989; Greene 1993.
As reported in Table 3, the sign of each coefficient in the IO “joining model” is the same as the corresponding coefficient in model (1.3); and the estimates that are statistically significant when we analyze Δ#io remain significant when we focus on the frequency with which states join IOs. It is particularly noteworthy that countries undergoing a democratic transition join IOs significantly more rapidly than either stable regimes or autocratizing states, and that there is no marked difference between stable and autocratizing countries in this regard. Moreover, while the size of the coefficients in Tables 2 and 3 cannot be directed compared since the techniques used to derive these results are quite different, the effects of democratization on IO accession are quite sizeable. Democratizing states enter over 20 percent more IOs than stable regimes and over 25 percent more than autocratizating states.
In contrast, democratization usually does not prompt states to leave IOs. In the “leaving model,” the coefficient estimate of democratization is negative, but it is not statistically significant. Thus democratizing states generally do not renounce membership in the organizations that its autocratic predecessor participated in. They do, however, display a pronounced tendency to join the rolls of additional organizations. Interestingly, the only factor included in our model that has a strong influence the rate at which states exit IOs is regime type. The estimate of this variable is negative and statistically significant, indicating that autocratic states are more likely to leave IOs than their democratic counterparts. Indeed, this tendency is quite pronounced: increasing the mean value of regime type by one standard deviation generates about a 25 percent jump in the predicted number of IOs a given state exits.
The Effect of IO Members' Regime Type
The preceding results strongly support our argument. As we noted earlier, however, democratizing states are likely to be drawn with the greatest force to IOs in which the bulk of the members are democratic. The commitments made by a democratizing state to sustain and deepen political reforms are likely to gain more credibility if it joins an IO composed of democracies—countries with a far greater interest in political reform than other states—than if it enters an IO with a different make-up. Equally, from a signaling perspective, it does little good for a new democracy to join an IO with a sizeable number of autocratic members. Finally, more uniformly democratic IOs are more likely to enforce the conditions of membership. The transparency of democracies lessens the likelihood that any one state in the organization will shirk its enforcement of the IO's rules.90
On the greater transparency of democratic systems than others, see Fearon 1994.
Indeed, past work has shown that only regional organizations composed of highly democratic countries are especially effective at promoting democracy and assisting in its consolidation.92
To test this proposition, we make three changes to model (1.3) in Table 2. First, we analyze a different dependent variable (dem level io), the average regime type within the IOs joined by state i from year t to year t + 1.93
The average level of democracy in each IO is computed exclusive of state i.
This is therefore a Heckman-style selection model. See Heckman 1979.
Whether or not we include development, gdp, and openness makes no difference in the following results.
The first column of Table 4 presents the results of this analysis. As expected, the coefficient estimate of democratization is positive, statistically significant, and large. Democratizing states therefore seem to pay close attention to the regime characteristics of IO members, acceding to organizations with democracy scores that are, on average, about 60 percent higher (on the 21-point scale that ranges from −10 to 10) than those joined by stable regimes and nearly 30 percent higher than those joined by autocratizing countries. New democracies tend to seek membership in highly democratic IOs, supporting our argument that such organizations are best positioned to help states cement transitions to democracy.
In the second column of Table 4, we replace regime type with two indicator variables, each of which is measured from year t − 5 to year t, to distinguish the influence of stable democracies (stable democracy), stable autocracies (stable autocracy), and stable anocracies. Doing so yields results that are much the same as before, although there are some noticeable differences. The estimate of democratization continues to be positive and statistically significant. States undergoing a democratic transition become involved in IOs where the average democracy score is about half a point higher than the IOs joined by stable anocracies, two points higher than the IOs joined by stable autocracies, and more than one point higher than the IOs joined by autocratizing countries. Only stable democracies enter international institutions that are, on average, more democratic than the ones that democratizing states join. This difference, however, is quantitatively small and statistically insignificant (χ2 = 1.81, p = .18).
IO Membership and Backsliding by Democratizing Countries
Central to our argument is that leaders in democratizing countries have difficulty making credible commitments to sustain political reforms and the consolidation of democracy. Entering an IO composed largely of democratic states can help leaders in such countries to address this problem by creating a mechanism that increases the cost of deviating from reforms and backsliding in an autocratic direction. Thus another implication of our argument is that democratizing countries participating in IOs made up of democracies should be less likely to subsequently experience a reversion to autocracy than democratizing countries that participate in less democratic IOs.
Although a comprehensive test of this hypothesis is beyond the scope of our analysis, we can address it in a preliminary way. In our sample, there are 380 episodes where a country experienced a democratic transition over some five-year interval from year t − 5 to year t; forty-seven of these episodes were then followed by an autocratic transition from year t to year t + 5, whereas 333 were not.96
Note that all of the following results are essentially unchanged if autocratization is measured from year t + 1 to year t + 6 rather than from year t to year t + 5.
Shifting our focus from the average regime score of all IOs a democratizing state participates in and joins to the average score of the most democratic IO the state belongs to or enters has no bearing on our findings. The average regime score of the most democratic IO that a democratizing state participates in is about 1.3 points higher if it did not subsequently undergo an autocratic transition than if it did experience such a transition. This score is roughly 2 points higher if we restrict attention to the IOs that democratizing states joined between years t − 5 and t. Both differences are statistically significant at the 0.01 level.
To further address this issue, we code each IO as democratic if the average regime score of its members is 7 or greater on Gurr's 21-point index (from −10 to 10). On average, democratizing states that do not subsequently experience an autocratic transition are members of 1.65 democratic IOs. The corresponding figure for democratizing states that do autocratize is 0.60. Equally, democratizing states that do not autocratize in the following five-year period join an average of 0.59 democratic IOs, compared to an average of 0.09 for states that do autocratize. To assess the robustness of these results and because defining a democratic IO as one where the average regime score is 7 or greater is somewhat arbitrary, we reset this threshold to 6 and greater and then again to 5 and greater. As this threshold value declines, there is even a more pronounced tendency for democratizing states that do not backslide in an autocratic direction to participate in and join a larger number of democratic IOs than states that do undergo an autocratic transition. Furthermore, all of these differences continue to be statistically significant.
Clearly, these tests are preliminary and do not control for other factors that may influence the sustainability of democratization and IO membership. Nonetheless, the findings are consistent with a key implication of our argument: participating in and joining democratic IOs reduces the prospect that democratizing states will backslide in an autocratic direction.
We have argued that democratization is an important impetus to IO membership. States undergoing democratic transitions have a strong incentive to join IOs, because doing so sends a credible signal to domestic and international audiences that political reform efforts are sincere. Entering an IO can help leaders in transitional states credibly commit to carry out reforms since these institutions convey information, help ameliorate time-inconsistency problems, and improve the reputation of new member states. Membership can also discourage regime opponents from threatening emerging regimes by imposing potentially high costs on countries that renege on IO commitments. Each of these mechanisms can assist in the process of deepening democracy, giving leaders in nascent democracies strong incentives to join IOs.
Our statistical findings confirm these hypotheses. Using a new data set on IO membership covering the period from 1965 to 2000, we find strong evidence that democratizing states join IOs more frequently than other countries. Moreover, democratizing states do not attempt to join just any organizations. Instead, they tend to enter ones composed of relatively democratic members—forming clubs of democracies.
In addition to democratizing states, democracies display a tendency to join IOs. Democracies are somewhat less likely to join all IOs and marginally more likely to join IOs with a highly democratic membership than democratizing countries. However, democracy and democratization have independent influences on the propensity of states to join IOs. Even after accounting for the effects of democracy, democratization has a statistically and substantively significant influence on the decision to enter international institutions. Finally, there is evidence that joining IOs composed of relatively democratic members can help democratizers reduce the prospect of a reversion to authoritarianism, a finding consistent with past research.97
Most of the existing literature on IO formation focuses on the impact of international political forces. Our findings confirm the importance of some of these forces. Eroding hegemony and the absence of political-military conflict, for example, prompt to states to enter international institutions. Equally, major powers join more IOs than weaker states. In addition to these international variables, however, our findings underscore the importance of domestic politics in shaping the decision to enter an IO, particularly the role of domestic institutions. Although studies of international institutions have placed relatively little emphasis on the effects of domestic politics, the results of our analysis strongly suggest that the recent wave of democratization is likely to expand the size and number of IOs. Moreover, this expansion is likely to bode well for the long-term survival of democracy.
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