The Political Economy of International Organizations

Upcoming  PEIO V: Villanova takes over from Zurich

The series of conferences on the Political Economy of International Organizations (PEIO) continues with PEIO V in Villanova (Philadelphia) on January 26-28, 2012. If you want to submit a paper, note that the call is already out. PEIO starts to be known for its good discussions, for the fruitful exchange between economists and political scientists, and for the broad mix of participants with a relatively even balance of people from both sides of the big pond.

But be aware, places are in high demand. For PEIO IV in Zurich (at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich) on January 13-15, 2011, we could accept only about 15% of paper submissions for presentations and another 15% for posters. And this despite the fact that many other submissions were very interesting and of high quality, too! Hard decisions to make… But there is a deliberate choice to limit the number of participants to a group that allows exchange and network building, thereby generating a very special atmosphere.

The basic idea of the upcoming PEIO V and its predecessors in Zurich 2011 (Switzerland), Georgetown 2010 (USA), Geneva 2009 (Switzerland) and Ascona 2008 (Switzerland) is the following:

Many economists and political scientists work on the political economy of different international organizations, like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO or the EU. And the work of these people largely overlaps. Yet, there are, so far, only few other platforms encouraging the exchange across disciplines. The current deficiencies in communication across disciplines are immediately obvious when looking at citations in economic and political science journals. With our series of conferences, we intend to bridge the communication gap and to establish a more sustainable basis for the international and interdisciplinary exchange on this subject.

Prior experience shows that this exchange can become very lively. And this is true not just for the individual presentations, but also for the poster session that is an important part of PEIO conferences with many first class papers and assigned discussants (in addition to discussions with other interested participants).

An international organizing committee was created in 2008 to ensure the follow-up, shape the orientation of future conferences and referee the papers submitted in response to our call for papers. The 2012 program committee includes:

Thomas Bernauer (ETH Zurich, CIS), Lawrence Broz (University of California, San Diego), Axel Dreher (University of Heidelberg), Simon Hug (University of Geneva), Christopher Kilby (Villanova University), Stephen Knack (World Bank), Helen Milner (Princeton University), Katharina Michaelowa (University of Zurich, CIS), Randall Stone (University of Rochester), Sturm, Jan-Egbert (ETH Zurich, KOF), Michael J. Tierney (College of William and Mary), James Raymond Vreeland (Georgetown University), Eric Werker (Harvard Business School).

The distinguished guest speaker for 2012 will be Jagdish N. Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law, Columbia University.

Interested? Then do not miss the deadline for submissions (only full papers!) on September 30. Papers should be mailed to

For further details on the upcoming conference in Villanova as well as on past conferences, please see our PEIO website at:

Climate and development challenges at Cancun

A guest post by Axel Michaelowa:

This year’s climate summit is held in the Mexican sea resort of Cancun, dominated by a sequence of high-rise hotels on a sandy spit. This “sun and sand” city and the negotiation venue embody the challenges of greeenhouse gas emissions mitigation in an exemplary manner. Despite a balmy 25°C air temperature, air conditioners run at full throttle. The negotiation venue consists of two parts at almost 20 km from the main hotels, necessitating huge fleets of buses running day and night. Spending three hours per day on these buses is not unusual if one wants to participate in one of the external side events.

The development challenge linked to international climate policy is embodied by the host country Mexico. On the one hand, Mexico is member of the OECD and thus should embark on greenhouse gas mitigation. On the other hand, it is looking for international subsidies for a substantial share of its mitigation portfolio. For example, a programme of “green mortgages” for energy efficient new housing is one of the first “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” for which Mexico wants to get financing by the highly industrialized countries. This is unsurprising, given that all developing countries and emerging economies are vying for chunks of the 30 billion $ “fast start” finance for emissions mitigation and adaptation to climate change pledged in Copenhagen. But whether this money will really be “new and additional” is very doubtful. Martin Stadelmann (CIS) presented his analysis of possible baselines for determination of additionality of climate finance at a well-attended side event (see also his CIS Working Paper with Timmons Roberts and Axel Michaelowa). The discussion at this event was dominated by the question whether donor countries in the past correctly reported development assistance for mitigation. Our own research (see Katharina and Axel Michaelowa’s paper on “Coding error or statistical embellishment”) had found serious examples of misreporting, which has now prompted the OECD to ask their member states for a reassessment of their projects.

The main challenge of Cancun is to provide momentum in international climate policy after the high profile failure of the Copenhagen summit in December 2009. Otherwise, the climate negotiations might suffer from “WTO syndrome” – i.e. an increasing irrelevance for the international media and policymakers. But a surprisingly sober mood has prevailed in the first week of negotiations. Issues that had been contentious for several years such as the inclusion of carbon capture and storage in the Clean Development Mechanism were quietly resolved during the first week. Whether the tropical climate of Cancun has softened negotiators’ attitudes or whether this is due to the low-key nature of the conference remains unclear.

Donor Interest, Policy Coherence, and the Institutional Structure of Public Aid

On September 16, the Swiss daily newspaper “Tagesanzeiger” reported that Amnesty International (AI) is disappointed about Swiss development aid. Representatives of AI as well as of the Swiss NGO network “Alliance Sud” deplore the limited aid budget (with political difficulties to agree to an increase up to 0.5 of the Swiss GNI in 2015), as well as the lack of a clear strategy and policy incoherence.

According to estimates by Alliance Sud, Swiss Bank accounts hold illicit money from developing countries in the order of 360 billion CHF (1 CHF≈1 USD). If they were properly taxed, year by year, developing countries could benefit from an extra financial inflow of about 6 billion CHF which is an amount more than twice as important as current public Swiss development assistance. The article further complains about political concessions to the pharmaceutical industry and to agriculture, again to the detriment of developing countries.

In the other major Swiss newspaper “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (NZZ) we read today that part of the future aid budget will be used to meet the pledges made in the Copenhagen agreement on international climate policy. Interesting, the attentive reader will say – since the agreement itself considers that these funds should be additional (to aid funds, nota bene!). As we could read in NZZ four days ago, the head of the Swiss aid agency DEZA is well aware of this fact, but argues that this part, of course, will not be taken from existing funds, but only from the projected increase in development aid, i.e., the increase the Swiss Parliament is yet to decide about. Can this be considered as additional if the overall amount, even optimistically projected, still falls short considerably of the internationally agreed objective of 0.7%?

But I do not intend to dwell on numbers which, anyway, say pretty little about what has been actually achieved in development cooperation. Rather, I would like to stress that this type of development policy making is not specific for Switzerland in any way (apart, maybe, from the issue of the banks). Almost all donors promise aid amounts, over and over again, of which they know that they will never get them through parliament. Almost all will try to double count whatever they spend, against both climate and development objectives (and many of them even count a substantial amount of their aid projects as climate relevant, although there is no link to climate change issues at all – see our recent CIS Working paper on over-coding.

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The G8 and the international development agenda: What’s new?

Ever since the summit in Gleneagles in 2005, development policy has become a regular focus of G8 meetings. Again, at the G8 annual summit last week in Muskoka, Canada (25-26 June 2010) a substantial part of the discussions was dedicated to these issues. In the Muskoka Declaration, six out of sixteen pages directly cover development policy, the remainder covers the topics: environmental sustainability and green recovery, trade and investment, and international peace and security – topics which are obviously of much relevance for developing countries, too – arguably of even more relevance than policy decisions in the area of development cooperation directly.

But let us now look at the decisions directly focusing on development assistance. Continue reading