British Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Helpful Organizations: Membership in Inter-Governmental Organizations and Environmental Quality in Developing Countries

Gabriele Spilker*


Does membership in intergovernmental organizations help developing countries enhance their environmental performance? This article argues that IGO membership can improve the environmental performance of developing countries, by linking different issues, promoting the general idea of environmental sustainability and providing a channel through which these countries receive technologies and resources necessary to reduce pollution. This argument has been tested on panel data for 114 developing countries in 1970–2000. The results confirm that, controlling for a country's income and its political system, IGO membership is indeed associated with a reduction in both air pollution and greenhouse gases. To understand the mechanisms behind this result better, IGO membership is disaggregated according to both function and the degree of institutionalization of the respective organization.

(Online publication October 25 2011)


* ETH, Zurich (email: For detailed suggestions and comments, the author thanks Thomas Bernauer, Xun Cao, Erik Gartzke, Simon Hug, Anna Kalbhenn, Vally Koubi, Lena Schaffer and the Journal's Editor, Hugh Ward, as well as its anonymous reviewers, for detailed suggestions and comments. This article was written in the context of the National Center for Competence in Research (NCCR), ‘Democracy in the 21st Century’.