Democratization and International Organizations
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. a
a 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.