International Organization

Research Article

International Organizations as Policy Advisors

Songying Fanga1 and Randall W. Stonea2

a1 Rice University, Houston, Texas. E-mail: [email protected]

a2 University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y. E-mail: [email protected]


How can international organizations persuade governments to adopt policy recommendations that are based on private information when their interests conflict? We develop a game-theoretic model of persuasion that applies regardless of regime type and does not rely on the existence of domestic constituency constraints. In the model, an international organization (IO) and a domestic expert have private information about a crisis, but their preferences diverge from those of the government, which must choose whether to delegate decision making to the expert. Persuasion can take place if the international institution is able to send a credible signal. We find that this can take place only if the preferences of the IO and the domestic expert diverge and the institution holds the more moderate policy position. This result contrasts with conventional wisdom, which holds that the necessary condition for IOs to exert influence is support from a domestic constituency with aligned preferences. Our model suggests that, far from being an obstacle to international cooperation, polarized domestic politics may be a necessary condition for IOs to exert effective influence.


  We thank Philip Arena, Camelia Bejan, Xinyuan Dai, Mark Fey, Thomas Dolan, Justin Fox, Erik Gartzke, Jin Li, Jeff Marshall, Kristopher Ramsay, Branislav Slantchev, Johannes Urpelainen, Erik Voeten, Jingyi Xue, and seminar participants at the Watson Center for Conflict and Cooperation at the University of Rochester, and the Department of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh.