ARENA Tuesday Seminar: Thomas Gehring

Prof. Thomas Gehring from the University of Bamberg presented the paper 'Toward rule-based decision-making in international organizations: The effects of committee governance in international organizations' at the ARENA Tuesday Seminar on 15 March 2016.

The paper was co-authored with his Bamberg colleagues Manuel Becker and Thomas Dörfler. 


We examine organizational effects of committee governance and show that delegating regulatory tasks to subsidiary bodies creates specific opportunity structures that may induce political actors to accept rule-based instead of power-based decision-making.

First, we develop a theoretical account of why, how and under which conditions delegating implementation decisions to committees established within an organization might drive its member states toward rule-based governance, even if the delegating and the power wielding bodies are composed of the same members. Of particular importance are two factors, namely functional differentiation between different bodies or decision stages and the demand for focal points that are best supplied by externally given rules, externally provided decision proposals or even internally produced precedents.

Second, we probe the theoretical claim with evidence from the Security Council’s Iraq sanctions regime, namely the United Nations Compensation Commission’s decisions about compensation claims for damage from the Iraqi invasion in Kuwait and for the Sanctions Committee’s decisions about numerous applications for exemptions from the economic embargo imposed upon Iraq. Based upon unique data sets, we examine whether rules or the distribution of power among the requesting states better explain decisions. In brief case studies, we explore additionally, how the committees reached at rule-based decisions.

We conclude that delegating regulatory decisions to committees can, even in highly politicized settings like the Security Council, produce rule-based decision-making without excluding the member states of an international organization from the decision process. Thus, rule-based governance may constitute an alternative to delegation of decisions to independent agencies, and it provides opportunities for introducing knowledge-based expertise into politically legitimized decision-making.

Download the paper (restricted access)

Please note that this paper is work in progress and thus has limited distribution, please contact us if you would like access. Do not cite without permission from the author. 

Published Dec. 18, 2015 2:25 PM - Last modified Apr. 24, 2017 2:46 PM