Decision Making in International Organizations: The Selection and Design of Formal and Informal Decision Rules in International Institutions


Methods of preference aggregation have received a wealth of attention in the literature on voting behavior, yet, as compared to individual voters, similar processes within international organizations (IOs) have received relatively little attention even as states continue to delegate increasingly more decision-making to international institutions. The way in which international decisions are made and the methods used to aggregate state preferences can have significant consequences for international politics. Thus, this project considers how formal voting rules are selected in IOs and considers the variation in methods of preference aggregation. For instance, why does the WTO exhibit majority, one-state, one-vote decision-making rules while in the World Bank votes are assigned according to a system of weights, giving some states more decision-making power than others?  Second, this project investigates the role of informal and consensus decision-making rules on international policy outcomes. The two organizations mentioned above, the WTO and the World Bank, have codified consensus rules, thus what is the impact making decisions via consensus in the shadow of weighted or majority decision rules? Third, in some circumstances, voting in IOs can be understood as a decision to delegate authority to an international agent, but the type of voting rule (unanimity, majority, etc.) will affect the relationship between the collective principal (states) and the agent (international bureaucrats). It is thus, essential to understand how principals and agents understand the nature of these delegation contracts. In other words, does the agent perceive more authority than intended by states and if so, how does this affect international policy making? This project explores these questions through a series of large-N, empirical studies of voting rules in IOs.