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42 J. Conflict Resol. 3 (1998)
Why States Act through Formal International Organizations

handle is hein.journals/jcfltr42 and id is 1 raw text is: 








Why States Act through Formal

International Organizations


KENNETH W. ABBOTI'
Graduate and International Studies
Northwestern University School of Law
DUNCAN SNIDAL
Department of Political Science
University of Chicago




    States use formal international organizations (lOs) to manage both their everyday interactions and more
dramatic episodes, including international conflicts. Yet, contemporary international theory does not explain
the existence or form of IOs. This article addresses the question of why states use formal organizations by
investigating the functions IOs perform and the properties that enable them to perform those functions.
Starting with a rational-institutionalist perspective that sees IOs as enabling states to achieve their ends, the
authors examine power and distributive questions and the role of IOs in creating norms and understanding.
Centralization and independence are identified as the key properties of formal organizations, and their
importance is illustrated with a wide array of examples. lOs as community representatives further allow
states to create and implement community values and enforce international commitments.




    *  When   the United States decided to reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, it did not act
       unilaterally (although it often does). It turned to the United Nations (UN) Security
       Council.
    *  When  the Security Council sought to learn the extent of chemical, biological, and nuclear
       arms in Iraq, it did not rely on U.S. forces. It dispatched inspectors from the International
       Atomic  Energy Agency   (IAEA).
    *  When   the international community  sought  to maintain the suspension of combat   in
       Bosnia, it did not rely only on national efforts. It sent in peacekeeping units under the
       aegis of the UN and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
    *  When  states liberalized trade in services and strengthened intellectual property protection
       in the Uruguay Round, they were not content to draft rules. They created the World Trade
       Organization  (WTO)  and a highly institutionalized dispute settlement mechanism.


    Formal   international organizations  (IOs) are prominent   (if not always  successful)
 participants in many   critical episodes in international politics. Examples   in addition


    AUTHORS'   NOTE:  We are grateful for valuable comments from Lea Brilmayer, Judith Goldstein, Charles
 Lipson, Andrew Moravcsik, James Morrow, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and seminar participants at the University
 of California at Berkeley, Harvard University Law School, New York University Law School, Princeton
 University, and the Program on International Politics, Economics and Security (PIPES) at the University of
 Chicago. For financial support, Abbott thanks the Russell Baker Fund, the Charles C. Linthicum Fund, and the
 Northwestern Summer Research Grant program.
 JOURNAL  OF CONFLICT  RESOLUTION, Vol. 42 No. 1, February 1998 3-32
 0 1998 Sage Publications, Inc.
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from the SAGE Social Science Collections. All Rights Reserved.

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