Modes of Decision-Making in International Organizations

International organizations reach decisions in accordance with vastly differing rules. Besides unanimity and simple majority rule, international organizations have developed various forms of majority voting with varied procedures for weighting votes and distributing veto power to individual states or groups of states. In some cases, member states even chose to delegate certain decisions to independent agencies within a given organization.

Recognition and procedural justice

Past research has primarily made use of functional perspectives to investigate the creation of these various modes of decision-making. Accordingly, member states in a given organization choose the modes of decision-making which guarantee that the issues in question are handled in the most efficient and effective manner possible. However, fundamental matters of justice are likewise always at stake when rules for decision-making are formulated. Negotiations on the rules for decision-making are not only a matter of procedural efficiency but also one of recognition (Who is entitled to participate in decision-making in the first place?) and procedural justice (How should influence be divided among the participants?). Thus, negotiations on new decision-making rules or reforms to existing ones stand to become focal points of justice conflicts, such as when regional groups of states demand just representation in international decision-making bodies.


Sources of conflict in decision-making processes

The project focuses on these matters of justice that have so far largely been neglected. It poses two research questions: To what extent do conflicts of justice influence attempts to establish new modes of decision-making or to reform existing ones? How just are the resulting decision-making procedures adopted by various international organizations? To this end, the project first surveys the existent modes of decision-making for a cross-section of international organizations. In a second step, it identifies the positions that the actors involved assume when negotiating or challenging these rules along with the narratives they employ to justify their positions. This, in turn, serves as a basis for determining conflicts of justice and identifying their relevance and impact on modes of decision-making.