The Networked Diplomacy of Informal International Institutions

The Case of the Proliferation Security Initiative

In: Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations
Michael W. Manulak Carleton University Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Canada Ottawa, Ontario

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The rise of informal international institutions has been one of the most significant developments in institutional design and choice since the 1990s. While states have increasingly opted for informal governance, little is known about the character of intergovernmental relations in these settings. Scholars, for instance, debate whether great powers dominate such institutions, or whether influence can be exercised by a wider array of players. Drawing from the author’s experience as a government representative within the Proliferation Security Initiative, a leading informal institution, this article provides a theory-driven analysis of intergovernmental interactions within such bodies. It demonstrates that diplomacy within informal institutions tends to assume a decentralized, networked quality that favors actors positioned at the center of intergovernmental networks. In doing so, the article highlights clear means through which central network positions confer influence. The article also sheds new light on the Proliferation Security Initiative and on counterproliferation cooperation more generally.

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