Discussion Papers

No.850 Measuring the Influence of Executive Heads in International Organizations —Illustrative Analysis on the Effects of Democratic Density—

by Tomoko Takahashi, Sanae Suzuki and Taku Yukawa

March 2022


This paper focuses on the influence of Executive Heads (EHs) of international organizations (IOs) and introduces a newly created dataset that calibrates two groups of factors that can alter the extent of their influence: (i) institutional factors and (ii) personal traits. All factors are measured for across eighteen multi-issue IOs for the years 1980–2015. Secondly, this paper conducts a descriptive analysis to show that the dataset can speak to a wide range of topics on IOs. Thirdly, an illustrative analysis demonstrates the dataset’s ability to support deep, fine grained studies and also yields interesting findings in its own right. Specifically, we show that democratic IOs confer more authority to EHs, while autocratic ones show a preference for intergovernmentalism. This is in line with outcomes related to personal traits, where EHs in democratic IOs possess expertise on institutional policy-making, and those in autocratic IOs have domestic authority to some extent, which dovetails with the average age of the EHs. The paper thus offers a significant contribution to scholarly research on IOs; despite the increasing attention paid to the autonomous capabilities of IO secretariats, there have only been sporadic case studies on EHs, and our dataset enables systematic research on these important actors.

Keywords: international organizations, executive heads, dataset, institutional factors, personal traits, Personal Biography Approach, democratic density

JEL classification: F53, F55, F59

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