Parliaments and Security Policy

Project funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF), 2016 “Parliaments and Security Policy: Control, Legitimacy, and Effectiveness of Foreign Policy Decisions”, Project Leaders: Patrick A. Mello and Dirk Peters

Project Summary: The role of parliaments in security policy remains a matter of intense debate. Is parliamentary involvement necessary for a legitimate democratic process? Or does security policy fall under the exclusive competence of the executive, due to specific requirements concerning secrecy and procedure? In parallel with this political debate, academic research has increasingly turned its attention to the role of parliaments in security policy in recent years. Its focus rests particularly on the question to which extent parliaments are involved in decision-making on military operations. But studies have also investigated whether parliamentary involvement affects the formulation and contents of security policy and, eventually, results in a more peaceful foreign policy. Such studies address a central concern of peace research. The workshop picks up these debates and aims to move them forward. It takes stock of current developments, further develops the state of research in this area, and generates knowledge to inform the political debate. Specifically, the workshop widens the perspective beyond the initial steps of the decision-making procedure to examine three dimensions of the relationship between parliaments and security policy. Hence the workshop is structured along the following guiding questions:

  • What are the causes of different degrees of parliamentary strength?
  • Which factors influence the contents of parliamentary decisions?
  • What are the effects of parliamentary involvement in security policy?

Specifically, the contributions to the workshop go beyond the widely held conception of parliaments as unitary actors, move beyond the national context to include the supranational level, and investigate other areas of security policy in addition to the central issue of parliamentary involvement in military deployments, such as intelligence matters, arms policy, or anti-terrorism measures.

An authors’ workshop took place on 22-23 September 2016 at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung). The organizers gratefully acknowledge funding from the German Foundation for Peace Research (Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung) and financial and logistical support from the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and the Bavarian School of Public Policy at the Technical University of Munich. The workshop was organized under the auspices of the DVPW-Themengruppe Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik. [More Information]


Organizational Structure and Agency Slack

Project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), 2018-2021 “International Bureaucracies as ‘Runaway Agents’? How Organizational Structure Affects Agency Slack”, Principal Investigator: Eugénia da Conceição-Heldt

Project Summary: “Over the past decades states have delegated extensive decision-making authority to the administrative bodies of international organizations. These international bureaucracies are setting agendas, participate in decision-making processes, implement policy programs, represent states in international organizations, create new regulatory agencies, and even settle disputes among states. Their gradual process of empowerment has been accompanied by an increase in oversight mechanisms, as member states, in some cases, considered that international bureaucracies had undertaken actions contrary to their intentions and overstepped their mandates (agency slack). Accordingly, international bureaucracies are sometimes portrayed as “runaway agents” that escaped the control of their principals (member states). This prompts a key question for research on international bureaucracies in global governance: under what conditions do secretariats of international organizations engage in agency slack – deviating from their mandate and acting in a way unintended by their principals?

To address this question, this project takes a Multi-Method Research approach that is suited to test and further develop principal-agent theory. We employ fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis and fuzzy-set ideal type analysis for a systematic cross-case comparison and, subsequently, process-tracing for an in-depth study of selected international bureaucracies, each of which are analyzed for specific policies. We test our theoretical expectations on 27 international bureaucracies, where we gather data on four organizational characteristics: fragmentation, staffing rules, buffering, and permeability. The chosen approach will allow us to investigate necessary and sufficient conditions for the occurrence of agency slack, to identify underlying causal mechanisms, and to assess the plausibility of alternative explanations. The insights gained from the project will enable us to map different patterns of agency slack and explain under which organizational structures international bureaucracies act against their principals’ preferences. Showing how organizational structure matters by comparing different international bureaucracies will enrich principal-agent theory and help us bridge the gap between theoretical considerations and empirical work in the field.” [More Information]


Democracy and War

Democratic Participation in Armed Conflict examines the use of force by democracies as the ‘flip-side’ of the democratic peace proposition. The book starts on the observation that some democracies display a high frequency in the use of military force, whereas others abstain from military operations entirely or use force only with great reluctance. This empirical phenomenon became become most visible during the ‘democratic interventionism’ of the 1990s and the beginning 2000s. Traditional International Relations approaches, however, fall short of providing sufficient explanations for this observed variance. The book aims to ‘unpack democracy’, drawing on insights from Comparative Politics, to identify specific configurations of political institutions, actors, and preference structures that enable and/or constrain democratic foreign policy and, in particular, political decisions on military participation. The study applies fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) for a comparison across 30 democracies and their military participation or non-participation in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.