Document Type

Conference Paper

Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

International Studies Association Meeting

Conference Location

San Diego, California

DOI of Published Version


Total Pages

30 pages


Many scholars accept the important role international organizations (IOs) play in facilitating cooperation among states in world politics, yet there is disagreement about the theoretical mechanisms that best account for the positive correlation between shared IO memberships and cooperation. Institutionalists and Rationalists treat state preferences as fixed and emphasize the influence of IO memberships on interstate bargaining. In this view, IOs act as constraints, because while they help states negotiate more efficiently (with fewer costs & greater information), they do not significantly alter states’ preferences. Constructivists, on the other hand, recognize that organizations can alter member states’ identities and interests, and that long and deep commitments to international organizations can have constitutive effects on member states’ preferences and behavior. In this paper, I derive several hypotheses about the constraining and constitutive effects of IOs on member state behavior from existing theoretical arguments in the IR literature and evaluate these claims empirically using data on contentious issues from the Issue Correlates of War Project. Empirical analyses show that while shared IO memberships (frequency and duration) neither prevent the onset of new contentious issues nor promote more frequent peaceful settlement attempts, they do decrease the use of militarized force and produce more successful negotiation attempts. Disputants are much more likely to reach and comply with agreements to end contentious issue claims when they share more frequent and durable memberships in international organizations.


This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2006 International Studies Association meeting in San Diego, California and for presentation at the Intergovernmental Organizations in Action conference, La Jolla, California, March 26-27, 2006.


Copyright © 2006 Sara Mitchell