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Kristina Daugirdas's important new article prompts two kinds of responses. By providing a sophisticated analysis of the role of reputation in influencing the behavior of international actors, it invites further thoughts about what we might think reputation is and does. By taking a moral position—the UN should do more to reduce sexual abuse by UN-sponsored peacekeepers in conflict zones—she provokes us to consider how to optimize institutional design in light of particular goals. In this essay, I don't quarrel with anything she says. Rather, I will respond to her prompting. I will discuss methodological issues first, then normative ones.
As Kristina Daugirdas points out in her article on the role of reputation in international organizations (IOs), peacekeeping operations include a multitude of actors with varying interests. These actors have competing priorities, which forces IOs to balance the needs of the actors involved in peacekeeping missions. Because IOs often depend on member states as implementing agents, this could cause IOs to suppress their own interests in favor of member states, which could ultimately negatively affect the communities in which the peacekeepers operate. This dynamic is present in UN peacekeeping operations. While Daugirdas seeks to align the incentives of the UN and the states that contribute peacekeepers so as to harness reputation as a force to encourage the good behavior of all involved, I argue that this alignment rarely happens because of IOs’ reliance on member states. Through the dynamics of UN peacekeeping operations, I show that the UN reliance on states to provide police officers and troops suppresses the UN's own interests in favor of the contributing states’ interests. I also identify a carrots and sticks approach to balancing incentives. As Paul Stephan does in his essay for this symposium, I draw on a rational-choice, actor-based theory to identify the mixed motives of the various actors who staff and operate peacekeeping missions. The framework proposed here, I contend, provides a way to better understand the sources of the tension that exist when evaluating reputation as a disciplinary tool for IOs.
In her recent article on the reputation of international organizations (IOs), Kristina Daugirdas concludes that reputation's constraining effect has some serious shortcomings in the context of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). This essay extends those conclusions to recent mass torts cases against IOs. In particular, it argues that member states and IOs have independent and overlapping concerns that have contributed to devaluing the relevance of a “good reputation,” particularly when it comes to providing compensation for wrongful conduct. IOs, it seems, do not want to develop a reputation for deep pockets. Nonetheless, this essay also demonstrates that when compensation is not at issue, there are instances in which reputation matters to IOs. It concludes by discussing recent cases related to responsibility and organizational immunities and suggests that the trend of narrowing immunities may change the reputational calculus for IOs and member states significantly.
Kristina Daugirdas offers a different vantage point from most scholarship on the accountability of international organizations (IOs) by examining whether a focus on reputation can address accountability deficits. In this regard, reputational concerns could pressure international organizations to act by, for example, waiving immunity. In this essay, I explore the relationship between reputation and accountability through the prism of new technologies. Koettl, Murray, and Dubberley highlight four technological developments—“satellite imagery, camera-enabled portable phones, digital social networks and publicly accessible data”—that underpin “human rights investigations in the digital age.” This essay focuses on two of these technologies in particular: the use of new technologies to capture voice and image recordings of potential violations and the role of social media in amplifying allegations. I suggest that they can open routes to accountability in three ways. First, they expose and document claims of wrongdoing. Second, they provide corroborating evidence and thereby encourage victims to come forward. Third, they amplify claims and build public pressure and campaigns for accountability through social media. All three routes, individually or collectively, may lead to direct accountability as well as a structural analysis of how to prevent violations in the future. I then identify the factors that may elevate or reduce the levels by which an IO deems its reputation to be at risk and therefore responds, rather than deciding to “ride out” damage stemming from allegations of wrongdoing and a failure to act on them.
Our contribution to this symposium speaks to the origins of international organization (IO) reputation. The one explored by Daugirdas is agency slack: when people delegated power and authority within an organization—in her example, UN peacekeepers and their surrounding bureaucracy—abuse their privilege and stain the institution's character. We explore another that can spark similar reactions and consequences, but which emanates from the behavior of the principals themselves (rather than their agents): the member states. The company an IO keeps—how members behave—can bolster or stain the organization's reputation. That in turn can have consequences, especially for organizations seeking to provide a venue for members to make credible commitments.