Accumulating Authority in International Meta-Organizations

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Valtteri VÄHÄ-SAVO, University of Tampere, Finland
Jukka SYVÄTERÄ, University of Tampere, Finland
Leena TERVONEN-GONCALVES, University of Tampere, Finland
The world has seen a dramatic increase in the number of international organizations during the last hundred years. Among them there is a constantly growing group of so-called meta-organizations, whose members are themselves organizations. Especially in the case of national policy-related organizations, it has largely remained a mystery, why they are so eager to join international meta-organizations, even when their activities are mostly tied to national policy objectives. Drawing on the theoretical framework of epistemic governance, our paper suggests that from the member’s viewpoint meta-organizations appear as accumulations of epistemic capital, which they can tap into when pursuing their interests on the national field.

To understand why potential members decide to join meta-organizations, it is necessary to analyze how meta-organizations build themselves and present themselves as accumulations of authority, which can be utilized by the members. This paper focuses on a case study concerning the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), which was established in 2006 and quickly gained a membership of 100 National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) from 88 countries. Our case study examines the activities of the meta-organization and the rationales it offers for prospective members to join the IANPHI. We identify five distinct mechanisms, through which the IANPHI accumulates epistemic capital, making itself an attractive body for NPHIs throughout the world. The paper also looks at the more general implications these mechanisms have for the construction and spread of global models and for the dynamics between local and international organizations.