Why do some international organizations work closely with private sector actors, while others collaborate with nongovernmental organizations and other civil society organizations? What leads international organizations to choose to work with one type of actor while screening others out? I argue international organizations primarily collaborate with nonstate actors in order to access two key benefits: information and political support. Who gets in, and conversely who gets left out, is a function of which nonstate actors’ skills the international organization and its member states will most benefit from. Organizations that spend their time coordinating and regulating international behavior will rely heavily on the assistance of private sector actors, while organizations that spend their time implementing projects and working on the ground in member states will collaborate primarily with civil society actors.
I test this theory of differential nonstate actor access at international organizations using an original dataset which details the access that 72 international organizations provide to private sector actors and civil society actors. I show that international organizations with a broader policy scope offer more access to nonstate actors generally, and that the type of work the organization is engaged in can be used to predict with whom they choose to work.
I further support these empirical findings using two case studies which examine in more detail the access that international organizations in the tails of the distribution provide to nonstate actors. First, I look at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which coordinates member states’ defense capabilities and collaborates extensively with private sector actors, and second, I look at the Council of Europe, which works to improve human rights conditions on the ground and allows access exclusively to international nongovernmental organizations.
This dissertation speaks to important questions of whose voice is heard at the international policymaking table, the balance of perspectives policymakers receive, and the power of nonstate actors in our political system.