EAI held an Expert Seminar, together with the Institute of International Studies at Kyung Hee University, on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 with Professor Duncan Snidal from the University of Oxford. In this seminar, Professor Snidal provided a brief, but thorough overview of a recent trend in shifting from formal to informal intergovernmental organizations.
According to Professor Snidal, a new form of IGOs has given way to the formal institutional form, known as the informal IGOs (IIGOs) due to political and economic benefits observed from integrating specific regional aspects into formal institutions. Despite IIGOs having a relatively weaker administrative structure and a limited secretariat, they have greater flexibility in organizing recurrent meetings with high level national officials and coordinating collective understandings and actions. They have been particularly well-suited for interstate collaboration in times of rapid change and crisis, which might explain the IIGOs’ greater focus on security and politics as issue areas.
Institutions like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been recognized as an informal IIGO. Scholars have attributed the “ASEAN way” to an Asian cultural ethos that is more communitarian, more consensus-driven, and “softer” in terms of international commitments where sovereignty is key. However, Professor Snidal explains that the proliferation of IIGOs is not simply an Asian phenomenon, but rather reflects the changing organizational needs in the twenty-first century. It would be inaccurate to associate informality as unique to the Asian regional experience. Region as a factor may provide important insights, but a deeper understanding underlying similarities and differences in IIGOs must be made as IGOs often shift from informal to formal. Thus, it can implied that IIGOs provide an alternative institutional format—more or less formalization—that can be useful for different problems and at certain times.
"Why Are States Shifting to Informal International Governmental Organizations?"
Prof. Duncan Snidal, University of Oxford
President Yul Sohn, East Asia Institute
■ Designated Discussants:
Prof. Sunil Kim, Kyung Hee University
Dr. Kyongjun Choi, East Asia Institute / Institute of International Studies, Kyung Hee University
Prof. Woo-Seon Choi, Korea Diplomatic Academy
Prof. Hyung-Min Joo, Korea University
Prof. Don Moon, Kyung Hee University
Prof. Dong Sun Lee, Korea University
Prof. Seung Joo Lee, Chung Ang University
Prof. Jong Hee Park, Seoul National University