(if you don't have institutional access to these articles, please email me for a copy if you are interested)
Patz, Ronny, Svanhildur Thorvaldsdottir and Klaus H. Goetz. 2022. Accountability and Affective Styles in Administrative Reporting: The Case of UNRWA, 1951–2020. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.
Abstract: This contribution theorizes on the emergence of affective styles in the accountability reporting of public agencies. Under conditions of multiple accountability towards heterogeneous stakeholders, public agencies are expected to make increased use of sentiment in their reporting. Agencies’ differentiated modulation of positive and negative sentiment results in four ideal-typical affective styles: technocratic, political, alarming, and self-praising. The plausibility of this framework is demonstrated for the case of a major international public agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which serves several million Palestine refugees. We conduct a dictionary-based sentiment analysis of UNRWA annual reports published between 1951 and 2020, a corpus of 1.47 million words. Additional evidence from interviews with UNRWA officials and diplomats is also considered. Over time, the agency’s use of sentiment has increased in response to diversifying stakeholders and its affective style of reporting has changed repeatedly. Contrary to established theoretical expectations, multiple accountability not only increases positive reporting and self-praise. Rather, with increasing levels of negativity, the alarming and political styles of communication have played a much stronger role. These findings demonstrate that agencies’ chief goal in accountability reporting is not simply to elicit positive assessments from their respective accountability forums through self-praising language. Agencies may also aim to achieve “negativity congruence” with accountability forums by increasing negative sentiment, thus compelling stakeholders to acknowledge the operational challenges agencies face.
Thorvaldsdottir, Svanhildur, Ronny Patz and Steffen Eckhard. 2021. International Bureaucracy and the United Nations System, Introduction to special edition of International Review of Administrative Sciences on "International Bureaucracy and the United Nations System".
Abstract: Built on the administrative system of the League of Nations, since the Second World War, the United Nations has grown into a sizeable, complex and multilevel system of several dozen international bureaucracies. Outside of a brief period in the 1980s, and despite growing scholarship on international public administrations over the past two decades, there have been few publications in the International Review of Administrative Sciences on the evolution of the United Nations system and its many public administrations. The special issue ‘International Bureaucracy and the United Nations System’ aims to encourage renewed scholarly focus on this global level of public administration. This introduction makes the case for why studying the United Nations’ bureaucracies matters from a public administration perspective, takes stock of key literature and discusses how the seven articles contribute to key substantive and methodological advancements in studying the administrations of the United Nations system.
Thorvaldsdottir, Svanhildur and Ronny Patz. 2021. Explaining sentiment shifts in UN system annual reporting: a longitudinal comparison of UNHCR, UNRWA and IOM. International Review of Administrative Sciences.
Abstract: Annual reports are a central element of international bureaucracies' accountability communication to member states and other stakeholders. Most UN system bureaucracies produce reports of significant length and detail. International agencies use these reports to draw attention to particular challenges or successes. Hitting the right tone with their diverse stakeholders is crucial to maintain continued support. UN agencies do so by employing differentiated sentiment-loaded language alongside factual reporting. We argue that agencies' operational focus, administrative structures and resource mobilization needs have a significant impact on how they use sentiment to communicate with different stakeholder groups. Drawing on a dictionary-based sentiment analysis of three text corpora of annual reports produced by three UN system agencies—UNRWA (reports published from 1951 to 2019), UNHCR (1953–2019) and IOM (2000–2019)—we show a general trend toward increased positive sentiment use across all three agencies, coinciding with a period of stronger donor orientation. At the same time, we find a more volatile and agency-specific use of negative sentiment in response to field-level challenges that are communicated to stakeholders in line with agencies' evolving mandates. Through a text-as-data perspective, this contribution enhances our comparative understanding of the diverse and context-dependent language of international bureaucracies.
Thorvaldsdottir, Svanhildur, Ronny Patz and Klaus H. Goetz, 2021. Mandate or Donors? Explaining UNHCR's country-level expenditures from 1967-2016, Political Studies
Abstract: In recent decades, many international organizations (IOs) have become almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions. Much existing literature suggests that major donors use their funding to refocus IOs' attention away from their core mandate and towards serving donors' geostrategic interests. We investigate this claim in the context of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), examining whether donor influence negatively impacts mandate delivery and leads the organization to direct expenditures more towards recipient countries that are politically, economically, or geographically salient to major donors. Analyzing a new dataset of UNHCR finances (1967-2016), we find that UNHCR served its global mandate with considerably consistency. Applying flexible measures of collective donor influence, so-called `influence-weighted interest scores' (IWIS), our findings suggest that donor influence matters for the expenditure allocation of the agency, but that mandate-undermining effects of such influence are limited, and most pronounced during salient refugee situations within Europe.
Patz, Ronny and Svanhildur Thorvaldsdottir. 2020. Drivers of Expenditure Allocation in IOM: Refugees, Donors, and International Bureaucracy. In The International Organization for Migration: The New 'UN Migration Agency' in Critical Perspective, edited by Martin Geiger and Antoine Pécoud. Palgrave.
Abstract: Resources are key to the operations of international organisations (IOs) such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM). As many IOs and their international bureaucracies cannot rely on obligatory state contributions alone, the overall availability of resources therefore ultimately depends on IO bureaucracies’ mobilisation of additional voluntary funding from states and other donors. Focusing on the resourcing of IOM, we analyse almost two decades (1999–2016) of donor contributions and country-level expenditures of the agency, comparing these figures with similar data for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Through our analysis, we find that the IOM does not respond to refugee numbers in the same way that UNHCR does, while both organisations are responsive in their expenditure patterns to other populations of concern. We also assess the extent to which geographical distance from key donors plays a role in where the organisations allocate their funding. Here, the IOM expenditures shift in line with donor interests to a much greater extent than for the UNHCR. Our findings suggest that the IOM serves distinct political and operational purposes, sustained by a highly earmarked and projectised funding model that distinguishes it from the UNHCR and other IOs.
Thorvaldsdottir, Svanhildur and Ronny Patz. Budget Analysis [in International Organization Research], in Introduction to International Organization Research Methods, edited by Fanny Badache, Emilie Dairon, Leah R. Kimber, and Lucile Maertens. University of Michigan Press (forthcoming). APSA Preprint available here
Thorvaldsdottir, Svanhildur. How to Win Friends and Influence the UN: Donor Influence on the United Nations' Bureaucracy
It is well-known that states seek to get their nationals hired into international organizations (IOs), but the reasons behind this are less well-understood. This paper argues that one benefit that states derive is that the more nationals a state has on the staff of an IO, the more similar the policy preferences of that agency become to the state's. Not all states, however, have an equal ability to get their nationals hired by IOs. Examining an original dataset on UN staff nationalities, this paper demonstrates that major donors to voluntarily-funded UN development agencies have a larger number of their nationals on staff than do similar non-major donors. It further shows that those agencies' aid portfolios look more similar to countries that have a large number of their nationals on the agency's staff. Interestingly, this effect is driven not by those countries that existing theories of informal influence would lead us to believe should be most influential---namely the G5---but rather by other, less powerful, bilateral donors. This suggests that a much larger number of countries can informally influence IOs than is usually thought.
Malik, Rabia and Svanhildur Thorvaldsdottir. Are Goodwill Ambassadors Good for Business? The Impact of Celebrities on IO Fundraising.
Abstract: International organizations (IOs) increasingly raise funds from individual donors, including almost a billion USD for UNICEF in 2017, but very little is known about the factors these donors respond to or how IOs attract them. Individual contributions can be a significant source of IO autonomy, so strategies employed by IOs to enhance them are important to understand. We conduct a survey experiment to analyze the effectiveness of a commonly used IO fundraising method: celebrity Goodwill Ambassadors. We find that celebrity endorsement is only an effective fundraising tool under certain conditions. Specifically, we find no unconditional ATE, but do find that men's tendency to donate less than women is mitigated when a Goodwill Ambassador endorses a UNICEF cause, and that donors who share an ethnicity with the endorser donate more. These findings highlight the need to appropriately target Goodwill Ambassador campaigns but that, when effective, they can bring substantial additional funding.
Thorvaldsdottir, Svanhildur. Behave or else? Aid and voting on the UN Security Council
Recent scholarship has shown that states holding a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council receive higher levels of aid from the United States. This has led to the question: are states being bribed for their votes? The results from the existing literature support an affirmative answer to this question. Using recently available data on votes in the UN Security Council, I address this question more directly than previous studies have been able to. I find that the US does use financial incentives to induce states to vote with them on the Security Council. However, on average, the US does not seem to punish states (or reward them) for their voting behavior. This suggests that the US may not be bribing for votes so much as buying goodwill from the elected members of the Security Council. These findings add greater nuance to the current analysis of vote-buying within international organizations, and can also serve as a starting point for further research into the behavior of the members of the UN Security Council.
Other works in progress
Driving Pollution: Specifying and Estimating the Environmental Kuznets Curve (with Lawrence Rothenberg)
Draft available upon request
Ideology and Donations to the UN System
Draft available upon request