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The Design of Informal Intergovernmental Organizations

An Anatomy of the G20

Informal intergovernmental organizations (IIGO s) are institutionally weak: they lack a legal foundation and a permanent secretariat, staff, or headquarters. Yet states’ use of IIGO s like the Group of 7 (G7), Group of 20 (G20), and Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) group has grown from ad hoc crisis management to the ongoing governance of a variety of critical global issues. How do IIGO s support extensive state interaction without a permanent secretariat? Surprisingly, whereas existing work focuses on why states choose informality, how IIGO s function and adapt remains little explored. This article traces the changing organizational requirements and IIGO s’ institutional design through an in-depth anatomy of the G20. It demonstrates that the G20 substituted for formal centralization through the development of three principal mechanisms: a troika rotating chair system, the designation of Sherpas, and the reliance on information technology. In doing so, the article highlights the institutional foundations of one of the most significant organizational reconfigurations in the post-Cold War multilateral system.

Dr. David Hagebölling
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