Designing institutions for global democracy: Flexibility through escape clauses and sunset provisions

J.W. Kuyper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


How can advocates of global democracy grapple with the empirical conditions that constitute world politics? I argue that flexibility mechanisms-commonly used to advance international cooperation-should be employed to make the institutional design project of global democracy more tractable. I highlight three specific reasons underpinning this claim. First, flexibility provisions make bargaining over different institutional designs more manageable. Second, heightened flexibility takes seriously potential concerns about path-dependent institutional development. Finally, deliberately shortening the time horizons of agents by employing flexibility provisions has cognitive benefits as it forces designers to focus specifically on issues of feasibility as well as desirability. I discuss a range of flexibility mechanisms and highlight the utility of sunset provisions and escape clauses. From this analysis, I build an argument for the usage of small-scale democratic experiments through which citizens (or their representatives) have a say in global policy making. © 2013 J. W. Kuyper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-215
Number of pages21
JournalEthics and Global Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Cited By :1

Export Date: 19 September 2018

Correspondence Address: Kuyper, J.W.; Department of Political Science, Stockholm University, Universeitwagen 10 F, Plan 5, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; email:

References: Miller, D., Against Global Democracy (2010) After the Nation?: Critical Reflections on Nationalism and Postnationalism, pp. 141-160. , eds. Keith Breen and Shane O'Neill (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan); Shapiro, I., (2005) The Flight from Reality in the Human Sciences, , (Princeton: Princeton University Press); Pierson, P., (2004) Politics in Time: History, Institutions and Social Analysis, , (Princeton: Princeton University Press); Liberman, N., Trope, Y., The Role of Feasibility and Desirability Considerations in Near and Distant Future Decisions: ATest of Temporal Construal Theory (1998) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75 (1), pp. 5-18; Rosendorff, B.P., Milner, H., The Optimal Design of International Trade Institutions: Uncertainty and Escape (2001) International Organization, 55 (4), p. 830; See the section on "Flexibility mechanisms in international cooperation"for a definition and discussion; Smith, G., Taking Deliberation Seriously: Institutional Design and Green Politics (2001) Environmental Politics, 10 (3), pp. 77-89; Teorell, J., Political Participation and Three Theories of Democracy: A Research Inventory and Agenda (2006) European Journal of Political Research, 45 (5), pp. 787-810; It is possible that referenda also embody direct democracy. This depends on what is being decided. If the referendum is to determine a specific policy, then it is closer to direct democracy. If the referendum is to select representatives or is employed by representatives to determine the preferences of citizens, it is an instantiation of representative democracy; Teorell, Political Participation and Three Theories of Democracy , pp. 788-789; See, for example, the 2010 special issue of this journal, "Book Symposium on James Bohman's Democracy across Borders"; Keohane, R.O., Stephen Macedo, and Andrew Moravcsik, 'Democracy-Enhancing Multilateralism' (2009) International Organization, 63 (1), pp. 1-31; Finnemore, M., Sikkink, K., International Norm Dynamics and Political Change (1998) International Organization, 52 (4), pp. 887-917; Moravcsik, A., Is there a "Democratic Deficit"in World Politics? A Framework for Analysis (2004) Government and Opposition, 39 (4), pp. 336-363; Bexell, M., Tallberg, J., Uhlin, A., Democracy in Global Governance: The Promise and Pitfalls of Transnational Actors (2010) Global Governance, 16 (1), p. 83; Held, D., (2006) Models of Democracy, , 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Polity Press); Teorell, Political Participation and Three Theories of Democracy , p. 787; Scholte, J.A., Reinventing Global Democracy European Journal of International Relations, , (forthcoming): 4, doi:10.1177/1354066111436237; Bexell, Democracy in Global Governance , p. 84; The deliberative model, more than representative or direct, tends to have a procedural flavor. However, the goal is still to induce subjective legitimacy through non-coercive argumentation between affected parties. This tends to take stakeholder forums, representatives bodies, and civil society as key institutional mediums; Held, D., (1995) Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance, , (Cambridge: Polity Press); Archibugi, D., Held, D., (1995) Cosmopolitan Democracy: An Agenda for a New World Order, , eds., (Cambridge: Polity Press); Cabrera, L., (2004) Political Theory of Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Case for the World State, , (London: Routledge); Dryzek, J.S., Two Paths to Global Democracy (2008) Ethical Perspectives, 15 (4), p. 471; Saward, M., Slow Theory: Taking Time over Transnational Democratic Representation (2011) Ethics and Global Politics, 4 (1), pp. 1-18; Miller, Against Global Democracy , p. 141; Little, A., Macdonald, K., Pathways to Global Democracy: Escaping the Statist Imaginary Review of International Studies, , (forthcoming): 2, doi: 10.1017/S0260210512000551; Little, Macdonald, Pathways to Global Democracy , p. 5; I thank Jonas Tallberg for impressing this methodological point on me; In this sense, I remain agnostic about which model should be aimed toward as an 'end-point' for global democracy; Dryzek, J.S., (2000) Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestations, p. 135. , (Oxford: Oxford University Press); Zürn, M., Binder, M., Ecker-Ehrhardt, M., International Authority and its Politicization (2012) International Theory, 4 (1), pp. 69-106; Tallberg, J., (2013) The Opening Up of International Organizations: Transnational Access in Global Governance, , (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press); Koremenos, B., Loosening the Ties that Bind: A Learning Model of Agreement Flexibility (2001) International Organization, 55 (2), pp. 289-325; Rosendorff, Milner, The Optimal Design of International Trade Institutions , p. 830; Koremenos, B., Lipson, C., Snidal, D., The Rational Design of International Institutions (2001) International Organization, 55 (4), pp. 761-799; Koremenos, The Rational Design of International Institutions , p. 773; Koremenos, Loosening the Ties that Bind', pp. 289-325. , As I note below, this paper by Koremenos also discusses how limited duration enhances the prospects for international bargaining; Koremenos, B., Contracting Around International Uncertainty (2005) American Political Science Review, 99 (4), p. 551; Rosendorff, Milner, The Optimal Design of International Trade Institutions , pp. 829-857; Pelc, K., Seeking Escape: The Use of Escape Clauses in International Trade (2009) International Studies Quarterly, 53 (2), pp. 349-368; Pelc, Seeking Escape , p. 367. , Although Pelc presents flexibility as one element of a rational design paradigm, his discussion of a 'norm' of justification as a core component of informal escape clauses highlights the ability of states to monitor and learn from agreement; Richards, J.E., Institutions for Flying: How States Built a Market in International Aviation Services (2001) International Organization, 55 (4), pp. 993-1017; (2013),, See the founding of the IATA (accessed on February 20); Thompson, A., Rational Design in Motion: Uncertainty and Flexibility in the Global Climate Regime (2010) European Journal of International Relations, 16 (2), p. 280. , For a terrific discussion of flexibility in the climate change regime (complex); Thompson distinguishes different institutions which encapsulate either adaptive or transformative flexibility: the former designates overall institutional change, whereas the latter designates an actor's scope for flexible action. This, roughly, designates the difference between escape clauses (adaptive) and sunset provisions (transformative) in reaching agreement; Marler, M.K., The International Criminal Court: Assessing the Jurisdictional Loopholes in the Rome Statute (1999) Duke Law Review, 49 (3), pp. 825-853; The work on bargaining is widely discussed. However, the relationship of path dependency and cognition to design is less well understood; Axelrod, R., (1984) The Evolution of Cooperation, , For the original reference in IR (New York: Basic Books); Pierson, P., The Limits of Design: Explaining Institutional Origins and Change (2000) Governance: An International Journal of Policy and Administration, 13 (4), pp. 478-479; Thompson, Rational Design in Motion , p. 291. , Thompson argues that the rationalist literature on flexibility has continued this preoccupation with explaining functional institutional outcomes rather than analyzing the rational decisions which occur during bargaining; Fearon, J., Bargaining, Enforcement, and International Cooperation (1998) International Organization, 52 (2), pp. 269-305; Koremenos, Loosening the Ties that Bind, pp. 317-319; Koremenos, The Rational Design of International Institutions , p. 766; Simmons, B.A., Danner, A., Credible Commitments and the International Criminal Court (2010) International Organization, 64 (2), pp. 225-256; Johnson, T., Institutional Design and Bureaucrats' Impact on Political Control (2013) Journal of Politics, 75 (1), pp. 183-197; Kuyper, J.W., The Limits of Design for Cosmopolitan Democracy (2012) Public Reason, 4 (1-2), pp. 28-47; David, P.A., Path Dependence, Its Critics and the Quest for 'Historical Economics' (2001) Evolution and Path Dependence in Economic Ideas: Past and Present, pp. 15-40. , eds. Pierre Garrouste and Stavros Ioannides (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar); 'Early' and 'late' are obviously relational concepts and can be judged with respect to the preceding critical juncture. 'Earlier' thus refers to a moment during or shortly after a critical juncture; Goodin, R.E., Global Democracy: In the Beginning (2010) International Theory, 2 (2), p. 179; Goodin, Global Democracy , p. 179; Goodin does not use the term path dependence. Rather, he refers to the process as an absorbing Markov chain. However, the fundamental logic is the same, as Paul David notes; Olson, K., Paradoxes of Constitutional Democracy (2007) American Journal of Political Science, 51 (2), pp. 330-343; The paradox of constitutionalism mimics the boundary problem in democratic theory: i.e. the founding moment of constitutional democracy cannot itself be democratic because the appropriate democratic procedures are not yet in place. Thus, democracy is both requisite for, and the outcome of, constitutional democracy; Olson, Paradoxes of Constitutional Democracy , p. 338; Barnett, M.N., Finnemore, M., The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations (1999) International Organization, 53 (4), pp. 699-732; Hawkins, D.G., (2006) Delegation and Agency in International Organizations, , eds., (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press); Goldstone, J., Representational Models and Democratic Transition in Fragile and Post-Conflict States (2013) World Development Report 2011, Background Paper, ,, (accessed on February 27); Rosendorff, Milner, The Optimal Design of International Trade Institutions , p. 852. , Rosendorff and Milner formally show how escape clauses create more stable and cooperative regimes; Kahneman, D., Tversky, A., Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk (1979) Econometrica, 47 (2), pp. 263-291; Vallacher, R.R., Wegener, D.M., Levels of Personal Agency: Individual Variation in Action Identification (1989) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57 (4), pp. 660-671; Fujita, K., Influencing Attitudes Toward Near and Distant Objects (2008) Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44 (3), pp. 562-572; Krebs, R.R., Rapport, A., International Relations and the Psychology of Time Horizons (2012) International Studies Quarterly, 56 (3), pp. 530-543; Highhouse, S., Mohammed, S., Hoffman, J.R., Temporal Discounting of Strategic Issues: Bold Forecasts for Opportunities and Threats (2002) Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 24 (1), pp. 43-56; Krebs and Rapport argue that this logic holds for consumers, citizens, and state/military leaders. I see no reason why the same cognitive disposition does not afflict academic theorizing in the vein of cosmopolitan and world government scholarship; Held, Democracy and the Global Order, 286. , These 'short-term' steps are still given a long time horizon of several years; Buckinx, B., Domination in Global Politics: Reflections on Freedom and an Argument for Incremental Global Change', in Global Governance, Global Government: Institutional Visions for an Evolving World System , pp. 253-282. , ed. Luis Cabrera (Albany, NY: SUNY Press); Little, Macdonald, Pathways to Global Democracy , p. 5; Dryzek, J.S., Bächtiger, A., Milewicz, K., Toward a Deliberative Global Citizens' Assembly (2011) Global Policy, 2 (1), pp. 33-42; Richard Falk and Andrew Strauss use the nomenclature 'Global Parliamentary Assembly' for PEGA; Dryzek, Toward a Deliberative Global Citizens' Assembly , p. 35; Risse, T., Let's Argue!: Communicative Action in World Politics (2000) International Organization, 54 (1), pp. 1-39; Dryzek, J.S., Democratization as Deliberative Capacity Building (2009) Comparative Political Studies, 42 (11), pp. 1379-1402; Dryzek, Toward a Deliberative Global Citizens' Assembly , p. 35; Indeed, sunset provisions would actually help induce renegotiation; Dryzek, J.S., Niemeyer, S., Discursive Representation (2008) American Political Science Review, 102, pp. 481-493; Urbinati, N., Warren, M.E., The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory (2008) Annual Review of Political Science, 11, p. 405; Goodin, R.E., Ratner, S.R., Democratizing International Law (2011) Global Policy, 3 (3), pp. 243-244; Pogge, T.W., Human Rights and Global Health: A Research Program (2005) Metaphilosophy, 36 (1-2), pp. 182-209; Buchanan, A., Cole, T., Keohane, R.O., Justice in the Diffusion of Innovation (2011) Journal of Political Philosophy, 19 (3), pp. 306-332; To be sure, these two prescriptions are linked more closely with the global justice literature. The fundamental point is that the use of flexibility mechanisms makes the realization of experimental mechanisms beyond the state more tangible. These examples surrounding IPR should thus be understood as illustrative, not substantive; Coleman, I., (2013) Democracy in Development, ,, (accessed June 22); Nagel, T., The Problem of Global Justice (2005) Philosophy and Public Affairs, 33 (2), pp. 114-147; Archibugi, D., Held, D., Cosmopolitan Democracy: Paths and Agents (2011) Ethics and International Affairs, 25 (4), pp. 433-461


  • Deliberative democracy
  • Democratic experiments
  • Flexibility
  • Global democracy
  • Global governance
  • Institutional design


Dive into the research topics of 'Designing institutions for global democracy: Flexibility through escape clauses and sunset provisions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this