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Review of International Political Economy
ISSN: 0969-2290 (Print) 1466-4526 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rrip20
The authority of peer reviews among states in the
global governance of corruption
To cite this article: Hortense Jongen (2018): The authority of peer reviews among states
in the global governance of corruption, Review of International Political Economy, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2018.1512891
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The authority of peer reviews among states in the
global governance of corruption
Department of Politics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands
This article researches the instrument of peer review among states, which is widely
used by international organizations to monitor state compliance with international
anticorruption norms. Despite their widespread use, little is known about the condi-
tions under which peer reviews bear significance in the global fight against corrup-
tion. This article seeks to shed light on this by considering the authority that three
major, yet hitherto understudied, peer reviews carry: the OECD Working Group on
Bribery, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption, and the
Implementation Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Corruption.
Authority is conceptualized as a social relation between the institution carrying
authority (the peer review) and the intended audience (mostly states). Drawing
upon original survey data and expert interviews, the findings reveal that the three
peer reviews have different degrees of authority. The article subsequently explains
the observed variation in authority, by looking at the membership sizes and com-
positions of the peer reviews, their institutional designs, and the types of officials
that are involved in the review process.
KEYWORDS Authority; corruption; legitimacy; peer reviews; monitoring; global governance
Peer reviews among states are the most commonly used monitoring instrument in
the international anticorruption regime. Pioneered by the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the 1990s, today the Council
of Europe, the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States use
peer review to monitor compliance with their anticorruption conventions. Peer
review is a system of reciprocal, intergovernmental evaluations in which states’pol-
icy performance is periodically assessed by experts from other states (the peers)
(Pagani, 2002). These experts identify policy shortcomings, write a report, and
make recommendations for improvement. Though peer reviews are often used to
monitor states’compliance with hard law obligations, such as international conven-
tions, they lack sanctioning tools. Thus, they cannot force states to heed their rec-
ommendations but instead seek to advance policy reform by stimulating policy
CONTACT Hortense Jongen firstname.lastname@example.org
Present address: School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
ß2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://
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provided the original work is properly cited.
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY
learning, by providing technical assistance, and by organizing peer and pub-
Despite some skepticism about the capacity of peer reviews to generate these
afer, 2004,2006), several studies show that peer reviews can have
effects in states. Some peer reviews have featured in parliamentary debates (De
Ruiter, 2010), have had framing effects on domestic policies (L
and have instigated peer and public pressure on governments (De Ruiter, 2013;
Meyer, 2004). Not all peer reviews, however, seem equally successful in this regard.
In the global anticorruption regime, the OECD Working Group on Bribery (WGB)
is hailed by Transparency International as ‘the gold standard in monitoring’
is credited for mobilizing the necessary support for the United Kingdom’s Bribery
Act (Pieth, 2013). The Implementation Review Mechanism (IRM) of the UN
Convention against Corruption, in turn, is claimed to be ‘urgently needing
and has been criticized for signaling various weaknesses (Rose,
2015, p. 106). If all peer reviews are soft-governance mechanisms, then why do
some of them seem to matter more than others?
This article seeks to shed light on this by considering the authority peer reviews
carry. Authority is understood as a mode of social control that is rooted in the col-
lective recognition of an actor’s or institution’s legitimacy (Cronin & Hurd, 2008a;
Hurd, 1999). This means that authority does not inhere in an actor’sor
institution’s ability to force subordinates into compliance with their commands,
but rests on the shared recognition that deference to an authority is the right and
appropriate thing to do. Considering the importance that constructivist scholarship
adheres to authority and legitimacy for state compliance with international norms
and rules (Checkel, 2001; Hurd, 1999), authority offers a particularly useful lens to
study peer reviews.
How much authority do different peer reviews in the field of anticorruption
have? And how can we explain possible variation in the authority of peer reviews?
This article aims to answer these questions.
To this end, it compares three anticor-
ruption peer reviews: the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery (WGB), the Council
of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), and the UN’s IRM.
These three peer reviews monitor state compliance with a combination of legally
binding and nonbinding anticorruption norms and cannot sanction states. They
are, however, set apart on several dimensions that potentially affect their authority:
Their membership sizes and compositions, their institutional designs, and the offi-
cials they involve in the review process.
Although many scholars engage with the question of authority and legitimacy
beyond the state (whether held by intergovernmental organizations, private actors,
or civil society) (Cronin & Hurd, 2008b; Cutler, 1999; Hall & Biersteker, 2002;
Hansen & Salskov-Iversen, 2008; Lake, 2010;Z
urn, Binder, & Ecker-Ehrhardt,
2012), thus far few systematic empirical assessments of the authority of multilateral
and global governance institutions have been conducted. Existing studies are lim-
ited in number and often draw upon an understanding of authority as formal-legal
or delegated authority (e.g. Hooghe & Marks, 2015; Voeten, 2008).
Such a dele-
gated understanding of authority (Barnett & Finnemore, 2004, p. 22) is useful for
studying the authority of IO bureaucracies but fails to capture differences in the
authority of soft-governance instruments, which by definition have been transferred
limited formal competences. This study adds to this research, using an original
2 H. JONGEN
dataset of responses to a survey on the relational authority of peer reviews. In add-
ition, it offers one of the first fine-grained analyses of the institutional and organ-
izational-level characteristics that affect the development of relational authority in
global governance. An important body of literature deals with the question of what
drives citizens’support for international organizations (e.g. Dellmuth & Tallberg,
2015; Edwards, 2009; Johnson, 2011). Yet, little is known about how international
policy instruments compare in their authority, let alone how possible variation in
their authority can be explained. Finally, this article advances understanding of the
design and functioning of three major, yet hitherto understudied, peer reviews.
Such insights are not only relevant to international political economy scholars for
their empirical focus on anticorruption and antibribery. This study uncovers the
factors that affect the authority of a governance instrument that is widely used to
deal with the challenges facing the global political economy. Consider, for instance,
the Trade Policy Review Mechanism of the World Trade Organization and the
OECD’s Economic and Development Review Committee, which are both
The next section introduces the concept of authority as a social relation. After
providing some background information (Section 3), Section 4 explains how rela-
tional authority can be studied empirically and introduces the study’s data sources
and methods: 45 interviews with officials who are directly involved in the peer
reviews such as IO Secretariat staff members, diplomats, and national anticorrup-
tion experts, and an online survey targeting the same type –though a much larger
number –of officials as for the interviews. Section 5 compares the authority of the
three peer reviews. The findings reveal that the GRECO is accorded more authority
than the WGB and the IRM. These differences would not have been identified had
a more traditional approach to authority been taken. Section 6 then explains the
observed variation in authority. The main argument is that the number and com-
position of states that participate in the peer reviews, the institutional designs of
the peer reviews, and the types of officials that are involved in the review process,
explain differences in the peer reviews’authority. Section 7 concludes and discusses
the broader implications of the findings for studying authority in glo-
2. Authority in global governance
2.1. Relational authority
In the age of globalization, states are decreasingly able to deal with certain govern-
ance problems on their own (Grande & Pauly, 2005). Authority is relocated from
states to transnational, subnational, nonstate, and private actors, which may be bet-
ter adept at addressing these issues than states (Bernstein, 2011; Cutler, Haufler, &
Porter, 1999; Hall & Biersteker, 2002; Hansen & Salskov-Iversen, 2008; Scholte,
2011). In addition, IOs and their bureaucracies are seen to possess some degree of
autonomy and authority in their actions (Barnett & Finnemore, 2004; Bauer & Ege,
2016; Busch & Liese, 2017;Z
urn et al., 2012). The anticorruption regime is a good
example of these trends. Though states continue to be the prime addresses of most
anticorruption conventions, a range of international and nonstate actors play an
important role in the formation and enforcement of the anticorruption regime,
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 3
such as the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Transparency International
(Gutterman, 2014; Wang & Rosenau, 2001) and the private sector (Hansen, 2011).
Despite growing recognition that international, nonstate and private actors have
some authority in global affairs, a lot remains unknown. What type of authority do
these actors carry and why do some of them seem more authoritative than others?
Evidently, the authority of nonstate actors and international institutions is different
from the formal or legal authority of states. Furthermore, an understanding of
authority as ‘delegated authority’, that is the transfer of decision-making powers to
IOs (Barnett & Finnemore, 2004, p. 22), is inapplicable to the host of soft-govern-
ance instruments that have not been delegated any decision-making powers or that
exhibit minimal variation in this regard. This article therefore engages with a dif-
ferent type of authority: Authority as a social relation (Barnett & Finnemore, 2004;
Cronin & Hurd, 2008a; Hurd, 1999; Lake, 2009,2010).
In a relational understanding, authority is a mode of social control that is rooted
in the collective recognition of an actor’s or institution’s legitimacy (Cronin &
Hurd, 2008a; Hurd, 1999). Authority does not inhere in formal-legal competences,
but rests on the shared belief that deference to an authority is the right and appro-
priate thing to do. It therefore only exists to the extent that it is collectively recog-
nized to exist. A relational understanding of authority squares well with this
article’s aim of studying the authority of international policy instruments that seem
to have some authority in global governance which cannot be captured by a for-
mal-legalistic or delegated understanding of the concept. The larger social group of
the peers bestows authority on a peer review (based on their perceptions that the
instrument is appropriate), not formal rules and laws. Consequently, a peer review
might be an authoritative instrument in the eyes of some individuals, but much
less so for others. The degree of authority then hinges on the strength of the legit-
imacy perceptions held by varying shares of the intended audience.
Relational authority offers a particularly relevant lens for studying the signifi-
cance of peer reviews, which seek to inform public policy-making in two main
ways. The first is through persuasive processes of peer and public pressure
(Guilmette, 2004; Meyer, 2004; Pagani, 2002). If states are found to be incompliant
with international norms, this behavior is exposed to the peers and the public. The
ensuing reputational costs of such exposure might motivate national administra-
tions to implement policy reform. The second way in which peer reviews seek to
inform policy-making processes is by stimulating learning among administrative
elites (Lehtonen, 2005; Radaelli, 2008,2009). Peer review offers unique opportuni-
ties for bureaucrats to meet colleagues from abroad, to exchange experiences, and
to broaden understanding of the policy problem at hand. National policy-makers
may not just learn from the output produced (i.e. the findings of the evaluation
exercise) but possibly even more so from their participation in the review, for
instance, by acting as an evaluator or attending plenary sessions. What matters
then is not the direct use of the outcome of peer reviews (as is the aim of exerting
peer and public pressure) but the indirect ways in which peer reviews shape public
policy-making by enlightening policy-makers (Lehtonen, 2005, p. 170).
Irrespective of whether we look at peer reviews as compliance or learning-ori-
ented exercises, authority seems highly relevant for the successful execution of the
abovementioned processes. Absent such authority, it is unlikely that national
administrations would take advice from their peers, surrender their own judgment
4 H. JONGEN
on their policy approach, and reconsider their policies. To the extent that peer
reviews carry authority, it is therefore important to investigate why some of them
are more authoritative than others. That said, in its focus on authority, this study
neither assesses state compliance with a peer review’s recommendations nor
researches a peer review’s effectiveness in eradicating corruption on the ground.
Hence, this article should be understood as an important –though first –step in
assessing the importance of peer reviews in global governance.
2.2. Under what conditions do peer reviews carry authority?
As argued above, a relational approach is useful for studying the authority of peer
reviews. The literature on relational authority remains, however, silent on the fac-
tors that foster authority. Consulting the literatures on socialization, institutional-
ism, and peer reviews, three factors possibly explain variation in authority: A peer
review’s membership size and composition, its institutional design, and the types of
officials that are involved in the peer review.
First, a peer review’smembership size and composition can be global (in the
UN), (sub)regional (e.g. the GRECO), or defined by the level of socio-economic
development of its members (the OECD). The literature on peer reviews under-
scores the importance of value-sharing, like-mindedness, and mutual trust among
the officials involved in a peer review (Pagani, 2002; Thygesen, 2008). Peer review
might be a rather intrusive process; states open their doors to colleagues from
abroad, disclose (potentially sensitive) information, and allow them to assess their
performance. For officials to unquestioningly give up private judgment and defer
to an authority’s commands, some degree of trust in the relationship seems neces-
sary. It seems plausible that some peer review contexts are more conducive to
developing an atmosphere of like-mindedness and trust than others. The socializa-
tion literature maintains in this regard that social interactions in IOs can have reor-
ienting effects on the identities and interests of the officials involved (Checkel,
2001; Johnston, 2001). Through their participation in a peer review, officials’views
may converge on what is legitimate behavior and new norms may be internalized.
Such socialization and learning processes may be more likely to occur in peer
reviews with small and homogeneous memberships, consequently, fostering trust
and like-mindedness among delegates. This, in turn, is expected to strengthen the
authority of peer reviews.
Second, peer reviews exist in different forms. Once peer review is chosen as
a monitoring instrument, decision makers face many questions. Should the
mechanism be consensus-based? How transparent and inclusive should the
mechanism be toward NGOs? And which sources of information may be con-
sulted for the evaluations? Decision makers negotiate, or even fight, over institu-
tional design because these decisions have consequences (Koremenos, Lipson, &
Snidal, 2001). Institutional design therefore seems a potentially relevant factor in
explaining authority. It is, however, unclear how institutional design links to
authority and which specific factors possibly enhance or weaken it. These are
therefore treated as empirical questions, explored through an inductive
The third factor concerns the officials that are involved in a peer review. Some
peer reviews mostly involve substantive experts on the topic of anticorruption,
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 5
whereas others bring in a combination of substantive experts and permanent dele-
gates. Substantive experts are usually prosecutors, judges, and bureaucrats who act
as delegates to the plenary sessions and conduct the evaluations. The permanent
delegates, mostly career diplomats, bring in knowledge about the instrument of
peer review, the procedures related to it, and international negotiations. Though
most reviews are carried out by substantive experts, the share of diplomats attend-
ing plenary sessions is comparably higher in the IRM than in the WGB and the
GRECO. The presence of diplomats at plenary sessions is expected to negatively
influence a peer review’s authority in two ways. First, peer reviews that involve dip-
lomats may be more politicized than peer reviews that only involve substantive
experts. Politicization is frequently discussed in relation to the protection and pur-
suit of state interests, political bias, and unequal treatment (Donnelly, 1981;
Freedman, 2011), which can be expected to negatively affect (what is supposed to
be) a technical and objective peer review. Substantive expertise, in contrast, might
invoke the impression of ‘depoliticization’and ‘objective’knowledge, and as such
enhance authority (Barnett & Finnemore, 2004, p. 24). Second, peer reviews that
mainly involve substantive experts constitute a more homogenous group of offi-
cials. As mentioned before, homogeneity might be conducive to socialization proc-
esses, which can relate to the type of states involved but also to the type of
delegates sent. The likelihood of views to converge may be higher among officials
with a similar professional background.
3. Peer reviews in the international anticorruption regime
Peer reviews are a popular monitoring instrument in the international anticorrup-
tion regime. Next to the three mechanisms studied here, the Organization of
American States, the African Union, and the OECD at the sub-regional level (i.e.
the Istanbul Action Plan against Corruption) use peer reviews. As shown below,
the WGB, GRECO, and IRM are chosen as case studies, as they exhibit interesting
differences in their memberships, their institutional designs, and the officials that
are involved in the peer reviews (Table 1).
Table 1. The main features of the peer reviews.
WGB GRECO IRM
Membership 43 states 49 states 183 states
Information collection Self-reporting Self-reporting Self-reporting
Country visits (optional)
Input of stakeholders
Input of stakeholders
Input of stakeholders
Yes Yes No
Adoption of review output Consensus minus one Consensus minus one Consensus
Mandatory Optional Optional
Follow-up monitoring Yes Yes No
Officials involved Mostly substantive
6 H. JONGEN
3.1. The WGB
The WGB, which has been in operation since 1999, monitors the implementation
and enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the Anti-Bribery
Recommendation in 43 states.
Its membership comprises all OECD member states
and several non-OECD states that are key players in international trade. The WGB
consists of representatives from all States Parties, most of which are substantive
experts on corruption, such as law enforcement experts and tax experts. Diplomats
are only involved to a limited extent.
The monitoring process of the WGB is intergovernmental, which means that
civil society and the private sector are formally not involved in the evaluation pro-
cess. However, informally, they are consulted during the on-site visits. Monitoring
is divided into several phases, each of which focuses on a different step toward
implementation and enforcement of the Convention. Typically, the reviews consist
of a combination of self- and mutual-evaluations in the form of questionnaires
and, from Phase 2 onwards, an on-site visit of about a week.
After the evaluation is completed and a draft evaluation report is formulated,
the report is discussed in the WGB plenary. Meetings are held behind closed doors
in order to stimulate a free and frank exchange of views and facilitate peer pressure
(Bonucci, 2014). During these meetings, the report can be modified and is adopted
by means of the consensus minus one principle, meaning that the state under
review is exempted from voting. All country evaluation reports, which include rec-
ommendations for improvement, are subsequently published online.
The review process does not end with the publication of the reports. All coun-
tries are subjected to intensive follow-up monitoring to assess whether they have
implemented the recommendations from previous phases. Only after their perform-
ance is considered satisfactory, meaning that they have sufficiently addressed the
review recommendations, can countries move on to the next review phase. In case
of continued noncompliance or if states reverse their legislation after the review,
the WGB can decide that states need to redo an evaluation round (Bonucci, 2014).
3.2. The GRECO
The GRECO, which consists of the 47 Council of Europe member states, Belarus
and the United States, has been reviewing states’compliance with a range of legally
binding and nonbinding anticorruption instruments since 2000. The GRECO plen-
ary meets on average four times a year in Strasbourg and mostly consists of
substantive anticorruption experts. Like in the WGB, diplomats are only margin-
In terms of institutional design, the GRECO evaluations consist of self-assess-
ment checklists, a desk review by the reviewing team, and a country visit that gives
other stakeholders the opportunity to express their views.
Once a country evalu-
ation report has been drafted, the report is discussed and ultimately adopted by the
GRECO plenary, with the reviewed state exempted from voting. Like the WGB,
these meetings are held behind closed doors. Country evaluation reports, once they
have been adopted, are not automatically published online. This only happens after
the reviewed state has given its consent to do so. The GRECO may, however,
decide to make the executive summary publicly available.
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 7
Contrary to the WGB, the GRECO reviews are organized thematically: Each
evaluation round focuses on a different theme. States can only move on to the next
review round once their performance is deemed (globally) satisfactory under the
previous round. Follow-up monitoring is also organized slightly differently. The
GRECO monitors member state implementation of review recommendations under
the so-called compliance round, which requires states to regularly report on the
progress they have made. In case of continued noncompliance with review recom-
mendations, the noncompliance procedure is launched, which adds further pressure
on states to comply.
3.3. The IRM
Finally, the IRM has been in operation since 2010 and is presently reviewing the
performance of 183 states. Compared to the WGB and GRECO, it involves a larger
share of diplomats in the review process. The country reviews are, however, carried
out by substantive experts.
As to its institutional design, the IRM borrows several features from the other
reviews, such as the combination of self-assessment checklists and country visits.
The degree of obligation is, however, lower: Country visits are optional, the
reviewed state is responsible for providing information and decides on whether –
and which –nonstate actors may be consulted in the review process. Moreover,
the review report reflects the consensual outcome of the reviewing team and the
reviewed state, which means that in principle the reviewed state can block the
adoption of the report. Like the GRECO, country reports are not automatically
made publicly available, apart from the executive summaries.
Another difference with the other mechanisms concerns the meetings of the
Implementation Review Group. This is an intergovernmental group of all states
parties to the convention, which oversees the operation and performance of the
peer review. Meetings take place in a closed setting but, in contrast to the WGB
and GRECO, the group does not discuss individual country evaluation reports, let
alone modifies or adopts these collectively. Thus, the information exchange among
states is limited to a discussion of thematic reports and more general experiences
with the peer review.
4. Studying the authority of peer reviews
To study the authority of the WGB, GRECO and IRM, the following definition of
authority is used:
An institution acquires authority when its power is believed to be legitimate. Authority
requires legitimacy and is therefore a product of the shared beliefs about the
appropriateness of the organisation’s proceduralism, mission and capabilities (Cronin &
Hurd, 2008a, p. 12).
Of particular interest, therefore, are perceptions of: (1) the appropriateness of a
peer review’s purpose (i.e. its mission), (2) the correct application of procedures, not-
ably the absence of political bias and the uniform application of rules (i.e. its proce-
duralism) and (3) a peer review’s ability to deliver meaningful outcomes (i.e. its
8 H. JONGEN
capabilities). To this end, a methodological framework of relational authority is
applied that is discussed more extensively in the author’s previous work (Carraro &
Jongen, 2018; Conzelmann & Jongen, 2014), and which is summarized in Table 2.
The different dimensions and subdimensions of authority reported in this table are
informed by an exploratory study (Conzelmann & Jongen, 2014) an analysis of the
Table 2. Operationalizing authority.
Dimension Perceptions of …Survey item: Answer options:
Mission –The appropriateness
of the instrument
of the IOs
How appropriate or
inappropriate do you
(1) that a peer review is
used to assess states’
performance in the field
(2) that the [OECD, Council
of Europe, United
Nations] is used as a
framework to organize
the peer review?
(3) the anticorruption
standards that are used
for the assessment
Proceduralism –Absence of polit-
To what extent do you per-
ceive the peer review to
be free from political
How would you assess the
extent to which stand-
ards of assessment are
1¼not at all,
2¼to some extent,
3¼to a large extent,
1¼far too low,
1¼far too high.
Generally speaking, to what
extent do you believe
that [peer review]
1) Exerts state-to-state
2) Exerts public pressure?
4) Provides technical
assistance to member
states to implement the
ments under review]?
5) Facilitates international
6) Provides an accurate
overview of reviewed
7) Provides practically
tions to states?
1¼not at all,
2¼to some extent,
3¼to a large extent,
The option that denotes the highest level of authority is the middle category: just right (value of 3). The
categories too low and too high denote lower levels of authority (value of 2). Both the answer categories
of far too low and far too high point to the lowest levels of authority (value of 1).
For this survey item, respondents could report not to know the answer. These answers are treated as item
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 9
mission statements of the three peer reviews, and the existing literature on peer
reviews (i.e. Bossong, 2012;Lehtonen,2005;Pagani,2002; Radaelli, 2008).
The relevant audience for this study are the officials and delegates who are dir-
ectly involved in the peer reviews, such as IO Secretariat members, national anti-
corruption experts who have acted as delegates or evaluators, and diplomats.
External actors (e.g. business or civil society) are excluded as they are often insuffi-
ciently familiar with the peer reviews to assess their procedural integrity, capacities,
and purpose in sufficient detail. Moreover, in contrast to external nonstate actors,
the national anticorruption experts who are directly involved in the peer review are
usually also responsible for implementing policy recommendations.
To compare and explain the authority of peer reviews, a mixed-methods
approach is taken. The quantitative data consist of an original online survey, which
was implemented between July 2015 and December 2015. The survey, which was
fully anonymous to disincentivise respondents to give socially desirable answers,
studies perceptions of the mission, proceduralism, and capabilities of the peer
reviews. Statistical analyses (One-Way Analyses of Variance; LSD post-hoc test) are
applied to compare the mean scores of the peer reviews on the various dimensions
of authority and to identify statistically significant variation among them.
The analyses draw upon the data collected from 272 respondents out of 558
marking a response rate of 48.8%.
For the WGB and the
GRECO, the survey was distributed among all the substantive experts and IO
Secretariat members who were involved in the peer reviews between January 2014
and June 2015 and for whom contact information could be retrieved. For the IRM,
the survey was sent out to all UN Secretariat members involved in the IRM, one
substantive expert per State Party, and one diplomat per State Party with diplo-
matic representation in Vienna, and for whom contact information could be
As the sample of IRM respondents is not representative of the total
several weighting adjustments were made for the IRM to correct this
The analyses were also conducted without weighting.
Next to the survey, 45 semi-structured interviews were conducted with
Secretariat members, diplomats, and national civil servants. To compare the
authority of peer reviews, the interviews were used to contextualize the survey find-
ings and to elicit meaning from them. To explain variation in authority, interviews
served to test the relevance of three explanatory factors (membership size and com-
position, institutional design, and the types of officials involved) and to explore
other possible explanations.
5. The authority of peer reviews
Applying the measures of authority developed earlier, how do the WGB, the
GRECO, and the IRM fare in terms of their mission, proceduralism, and
The mission dimension concerns the appropriateness of the purpose of a peer
review, of the IO that organizes it, and of the assessment standards that are used in
10 H. JONGEN
the evaluations. Table 3 shows that peer review is in principle appreciated as a
monitoring tool in the anticorruption regime: M¼3.46 (WGB), M¼3.34
(GRECO), and M¼3.35 (IRM; 1–4 scale). Compared to expert reviews, peer
reviews actively involve national administrations in the review process, giving
bureaucrats from different member states the opportunity to meet, exchange views,
and learn from each other’s experiences (interviews 16, 18, 21, 22, 30, 41). The
entire review process is a learning experience, not just the output (i.e. the report)
that the country evaluation produces. Another advantage compared to independent
reviews is that governmental experts may be more mindful of the national context
in which policy reform needs to be implemented, as they deal with similar policy
problems in their home countries (interviews 8, 21).
Although the surveyed officials hardly questioned the use of peer review as
such, interviews shed light on the subtler differences in their assessment of the
peer reviews’missions. Notably, whereas in the WGB and the GRECO most dele-
gates agree on the broader aims these peer reviews serve, views diverge on the
IRM’s purpose. Several Western European delegates see peer review as a compli-
ance-oriented endeavor, which warrants the use of peer and public pressure (inter-
views 20, 22, 27, 45). In contrast, several delegates from other regional groups see
peer review predominantly as a nonintrusive exercise that is aimed at promoting
mutual learning (interviews 11, 19, 28). There is no place for peer and public pres-
sure in such a constructive mechanism. Both perspectives appear irreconcilable,
translating into different views of what the IRM should do and how it should be
designed to do this. This has led to dissatisfaction among predominantly Western
European delegates, who feel they have pulled the short end of the stick.
Interestingly, this dichotomy in perspectives of a peer review’s mission differs from
other accounts in the literature which hold that both aims can be integrated in the
framework of a single peer review (Lehtonen, 2005). Likewise, the WGB and the
GRECO are seen as both compliance and learning exercises.
The second subdimension of mission, the appropriateness of the IO hosting the
peer review, is rather uncontroversial. The OECD, Council of Europe and the UN
are commonly perceived as appropriate fora: M¼3.39 (WGB), M¼3.41 (GRECO),
M¼3.48 (IRM; 1–4 scale). The OECD, which is composed of many of the main
exporting nations, is well-placed to monitor states’performance in the criminaliza-
tion of foreign bribery. Moreover, both the OECD, which is traditionally seen as a
technical expert body, and the Council of Europe are appreciated for their expert-
ise. The UN, in turn, is often considered the only organization with the legitimacy
and resources available to carry out a peer review on a global scale.
Finally, based on the survey findings, the peer reviews exhibit limited differences
in the appropriateness of their assessment standards: M¼3.15 (WGB), M¼3.20
(GRECO), and M¼3.22 (IRM: 1–4 scale). Such standards can be formally institu-
tionalized from the start or can gradually develop in the process of peer reviewing.
Table 3. Mission.
Scale WGB GRECO IRM
Instrument 1–4 3.46 (.65) 3.34 (.69) 3.35 (.52) .12 .11 .01
Standards of assessment 1–4 3.15 (.73) 3.20 (.70) 3.22 (.58) .05 .07 .02
IO 1–4 3.39 (.66) 3.41 (.68) 3.48 (.55) .02 .09 .07
Note: One-Way ANOVA; LSD post-hoc test; standard deviations in brackets.
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 11
The high levels of appropriateness reported in the survey are surprising considering
the variation in legal and nonlegal instruments under review and some of the cri-
tique raised in interviews. Interviewed delegates particularly criticized the GRECO’s
assessment standards of the fourth evaluation round, which deals with nonbinding
legislation (interviews 32, 33, 35, 39). Delegates reportedly disagree about what
constitutes good performance and compliance under this review theme (interviews
22, 32, 33, 35).
Furthermore, interviewees found the standards of assessment in
the GRECO vaguer, leading to longer discussions over what the minimum stand-
ards and expectations are. This finding corroborates Pagani’s(2002) argument
about the importance of unambiguous assessment standards and criteria in con-
ducting a peer review (see also: Porter & Webb, 2007).
The proceduralism dimension relates to the extent to which political bias is absent
in the review process and to which states are treated uniformly. Table 4 shows that
the GRECO is perceived as comparably less politically biased (M¼2.97) than the
IRM (M¼2.60;p.01) and the WGB (M¼2.44; p.001; 1–4 scale). The effect
size is medium (an eta squared value of 0.06). In the WGB, historical, diplomatic,
and trade relations between countries reportedly come to the fore in discussions.
Mutually sympathetic states stand up for each other to prevent one another from
receiving recommendations that are difficult to implement. Likewise, neighboring
countries or states with a similar legal system are at times perceived to be more
lenient toward each other (interviews 8, 40, 41, 42, 44), with several delegates
admitting to do so themselves (anonymous interviews). This situation is not unique
to the WGB but also happens in the GRECO (interviews 22, 31, 34, 35) and other
peer reviews, such as the Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights (Carraro,
2017). The plenary can partly offset such politically-motivated behavior, as
delegates that themselves received certain recommendations may be particularly
adamant on making sure that other states do not get away with fewer or less
far-reaching recommendations than they did (interviews 33, 41). Finally, and sur-
prisingly perhaps, many interviewed officials reported that the IRM reviews are
very technical and not politically biased; it is a legal compliance exercise (interviews
20, 24, 29, 45). Back-scratching or behind-the-scenes trade-offs are seemingly
absent. Plenary sessions are, however, more often perceived as politicized (inter-
views 20, 27, 41, 45).
Less variation can be found when it comes to perceptions of uniform rule appli-
cation: M¼2.61 (IRM), M¼2.53 (GRECO), M¼2.43 (WGB; 1–3 scale). As mean
values do not indicate whether uniformity in the application of standards is per-
ceived as too low or too high, a bar chart is created to display the distribution of
Table 4. Proceduralism.
Scale WBG GRECO IRM
Free from political bias 1–4 2.44 (.79) 2.97 (.78) 2.60 (.91) .53 .16 .37
Uniform application of standards 1–3 2.43 (.65) 2.53 (.58) 2.61 (.58) .10 .18 .08
Note: One-Way ANOVA; LSD post-hoc; standard deviations in brackets.
p.05; p.01; p.001.
12 H. JONGEN
responses (Figure 1). Even though a majority perceives this to be just right, a sig-
nificant share considers this to be too low, particularly in the WGB. Importantly,
these scores do not report on absolute differences in uniform rule application
between the mechanisms. What this analysis does reveal is that the extent to which
context-specific expectations of uniform treatment are satisfied is somewhat lower
in the WGB than in the IRM and GRECO. Interviews, for instance, revealed that
the GRECO has pursued an approach of assessing each country on its own merits
from the Fourth Evaluation Round onward (interviews 22, 32, 33, 37, 39). The
extent to which standards of assessment are applied uniformly was overall assessed
positively, although the GRECO has comparably the largest share of respondents
that consider the degree to which this is done too high.
The capabilities of a peer review relate to its ability to deliver meaningful out-
comes. As mentioned before, this study does not investigate whether the three peer
reviews successfully perform several outcomes but looks at whether they are per-
ceived to do so. Table 5 reveals variation in several of these.
First, the GRECO and even more so the WGB are viewed as comparably better
capable of organizing peer and public pressure on states than the IRM. For peer
pressure, mean scores are 2.92 (WGB), 2.69 (GRECO), and 2.30 (IRM; p.001; 1-
4 scale) and for public pressure 2.61 (WGB and GRECO) and 2.10 (IRM; p.001;
1-4 scale). The effect size is an eta squared value of 0.12 for peer pressure and 0.10
for public pressure. Peer pressure as a form of soft-persuasion is intrinsically linked
with the OECD, and the WGB is no exception to this (Bonucci, 2014; Guilmette,
2004). WGB delegates mentioned that they had experienced peer pressure person-
ally or that they had witnessed other delegates coming under social pressure during
plenary sessions (interviews 40, 41, 42, 43). In the WGB and the GRECO, this pres-
sure takes the form of the peers asking critical questions and requesting evidence
of progress made. Other options are to publish critical press statements, to send
Far too low Too low Just right Too high Far too high
WGB GRECO IRM
Figure 1. Perceptions of uniform rule application.
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 13
technical delegations to underperforming states, or to contact the Minister of
Justice. Interestingly, none of the interviewed officials mentioned the existence of
peer pressure in the IRM and reportedly no direct questioning takes place between
delegates during plenary sessions (interviews 20, 41). As one of them said: ‘No
pressure is exerted at all. The IRG [Implementation Review Group] is just coun-
tries reading out statements’(interview 20).
Second, the IRM (M¼2.85) is viewed much more favorably than the WGB
(M¼2.44; p.01) and the GRECO (M¼2.34; p.001; 1–4 scale) regarding its
ability to identify and substantiate technical assistance needs.
The effect size is
medium: 0.07. Importantly, however, African delegates are much more positive
about the IRM’s capability to organize technical assistance than the Western
European delegates, which accounts for the IRM’s higher mean value.
countries are among the main recipients of technical assistance and Western
European countries benefit the least from this, these different assessments are
One interviewed delegate expressed her appreciation men-
tioning that they had managed to implement the review recommendations with the
help of donor funding and the UN’s assistance (interview 30). The type of technical
assistance that the UN provides and facilitates in the framework of the UN is
unique, although the Council of Europe also operates several technical assistance
and cooperation programs to assist states with implementing reforms. However,
none of the interviewed delegates referred to any of these projects in interviews,
and awareness about them seems to be low. Instead, at times the GRECO review
process itself and the ensuing review recommendations are considered an indirect
form of technical assistance (interviews 22, 38).
Third, the IRM (M¼2.68) is perceived as comparably less capable of presenting
an accurate overview of reviewed states’performances than the WGB (M¼2.96;
) and the GRECO (M¼3.07; p.001; 1–4 scale). The effect size is 0.05.
The evaluation reports of the IRM may give a very accurate depiction of the legal
situation in a country but such legal analyses do not say much about a country’s
anticorruption performance (interview 45). Furthermore, IRM delegates mentioned
that they have rather little insight into how precisely the review of other countries
is conducted or what the report is based on (interviews 22, 34, 41). Compared to
the IRM, thorough assessment procedures ascertain that ‘the OECD actually gets to
the bottom of things’(interview 42), and ‘everything is on the table …you know
everything’in the WGB (interview 41). Section 6 explores the factors that fueled
feelings of doubt and concern about the accuracy of the IRM’s evaluation reports.
Table 5. Capabilities.
Scale WGB GRECO IRM
Peer pressure 1–4 2.92 (.67) 2.69 (.73) 2.30 (.76) .23 .62 .39
Public pressure 1–4 2.61 (.79) 2.61 (.74) 2.10 (.71) .00 .51 .51
Mutual learning 1–4 2.94 (.80) 2.97 (.69) 2.91 (.79) .03 .03 .06
Technical assistance 1–4 2.44 (.77) 2.34 (.84) 2.85 (.79) .10 .41 .51
International cooperation 1–4 2.91 (.81) 2.72 (.78) 2.79 (.80) .19 .12 .07
Accurate overview 1–4 2.96 (.72) 3.07 (.72) 2.68 (.76) .11 .28.39
Feasible recommendations 1–4 2.78 (.63) 3.01 (.67) 2.82 (.76) .23 .04 .19
Note: One-Way ANOVA; LSD Post-Hoc; standard deviations in brackets.
p.05; p.01; p.001.
14 H. JONGEN
Fourth, as to international cooperation and learning, the peer reviews expose lit-
tle variation in their mean scores: for learning M¼2.94 (WGB), M¼2.97
(GRECO), M¼2.91 (IRM) and for international cooperation: M¼2.91 (WGB),
M¼2.72 (GRECO) and M¼2.79 (IRM), both assessed on a 1–4 scale. They are
valued for their potential to form international networks, which can be useful for
mutual legal assistance and extradition requests, and to organize policy learning.
Several delegates reported that they had learnt a lot from the review exercises and
that the evaluations involved a valuable exchange of views (interviews 16, 17, 21,
25, 29, 31, 36). Participating in a peer review gives a fresh, outsider’s perspective
on matters, revealing issues that previously had never been considered or that were
simply taken for granted (interviews 30, 36). Furthermore, peer review enables del-
egates to establish contacts with colleagues from countries that they would other-
wise hardly interact with (interviews 8, 30). In line with earlier scholarship on
learning in peer reviews, notably in the OECD’s Environmental Performance
Review (Lehtonen, 2005), learning reportedly takes place during country visits and
plenary discussions (interviews 4, 31, 36, 42). Despite overall positive accounts of
learning, what these mean scores do not show is that the Western European dele-
gates are overall more skeptical about the IRM’s ability to foster mutual learning
and international cooperation compared to African and Asia-Pacific delegates.
Finally, the three peer reviews do not differ much in the extent to which they
are perceived to deliver practically feasible recommendations, though the GRECO
is viewed most favorably in this regard: M¼3.01 (GRECO), M¼2.78 (WGB), and
M¼2.82 (IRM; 1-4 scale).
Like with the IRM’s ability to organize policy learning
and foster international cooperation, the Western European delegates and to a
lesser extent the Latin American and Caribbean delegates are very skeptical about
the IRM’s ability to execute this function, especially when compared to their
6. Explaining differences in the authority of peer reviews
Now to that we know that the GRECO is more authoritative than the WGB and
the IRM, how can these differences be explained? Notably,
1. Why is there disagreement about the functions of the IRM but not of the
WGB and the GRECO?
2. Why is the WGB comparably less capable of applying the procedures fairly
and consistently (proceduralism)?
3. Why are the WGB and the GRECO perceived as better able to exert peer and
public pressure than the IRM (capabilities)?
4. Why is the IRM comparably less capable of delivering an accurate overview of
reviewed states’performance (capabilities)?
6.1. Membership size and composition
The first possible explanation for the observed differences in authority lies in the
membership sizes and compositions of the peer reviews. Based on the literature,
trust and like-mindedness were expected to be higher among delegates in the
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 15
smaller-sized WGB and the GRECO compared to the IRM. This, in turn, was
expected to foster their authority.
Indeed, the analyses show that the IRM has comparably less authority than the
GRECO and, though less markedly, the WGB. Yet, can these differences also be
attributed to variation in the memberships of the peer reviews and, if so, is this
due to higher levels of trust and like-mindedness in the smaller peer reviews? To
study this, delegates were asked to what extent they agree with the follow-
1. I trust the other state delegates in the peer review and
2. Member states of the [peer review] have a common understanding of how to
Response options were: 1 ¼strongly disagree, 2¼disagree, 3¼agree,
Against expectations, Table 6 shows that trust among delegates is not higher in
the WGB (M¼2.84) and the GRECO (M¼2.92) than in the IRM (M¼2.93). The
extent to which states are perceived to maintain a shared understanding of how to
fight corruption also does not vary substantially across the three peer reviews:
M¼2.71 (WGB), M¼2.83 (GRECO), and M¼2.71 (IRM).
Thus, the survey
finds no support for the initial expectation that mutual trust and a shared under-
standing of how to fight corruption hinge on membership size. One plausible
explanation for the high levels of trust across the three peer reviews, regardless of
their membership sizes, is that all evaluations are carried out by substantive experts
on anticorruption, such as bureaucrats, prosecutors, judges, and academics. These
experts can be considered to have formed an epistemic community of like-minded
actors with shared norms, which transcends national boundaries (Haas, 1992).
Several interviews, furthermore, suggest that substantive experts are considered to
be driven less by political considerations (interviews 3, 20), hence fostering trust in
the review process. Further research is, however, needed to confirm this.
Does this mean that a peer review’s membership size and composition do not
matter? On the contrary, it seems highly relevant for authority. Compared to the
other two peer reviews, the IRM brings together states with vastly different cultures
and experiences with peer reviews. Many European and Latin American and
Caribbean officials participate in up to three anticorruption peer reviews, whereas
most African and Asia-Pacific states only participate in the IRM. These different
experiences with peer reviews translate into divergent views and expectations of
what the IRM should do and how it should be designed to do this, which relates to
the mission of the IRM (see also: Joutsen & Graycar, 2012). Furthermore, as shown
below, their participation in multiple peer reviews gives several delegates a refer-
ence point against which the authority of the IRM is assessed.
Table 6. Mutual trust and a common understanding of how to fight corruption.
Scale WGB GRECO IRM
Mutual trust 1–4 2.84 (.61) 2.92 (.58) 2.93 (.50) .08 .09 .01
Common understanding 1–4 2.71 (.64) 2.83 (.52) 2.71 (.65) .12 –.12
Note: One-Way ANOVA: LSD Post-Hoc test; standard deviations in brackets.
16 H. JONGEN
Compared to their less-experienced counterparts, delegates that have more
experience with peer reviews, which mostly come from Western Europe and the
Latin American and Caribbean Group of States, are also more supportive of sur-
rendering control over the evaluations. From the first negotiations onwards, these
officials favored the establishment of, what they call, a transparent, inclusive, and
effective mechanism. Discussing their views on the IRM, quite a few of them dir-
ectly compared the IRM to the GRECO, the WGB, and sometimes the peer review
of the Organization of American States. Often, the IRM falls short of their expecta-
tions of what a peer review should do and how it should do this (interviews 3, 6,
15, 22, 25, 38, 45). Points of critique are the lack of transparency of the mechanism
and the rather controlled input by NGOs in the review process (interviews 18, 20,
23, 24, 25). The WGB and the GRECO have set the bar high in terms of their
expectations of what a peer reviews should do and can do.
Many delegates that are less experienced with peer review seem more hesitant to
surrender sovereignty, to permit other stakeholders (e.g. civil society and academia)
access to the peer review, and to increase the transparency of the IRM (interview-
ees 11, 19, 22, 26). One Asia-Pacific delegate expressed her concerns over restrict-
ing the reviewed states’say over the formulation of their own evaluation reports, as
it might provide the evaluators with an opportunity to criticize the reviewed states’
political systems (interview 19). Another delegate mentioned that several delegates
feel uneasy with a revision of IRM procedures. Giving up control in one area (for
instance, the publication of reports) might spark a domino effect in other areas,
resulting in a gradual loss of sovereignty (anonymous interview). In their view,
states first need to gain confidence in the peer review process, before sovereignty
can be transferred.
6.2. Institutional design
As shown before, the IRM brings together states with vastly different experiences
with peer reviews. Delegates differ in their views and expectations of what a peer
reviews should and can do. To reach the necessary consensus for establishing a
peer review in the UN, compromises had to be made (Joutsen & Graycar, 2012).
The IRM’s large and diverse membership, and the corresponding divergence in
views of the purpose it serves, have affected the mechanism’s institutional design.
As we will see now, several institutional design features of a peer review affect its
authority, notably: (1) the discussion of country reports in plenary sessions, (2) the
procedures for the adoption of the report, (3) the degree of obligation of a peer
review, and (4) follow-up monitoring.
6.2.1. The discussion of country reports in plenary sessions
Whereas plenary discussions of country reports form an integral part of the WGB
and the GRECO reviews (i.e. experts convene to discuss country reports, modify
them, and adopt them collectively), individual reports are not discussed in plenary
sessions of the IRM. Such plenary discussions are, however, important as they pro-
vide the institutional structures for peer pressure to take shape. They help create
transparency about other states’policy performance and offer opportunities for dir-
ect dialog among delegates (interviews 6, 9, 38, 41). Furthermore, extensive plenary
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 17
discussions on individual country reports are seen to perform a quality check of
the review recommendations and contribute to their practical feasibility (interview
21). Several delegates mentioned that because individual country evaluations are
not discussed in plenary meetings of the IRM, it is not possible to exert peer pres-
sure (interviews 6, 15, 45). States can voluntarily take the floor and present their
progress, but reportedly only focus on their achievements (interviews 27, 41). Few
possibilities exist for a direct exchange of views or to broach comments of a more
critical tone (interview 20). Moreover, in the absence of a good insight into how
other states perform, it becomes very difficult to identify and criticize laggards.
6.2.2. The procedures for adopting reports
The GRECO and the WGB adopt country reports by means of the consensus
minus one principle, which stipulates that all states need to agree on the formula-
tion of the final report, apart from the reviewed state. In the IRM, in contrast, the
adoption of the report is based on a constructive dialog among a selected group of
members of the reviewing team and representatives from the state under review.
As shown below, this affects the capabilities and the proceduralism of the
As to the capabilities dimension, the approach of constructive dialog explains
why IRM reports are perceived as slightly less accurate than the reports of the
WGB and the GRECO. IRM delegates have little insight into the negotiations and
discussions that precede the formulation of the final reports (interviews 6, 41). The
report is decided by consensus, which leaves the impression that states can freely
modify their own report or have an important say over its content (interviews 4, 6,
20, 38, 41). As the authority concept employed in this study rests on subjective per-
ceptions, rather than objective conditions or actual conduct, these views clearly
have negative implications for the IRM’s authority. Irrespective of whether states
modify their own reports, the perception that they (might) do so has negative
effects for authority. At the same time, several other delegates, mostly from African
and Asia-Pacific states, are more pleased with this procedure. They opine that it
fosters a sense of ownership of the review report and makes states more inclined to
listen to their peers and to implement the recommendations (interviews 11, 19). In
the GRECO and the WGB, in contrast, delegates generally appreciate that the states
cannot block the adoption of the report or remove some of its sharp edges (inter-
views 9, 22, 38). Direct references were made to the IRM as a less desirable alterna-
tive (interviews 3, 6, 15, 22, 38).
A second way in which the procedures for adopting reports matter is in relation
to political bias in the reviews, which is part of the proceduralism dimension. The
consensus minus one principle, as it is used in the WGB and the GRECO, appears
to be a double-edged sword. Though overall appreciated, it is also seen to promote
backscratching among delegates (interviews 8, 40, 42). Once a recommendation is
issued to a state, this recommendation becomes a standard in future evaluations
(interviews 17, 22). Consequently, delegates have an interest in preventing the clas-
sification of standards that would negatively affect their own country. Importantly,
however, the GRECO and the WGB plenary meeting are often perceived to abate
the implications of such backscratching. If some state delegates are biased, the
remainder of the plenary is there to balance out such considerations, to ensure
18 H. JONGEN
consistency in the evaluations, and to uphold their quality (interviews 4, 5, 7, 8, 9,
10, 34, 37).
As we saw earlier, the WGB is overall perceived as more politically biased than
the GRECO, though both have comparable working procedures. Interviews suggest
that various factors cancel out –or mitigate –the positive effects of the plenary
discussion on the WGB’s authority. The United States, for instance, has a powerful
position in plenary discussions of the WGB. They have the resources to prepare in
detail for meetings, can send large delegations, and serve on the management com-
mittee, which sets out the direction of the WGB (interviews 3, 4, 6, 8, 40).
Furthermore, the OECD Convention is largely modeled after the United States’
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes them the most active enforcer of the
convention and enables them to put pressure on other states to step up their game
(Rose, 2015, pp. 92–93; interview 40). These factors are perceived to give the
United States a disproportionally strong influence in the WGB (interviews 33, 40,
42), which conflicts with the notion of peer review as an instrument of equals. The
finding that size matters in peer reviews is not unique to the WGB, but has also
been claimed to exist in other OECD peer reviews (Porter & Webb, 2007).
Marcussen even goes as far as to claim that the OECD has started to function as
‘an ideational agent for the United States’(2004, p. 101). Perceptions of unequal
influence have negative implications for the WGB’s authority in terms of its proce-
duralism. Importantly, however, several delegates also mentioned that because of
the United States’s active involvement, the WGB is able to exert considerable pres-
sure on laggard states, enhancing the peer review’s effectiveness (interviews 4, 6,
6.2.3. The degree of obligation of a peer review
The degree of obligation of a peer review concerns the discretionary leeway states
maintain over their own evaluation exercises. In the GRECO and WGB, country
visits are obligatory, information is collected from a variety of sources and, in the
WGB, it is mandatory to publish reports. In the IRM, in contrast, the reviewed
state retains much more ownership of the review, which makes the collection of
information and publication of results a much more controlled process (interviews
2, 3, 6, 18, 13, 20).
Like the procedures for adopting reports, the degree of obligation of a peer
review affects the perceived accuracy of review output. In the IRM, which main-
tains the lowest degree of obligation, the effects of this feature on the capabilities
of the instrument are two-pronged. Some Western delegates are concerned that the
evaluation exercises may go less in-depth, as country visits are voluntary and non-
state actors are possibly excluded from providing input (interviews 3, 6, 15, 23). As
one UN official mentioned when it comes to accessing information: ‘we are at the
mercy of the state party under review’(interview 2). Though not directly referring
to the voluntary basis of country evaluations, other officials also indicated that a
country visit is important to accurately assess a state’s performance (interviews 12,
13, 20, 30; GRECO interviews 1, 10, 16). Moreover, as country reports are not dis-
cussed in plenary sessions of the IRM, the country visit offers the only opportunity
for delegates to exert some peer pressure (interview 20).
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 19
In contrast, several Asia-Pacific and African delegates espouse more support for
the wide margins this peer review grants to the reviewed state (interviews 11, 19).
Arguments in favor of the IRM’s present procedures are that, in these delegates’
view, fewer states would join the mechanism if these provisions were mandatory.
6.2.4. Follow-up monitoring
Finally, both the WGB and the GRECO have advanced systems in place to monitor
states’implementation of review recommendations from previous evaluation
rounds. To this day, such a system for follow-up monitoring does not exist in the
IRM, which leaves the evaluations a one-off exercise. Follow-up monitoring was
frequently raised in connection to a peer review’s ability to exert pressure on states,
that is, the capabilities dimension.
In the WGB and the GRECO, peer review is an iterative process. Follow-up
monitoring is seen to enhance peer accountability and to put pressure on states to
implement recommendations (interviews 6, 7, 8, 19, 21, 32). Even the threat of
more intense and regular follow-up monitoring, in cases of substandard perform-
ance, may suffice to motivate states to beef up their anticorruption efforts (inter-
views 6, 8). The absence of a system for follow-up monitoring in the IRM then
also explains why pressure in this peer review is felt to be lower (interviews 6, 20).
As one IRM and WGB delegate explained:
At the OECD you just know …that after a while you have to report on what you have
done. You work towards that and you make sure that you can present results. And then at
the UN, there will be a report with recommendations, but that’s it.
Hence, in addition to the lack of discussion on country reports, the absence of a
system for follow-up monitoring explains why peer and public pressure do not
materialize in the IRM.
6.3. The officials that are involved in a peer review
A third explanation for differences in authority can be found in the officials that
are involved in a peer review. In all three peer reviews, the evaluation exercises are
carried out by substantive experts, which is deemed crucial for carrying out a thor-
ough review, to arrive at an accurate assessment of states’policy performances, and
to provide to-the-point recommendations. Yet, of the three peer reviews, the IRM
involves comparably the largest share of diplomats. In line with expectations, their
attendance at plenary sessions adds a political element to meetings and creates a
diplomatic atmosphere (interviews 6, 9, 15, 41, 45). Diplomats are seen to steer the
discussion away from substantive anticorruption issues to inherently political, pro-
cedural matters (interviews 6, 45). Importantly, however, this political atmosphere
was only reported to exist in the plenary sessions. The evaluations themselves,
which are carried out by substantive experts, are perceived as technical and object-
ive (interviews 20, 24, 29).
The presence of diplomats at plenary sessions also affects the capabilities of a
peer review. First, diplomats’main area of expertise lies in international diplomacy
and negotiations, not in substantive anticorruption issues (interviews 18, 20).
Consequently, diplomats often do not have the necessary background knowledge to
20 H. JONGEN
ask critical questions about other states’performances (interview 20). Second, and
related to this, if states send career diplomats to attend these sessions instead of
substantive experts, there are fewer opportunities for mutual learning. To stimulate
mutual learning and knowledge transfer, the more substantive experts attending
plenary sessions, the better it is for the peer review (interview 18, also GRECO
interview 9). An additional consideration is that diplomats do not bring the know-
ledge acquired in the peer review back to the capitals for policy-making purposes
(interview 16). Consequently, they cannot be turned into what Marcussen calls
‘reform entrepreneurs in their home countries’(2004, p. 92).
The rather large share of diplomats attending IRM meetings clarifies why
pressure in this peer review is felt to be lower and why plenary sessions are
perceived as highly political. In the WGB and the GRECO, plenary sessions
are mostly attended by substantive experts. This reportedly keeps the discus-
sions technical, relatively nonpolitical, and facilitates peer pressure (interviews
3, 5, 6, 16). This corresponds to the point made by Barnett and Finnemore
(2004) that technical expertise might create the impression of depoliticization
and objectivity. It also offers one explanation for the high levels of trust,
Table 7 summarizes the three explanatory factors and the differences in author-
ity they have helped to explain.
7. List of Interviews
1) GRECO delegate, Western European and Others Group
2) UNODC official
3) IRM and WGB delegate, Western European and Others Group
4) WGB delegate, Western European and Others Group
5) GRECO delegate, Western European and Others Group
6) IRM and WGB delegate, Western European and Others Group
7) OECD official
8) OECD official
9) Council of Europe official
10) Council of Europe official
11) IRM delegate, African Group
12) UNODC official
13) IRM delegate, Western European and Others Group
14) GRECO, IRM, WGB delegate, Eastern European Group
15) GRECO and IRM delegate, Eastern European Group
Table 7. Explaining authority.
Factor: Explains variation in:
Membership size and composition Mission
Institutional design: Plenary discussions Peer pressure
Institutional design: Procedures adoption reports Accuracy of assessment/ political bias
Institutional design: Degree of obligation Accuracy of assessment
Institutional design: Follow-up monitoring Peer and public pressure
Type of officials involved Peer pressure
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 21
16) Council of Europe official
17) Council of Europe official
18) UNODC official
19) IRM delegate, Asia-Pacific Group
20) IRM delegate, Western European and Others Group
21) GRECO delegate, Western European and Others Group
22) GRECO and IRM delegate, Eastern European Group
23) IRM delegate, Latin American and Caribbean Group
24) IRM delegate, Latin American and Caribbean Group
25) IRM delegate, Latin American and Caribbean Group
26) IRM delegate, African Group
27) IRM delegate, African Group
28) IRM delegate, Asia-Pacific Group
29) IRM delegate, Latin American and Caribbean Group
30) IRM delegate, Asia-Pacific Group
31) GRECO delegate, Eastern European Group
32) GRECO delegate, Western European and Others Group
33) GRECO and WGB delegate, Western European and Others Group
34) GRECO delegate, Eastern European Group
35) GRECO delegate, Eastern European Group
36) GRECO delegate, Eastern European Group
37) GRECO delegate, Western European and Others Group
38) GRECO and IRM delegate, Eastern European Group
39) GRECO delegate, Eastern European Group
40) WGB delegate, Western European and Others Group
41) IRM and WGB delegate, Western European and Others Group
42) WGB delegate, Non-European
43) WGB delegate, Eastern European Group
44) WGB delegate, Non-European
45) IRM delegate, Western European and Others Group
How much authority do different anticorruption peer reviews have? And if they
differ in their authority, how can these differences be explained? This study has
shown that the GRECO is commonly perceived as more authoritative than the
WGB and the IRM. This is a significant revelation considering some of the cri-
tique on peer reviews (and soft-governance instruments more broadly), which
tends to paint all peer reviews with the same brush or discards the instrument as
a second-best option to more binding agreements (Sch€
afer, 2004,2006). It also
indicates that there must be certain factors that either positively or negatively
affect the authority of global governance institutions. Notably, the membership
size and composition of a peer review, specific institutional design features, and
the officials that are involved in the evaluation process influence a peer
This study was one of the first comparative analyses of relational authority in
global governance. In addition, it ventured into new territory by seeking to explain
differences in authority. What can we take from these findings for studying the
22 H. JONGEN
authority of international policy instruments and organizations? First, the findings
make a case for studying authority as a sociological rather than a normative con-
cept (Keohane, 2006). This article does not go as far as to claim that only percep-
tions of governing institutions matter for authority to develop, as opposed to what
these governing institutions actually do. However, perceptions do matter. As shown
in the IRM, the possibility that some states modify their reports, manipulate the
review process, and take advantage of the IRM’s lenient procedures, influences the
IRM’s authority in the eyes of predominantly Western European delegates. When
designing international policy instruments, we should therefore not only consider
how specific procedures affect the practical functioning of these instruments (e.g.
do they offer sufficient opportunities for peer and public pressure?) but also how
they will be perceived to function (are they perceived as fair and accurate?).
Second, and related to this, authority is a relational concept. Characteristics of the
states that an international monitoring body or organization seeks to regulate do
matter, so does their coherence (see also: Bernstein, 2011, p. 21). As shown in the
IRM, many Western European delegates emphasize the need for transparency and
effectiveness. Several African and Asia-Pacific have introduced a competing dis-
course about the importance of nonintrusiveness and sovereign equality. In peer
reviews with large and diverse memberships, delegates may hold diverging views
about what peer review is and should do. Third, the findings suggest that authority
is often assessed against a reference point. Delegates who are familiar with the
GRECO and the WGB are on average less positive about the IRM’s authority than
newcomers to peer review. The GRECO and the WGB set the bar high in terms of
their expectations of a peer review, which has negative implications for the
Taking an inductive approach, this article explored the different institutional
and organizational-level characteristics that make some peer reviews more authori-
tative than others. Logically, the next step is to test whether these also hold for
peer reviews in other policy areas and organizations. In addition, this study’s scope
did not allow for an analysis of how authority develops over time, nor of how dele-
gates’authority perceptions compare to those of external actors, such as business
or civil society. Finally, now that we know which peer reviews are comparably
more authoritative than others and why, it is time to ‘go domestic’again and to
empirically probe the microprocesses that connect authority at the international
level to reforms in member states. To find out how authority, member state com-
pliance, and policy effectiveness causally connect, case study analyses of member
states provide a good starting point. This will offer a more complete picture of
how authority plays out domestically and the significance of peer reviews in the
global fight against corruption.
briberyininternationalbusinesstransactions.htm Accessed 11-4-2018
3. This research is part of the research project ‘No Carrots, No Sticks: How Do Peer Reviews
Among States Acquire Authority in Global Governance?’(2013–2017), led by Thomas
Conzelmann at Maastricht University.
REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY 23
4. Another example is the International Authority Database, developed at the WZB in Berlin.
oecdworkinggrouponbriberyininternationalbusinesstransactions.htm Accessed 21-9-2017.
168072bebd. Accessed 22-9-2017.
8. Several officials were sampled for more than one peer review. 532 distinct individuals were
contacted. Respondents who filled out the survey for two peer reviews were included as
9. Any respondent who answered Question 1 was included in the study. The total number of
missing values per question did not exceed 10%, except for one survey item (11%). The
number of missing values was quite proportional to the total number of responses per case
study, but comparably highest for the GRECO. To deal with missing data, respondents were
excluded pairwise in the analyses.
10. Considering their active involvement, diplomats were included in the survey of the IRM. For
a considerable number of countries, diplomats are the only representatives to attend these
sessions. Vienna is the location of the United Nations Office on Drugs on Crime, where
most IRM-related meetings are held.
11. More responses were collected from national experts and diplomats from Western European
states than from the Asia-Pacific Group of states.
12. Weighting ratios can be obtained upon request.
13. For a comparative assessment of the authority of the IRM and the UPR, see Carraro and
14. This round deals with corruption in the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns.
15. Without weighting, differences between the IRM and the WGB become significant at p.05
and the GRECO at p.01.
16. M¼3.31 (African) and M¼2.46 (Western Europe).
ImplementationReviewGroup/18-22June2012/V1252420e.pdf Accessed 24-4-2018.
18. Without weighting, differences become significant at p.01.
19. For mutual learning: M¼3.20 (Africa) and M¼2.50 (Western Europe). For international
cooperation: M¼3.25 (Africa) and M¼2.32 (Western Europe).
20. Without weighting, differences become significant: between OECD and GRECO (p.05)
and between the GRECO and the IRM (p.05).
21. M¼2.48 (Western European), M¼2.54 (Latin America and Caribbean), M¼3.31 (Africa).
22. Without weighting, differences between the GRECO and the IRM become significant
The author would like to thank Thomas Conzelmann, Giselle Bosse, Valentina Carraro, Marcia
Grimes, Ellen Gutterman, Anja Jakobi, the three anonymous reviewers, and the participants in the
ISA Annual Convention (Atlanta 2016) for their comments on earlier versions of this article. The
author is also very grateful to Ian Lovering and Christophe Leclerc, who offered invaluable
The author does not have any conflicts of interest to disclose.
This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) [grant
24 H. JONGEN
Notes on contributor
Hortense Jongen is Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Global Studies of the University of
Gothenburg, where she works on a research project on legitimacy in private global governance.
From 2013 to 2017, she was a PhD Candidate and subsequently Postdoctoral Researcher at the
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Maastricht University. Her PhD dealt with the authority of
peer reviews among states in the global fight against corruption.
Hortense Jongen http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4170-9898
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