Liliana B. Andonova
Governance Entrepreneurs: International Organizations and the Rise of Global Public- Private Partnerships.
Hardback: (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 286 pp.

Paperback: (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 288 pp.

Reviewed by: Joseph C. Marques, Webster University – Geneva

In normal times, Governance Entrepreneurs is a highly recommendable book. At the moment, with multilateralism under attack and effective leadership and cooperation largely missing in the international system, it becomes required reading. This book is about global partnerships between states and subnational actors and how they have emerged as a new “hybrid” form of global governance. This development is largely the consequence of the rise of globalization which, in turn, has intensified the growing urgency for solutions to global problems against a backdrop of decreasing effectiveness of existing International Organizations (IOs) and declining international cooperation.

Such partnerships are working arrangements between the traditional actors in international relations—states and IOs—and subnational actors such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector business entities, foundations, etc. These new partnerships, according to Andonova, result from the effective interface between networks (external) and hierarchies (internal) (p. 6). IOs have traditionally served as the “institutional glue” of the international system, providing the managerial, technical and intellectual basis for much of the systemic output throughout the many different “regimes” of global issues in the international system. The first case of global public-private partnership was the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria jointly established in 2001 by states, IOs, and nonstate actors as the largest global institution for health financing.

ACUNS Book Talk 22
Governance Entrepreneurs

Liliana Andonova
Professor of International Relations and Political Science,
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

This is an exciting book of original research in which the author embraces the theoretical challenge to conceptualize a theory of institutional change to explain how IOs evolve over time and develop new activities often under new guidelines and partners. Governance Entrepreneurs provides a detailed analysis of how IOs and non-state actors have promoted “entrepreneurship”, affecting both the development and ongoing management of global partnerships. According to Andonova, entrepreneurial drive as well as knowledge and leadership within IOs have often been supported by the ideas, political engagement and funding from external non-state partners. Networks of interested stakeholders have come together as a more nimble and effective way to produce results in the currently stalled international system. The author outlines a three-step process to explain organizational leadership including agenda setting, experimental adoption of partnership initiatives and, finally, more permanent institutionalization.

The book examines five IOs including the United Nations Secretariat, the United National Environment Program (UNEP), the World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and several public-private collaborations such as the United Nations Global Compact and the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) among others. The book’s comparative methodology provides a useful historic overview of the origins and cultural differences among the chosen IOs and highlights specific organizational circumstances (i.e. UNICEF as the most decentralized organization with the most diverse experience of collaboration between civil society and the private sector;  the WHO with strong expert specialization and the longest tradition of oversight and accountability with global partnerships, etc.).

Andonova revisits the principal agent model of IOs and posits five propositions concerning the governance entrepreneurship of global partnerships as the basis of a theory of “dynamic institutional change”.  IOs are best positioned to drive innovation in governance given their expertise and potential entrepreneurial leadership (the “internal” organizational entrepreneurs). Change happens when these internal conditions are matched with external partners who, equally committed to change, contribute political will, additional expertise and resources.

Exterior View of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Photo Credit: UN Photo/P Klee

In her attempt to forge a theory about the agency and conditions for institutional change of IOs, Andonova emphasizes two important points about processes of institutional change: they are considerably more dynamic than previously recognized; and they are, at a minimum, partially endogenous to the multilateral system (p. 193). Knowledge, competency and the existence of related external epistemic communities help provide the necessary resources by which to organize efforts and set new objectives for IOs. Leadership and specialized knowledge enable organizations to become more confident, gain a greater degree of autonomy and, ultimately, expand the extent and direction of their main activities.

While the strongest part of the book consists of a comparative analysis of the five major IOs, the case studies of UNICEF and the WHO, with their work on children and health issues, provide particularly rich examples of the historic development of each agency, the role of their related epistemic communities, instances of organizational leadership and  a description of their external relationships. This book examines cases involving environment, health, children welfare, human rights and largely discounts the argument regarding the possible “privatization” of global governance in these areas. But how do these hypotheses fare in cases covering the areas of international trade, international finance and development? Some of the final conclusions are not surprising at all: strategy results of IOs vary greatly and reflect their (specific) circumstances” (p. 198); and private sector business actors tend to get more involved with issues related to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and are less likely to participate in partnerships related to broad global objectives (p. 200).

This book makes a strong theoretical contribution to the study of global governance and multilateral institutions and addresses the tension between state-centric and bureaucracy-focused perspectives on change and stagnation of international institutions. The significance of this book is its focus on a previously neglected aspect of global governance—how IOs adapt and engage with external partners to form public-private partnerships across multilateral institutions. This book also suggests several avenues for future research including additional detailed case studies of individual organizational entrepreneurs and examples of instances of competing policy preferences and diverging institutional proposals between principals (states) and agents (IOs).

This book will be of interest to anyone looking for a better understanding of the history and development of some of the most important international organizations. It draws on an original source of data, specifically collected for this project, known as the Global Partnerships Database with partnership details of the specialized agencies studied in the book. Governance Entrepreneurs deserves to be included in any collection of essential texts on global governance given the originality of its research, clarity and importance of its case studies. There is much to satisfy those interested in multilateralism, global governance, bureaucratic politics, the UN system, IR theory, and international public administration. It is equally useful for undergraduate students beginning their studies in global governance and for graduate students examining the future of the international system. This book suggests additional global partnerships in the future, the more reason for us to understand how they work and come into being.