DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12811 ISSN:

Bureaucratic Structure and Compliance with International Agreements

Shannon P. Carcelli
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science


Why do some states comply with international agreements while others flout them? In this article, I introduce a previously unconsidered explanation: bureaucratic structure. I develop a rational choice model examining the impact of bureaucratic structure on compliance, suggesting that the existence of several distinct bureaucracies can mute compliance with an international agreement by insulating some bureaucrats from pressure to comply. I examine this theory through newly coded data on a 2001 OECD agreement designed to decrease the percentage of aid that is “tied” to donor‐state products and services—a practice that is popular among special interests but which decreases foreign aid's effectiveness. I find that non–development‐oriented bureaucracies, such as departments of interior, labor, and energy, were significantly less likely to comply with the agreement than traditional development bureaucracies. This aggregates to the state level as well, where states with many aid agencies were less compliant than states with a streamlined bureaucracy.