Christina Cottiero at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library and Archives

Photos taken at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library and in the Presidential Archives, Abeokuta, Nigeria (Jan. 2020)



Book Project

Staying Alive: Regional Integration Organizations and Vulnerable Leaders

In my dissertation book project, I develop a theory about what motivates cooperation through regional integration organizations (RIOs) and how authoritarian regimes sustain regional collective action through these organizations, particularly in contexts of heightened domestic instability. I argue that leaders with compatible security objectives use RIOs to address threats to their personal safety. RIOs coordinate protection for leaders who maintain "good standing" within the organization while balancing against excessive risk-taking behavior through inducements and punishments. I examine the circumstances in which "vulnerable" heads of state are more likely to contribute to regional security operations and to emphasize reciprocity with neighboring leaders.  

I take a mixed methods approach to testing hypotheses drawn from the theory.  I first analyze where and when African and Middle Eastern states contribute security personnel (troops and police) for peacekeeping and other security operations.  I find that leaders facing higher coup risk are more likely to deploy to assist co-members.  I next examine whether leaders' prior contributions to regional security cooperation impact the likelihood that they will be targeted for pro-government military interventions.  I find that leaders who previously deployed personnel to support co-members (and who did so more often) are more likely to receive military support from co-members.  Third, I use a large-n qualitative design to explain how leaders' prior actions condition co-members' responses to them during security crises, closely examining seventeen West African crises.  Later chapters address the role of RIOs in managing African states' relationships with donor states.

To link domestic sources of political vulnerability with regional cooperation, I rely on quantitative cross-national tests of new security personnel deployment data, documents gathered from Nigerian presidential archives, and interviews with West African political elites, security officials, and regional organization staff in Nigeria.

Working papers: "Protection for Hire: Illiberal Cooperation through Regional Organizations" (Resubmitted to International Organization)

Presented at PEIO 2020, WPSA African Politics mini-conference 2020,

APSA 2020, ISA 2020 (accepted)

"Reciprocity and Biased Crisis Management in the Economic Community of West African States" (available upon request)

Presented at APSA 2021


Rethinking Illiberal Regional Cooperation

Cooperation in the Shadow of Crisis: Regional Organizations and Coup Risk (awarded the 2021 Lawrence S. Finkelstein Award from the ISA's IO Section)

Dividends of Cooperation: Biased Military Interventions in Africa

Responding to Crises in ECOWAS

Original Datasets: 1. Troop and police deployments by African and Middle Eastern states, 1990-2018

2. African regional organization interventions in member state crises, 1990-2018

Authoritarian International Cooperation

Part of my research agenda addresses how autocratic regional intergovernmental organizations around the globe help member state leaders in their attempts to stymie liberalization.  A series of co-authored and solo-authored papers will address the activities of authoritarian RIOs, including their roles in election monitoring and lending to member states. Updates related to this series of projects are/will be hosted at UC IGCC.  The project is supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation and the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation from 2021-2023.

Working Papers:
"The Rise of Authoritarian Regional International Organizations" with Stephan Haggard. UC IGCC Working Paper.

"Stabilizing Authoritarian Rule: The Role of International Institutions" with Stephan Haggard (under review)

Presented at APSA 2019, ISA 2021.

In Preparation: "Authoritarian Regionalism Revisited" 

The Authoritarian Regional Organizations Dataset We document the scope of cooperation exhibited by regional political, security and economic IOs with predominantly autocratic members from 1940 to the present.  (In progress)

Authoritarian Election Monitoring We track the presence of international election monitoring groups at national elections in authoritarian RIO member states between 1990-2020.  (Paper in progress with Sarah Bush and Lauren Prather)

Authoritarian RIO Lending  We track the financial commitments of authoritarian regional lending institutions to member states. (Paper in progress with Christina Schneider)

Exile Destinations of Former Heads of State: I build on existing datasets to provide more information about the paths leaders take as they flee their home country into exile, including their first, second, and third destinations (as applicable), their legal status, and more.


"Taking the Cloth: How Religious Appeals Increase Compliance
with Covid-19 Prevention Measures"
with Claire Adida, Leonardo Falabella, Isabel Gotti, ShahBano Ijaz, Gregoire Phillips, and Michael Seese   (Under review)