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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)


Peer-Reviewed Publications

"Illiberal Regimes and International Organizations" with Emilie Hafner-Burton, Stephan Haggard, Lauren Prather, and Christina J. Schneider. Forthcoming at The Review of International Organizations. Special Issue 2024

Illiberal regimes have become central players in international organizations. In this introduction to the special issue, we provide a unified framework for understanding their effects. We start by outlining the theoretical foundations of this work, focusing first on why regime type matters for international cooperation. We then show how differing memberships and decision-making processes within international organizations affect the influence illiberal regimes can wield, the activities they undertake, and the impact that they have on domestic political outcomes. Collectively and individually, the contributions to this special issue broaden the theoretical literature on illiberal regimes in international organizations and produce novel data about how they are implicated in the politics and operations of multilateral and regional IOs. This research has important implications for how democracies can and should cope with the challenges to global governance that arise from illiberal regimes. 

“Zombies Ahead: Explaining the Rise of Low-Quality Election Monitoring” with Sarah S. Bush and Lauren Prather. Forthcoming at The Review of International Organizations. Special Issue 2024

The international election monitoring regime has become considerably more complex in the 21st century. Although the number of organizations engaged in high-quality election monitoring has plateaued, the number of low-quality monitors—commonly known as zombie monitors—has continued to grow. Low-quality election monitors threaten democracy because they validate flawed elections and undermine the legitimacy of the international election monitoring regime. This article argues that international politics have played a crucial role in the diffusion of low-quality election monitors. It hypothesizes that ties with autocratic powers that promote low-quality observers and membership in authoritarian regional organizations significantly increase the likelihood that a country will host low-quality monitors at its elections. To test the hypotheses, the article draws on original data on international election observation between 2000 and 2020 that identifies the most comprehensive set of groups of election monitors to date. A statistical analysis of the dataset supports the argument.

"Protection for Hire: Cooperation through Regional Organizations"  International Studies Quarterly. 67:4 December 2023

There is growing evidence that leaders cooperate through regional intergovernmental organizations (RIOs) to address domestic security challenges. What sustains this collaboration? I present a theory of regional cooperation driven by mutual interest in stability and protection for heads of state. RIOs support the development of rules and norms around contributing to regional security and can legitimize pro-government military interventions. Leaders concerned that they may need external support—particularly against members of their own military—cooperate to remain in good standing with co-members. Using original security personnel deployment data for members of four Africa-based RIOs with mutual defense pacts between 1990 and 2017, I show that leaders facing higher coup risk were more likely to deploy personnel to support co-members. I also find evidence for the underlying mechanism—that these leaders contribute because they expect RIO members to reciprocate support in the future. Leaders who contributed more personnel to support co-members, and leaders who contributed more often, were more likely to receive military support from co-members in the future. These findings shed light on the dynamics sustaining regional security cooperation.​

"Stabilizing Authoritarian Rule: The Role of International Institutions" with Stephan Haggard. International Studies Quarterly. 67:2 June 2023

Research has demonstrated how membership in more democratic regional intergovernmental organizations (ROs) can strengthen the prospects for democracy. However, a significant number of ROs are dominated by autocratic members who have quite different preferences: to limit democratic contagion and consolidate authoritarian rule against democratic challengers. We outline a menu of mechanisms through which ROs with authoritarian memberships might have pernicious effects on the prospects for democratic rule. We use cross-national quantitative analyses to demonstrate that membership in more deeply authoritarian international organizations is associated with autocratization. We supplement the quantitative results with an analysis of twenty-nine of the most authoritarian ROs and illustrative case studies. The multi-method approach strengthens inference by showing that authoritarian international organizations do in fact engage in behaviors inimical to democratic rule.

"Taking the Cloth: Social Norms and Elite Cues Increase Support for Masks among White Evangelical Americans" with Claire Adida, Leonardo Falabella, Isabel Gotti, ShahBano Ijaz, Gregoire Phillips, and Michael Seese. Journal of Experimental Political Science. 10:3 Winter 2023

“War of words: the impact of Russian state television on the Russian Internet” with Katherine Kucharski, Evgenia Olimpieva, and Robert W. Orttung, Nationalities Papers. 43:4 July 2015

Under Review

"To Defend or Disown? Reciprocity and Biased Regional Interventions in West Africa" (R&R at International Security)

Papers in Progress

"International Collaboration Among Authoritarian Regimes"

"After Zombies Attack: How Low-Quality Monitors Affect Credible International Election Observers" with Sarah S. Bush and Lauren Prather

“International Financial Institutions and the Promotion of Autocratic Resilience” with Christina J. Schneider

Policy Pieces

"Understanding and Interrupting Modern Day Authoritarian Collaboration"
Concept paper for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), 2024

Book Projects

Staying Alive: Regional Organizations and Vulnerable Leaders

In my book project, I develop a theory about what motivates cooperation through regional integration organizations (RIOs) and how leaders 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. The book also provides a historical overview of how African RIOs have evolved to fulfil regime-protective functions.

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 eighteen West African crises.  

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.​

Book workshop held Fall 2022 at the University of Utah

Book 2:​

International Organizations and Autocratic Resilience

In progress with Stephan Haggard and Christina J. Schneider

Original Datasets:

Troop and police deployments by African and Middle Eastern states, 1990-2018

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

The Authoritarian Regional Organizations Dataset I document the scope of cooperation exhibited by regional political, security and economic IOs with predominantly autocratic members from 1945 to the present.  

"Introducing the Authoritarian Regional Organizations Dataset, 1945-2019" Presented at ISA 2022. 

Authoritarian RIO Lending  We track the financial commitments of authoritarian regional lending institutions to member states.

Paper in progress with Christina J. Schneider


International Election Monitoring Data We track the presence international election monitoring groups at all national elections in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Central-Eastern Europe between 2000-2020.  

Papers in progress with Sarah S. Bush and Lauren Prather

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