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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

International Policy Diffusion and Domestic Policy-Making: the Case of Two Transparency and Anticorruption Policies in Romania
by Schnell, Sabina, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2014, 410; 3615446
Abstract (Summary)

In the last two decades, more and more countries have adopted transparency and anti-corruption (TAC) policies – including countries with high levels of corruption. This represents an apparent paradox: such policies, if effective, risk exposing government wrong-doing, and thus should run counter to the interests of elites in highly corrupt countries. One of the main explanations for the spread of transparency and anti-corruption policies has been international policy diffusion. Nevertheless, international processes are not by themselves sufficient for explaining the adoption, let alone implementation and sustainability, of such policies. Rather, much depends on how international diffusion processes interact with domestic interests and institutions. To date, there are comparatively few efforts to integrate explanations based on international diffusion with those based on domestic incentives into a joint framework, and even fewer specifically for the area of transparency and anti-corruption.

This dissertation addresses this gap. It investigates how domestic and international factors contributed jointly to the adoption and evolution of two key transparency and anti-corruption policies in Romania: freedom of information and public asset and interest disclosure. Integrating literature from political science, development theory, and public administration, and using a mix of qualitative research methods, the dissertation follows the history of these policies over more than ten years, to explain why and how elites in high-corruption countries adopt such policies. Romania represents a critical case for the potentials and limits of externally-driven adoption of TAC policies: it is a high-corruption country that has enacted a spate of transparency and anti-corruption policies in the last decades, while being exposed to an unprecedented degree of international influence through the EU accession process.

The findings confirm the propositions I outline: International pressure and/or support for transparency and anti-corruption policies is indeed crucial in empowering domestic policy entrepreneurs, opening windows of opportunity and generating elite support for such policies. However, ultimately, policy adoption, implementation and sustainability over time depend on the domestic incentives of both decision-makers and civil society. Such incentives are shaped by underlying structural and institutional conditions, such as the capacity and scope for civil society activism, the type and degree of political competition and political uncertainty, and the existence of "value actors." The incentives are also shaped by policy-specific features, such as the degree and distribution of costs and benefits of the policies, their global strength, and their normative resonance. International actors and diffusion processes can intervene at crucial moments in the policy process and alter to some degree the cost-benefit calculations of domestic actors, but they cannot fundamentally change the structural and institutional conditions which shape the key incentives. Thus, international diffusion is a necessary but insufficient condition for the adoption and implementation of transparency and anti-corruption policies across countries, and especially in high-corruption countries.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brinkerhoff, Jennifer M.
Commitee: Aaronson, Susan A., Brainard, Lori A., Brinkerhoff, Derick W., Weiner, Robert J.
School: The George Washington University
Department: Public Policy and Public Administration
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 75/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: East European Studies, Public administration, Public policy
Keywords: Accountability, Anticorruption, Diffusion, Governance, Policy-making, Romania, Transparency
Publication Number: 3615446
ISBN: 978-1-303-81446-4
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