Timescapes of International Administrations: Time Rules and Time Horizons of Planning and Budgeting (TIME)

Have you ever wondered how international organisations (IOs) like the United Nations (UN) or the European Union (EU) come to a decision on how to spend their money? Who decides how much funds these organisations receive and how it is used to finance both administrative and operational costs? Is it the many member states of IOs who settle the amounts and the purpose of IOs’ budgets collectively, or are financial matters in reality in the hands of the permanent bureaucracies, often called ’secretariats‘, of these international organizations?

Answering those questions is important because budgeting is one of the defining organisational processes and thus central to our understanding of how international organisations operate. More than that, with budgets in the billions of Euros (e.g., 145 bn € for the EU’s 2015 budget) or in the billions of US-Dollars (e.g., 5.5 bn US-$ for the UN budget 2014-15), IO budgeting is not just a compelling subject for scholars of international relations and international organisations. Budgeting ultimately is of interest for all taxpayers who fund these organisations and for all beneficiaries who profit directly or indirectly from how funds are allocated.

2014-11-17 EU Budget Conciliation BY SWE PermRep

EU budget negotiations in November 2014 (Picture by Anders Ahnlid, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the EU)















In this research project, we therefore take a close look at budgetary procedures in international organisations from two specific angles:

First, we study the timescape of budgets and budgeting. Time horizons, time rules and time practices are reflections and determinants of power inside organisations, and power over budgets is one of the most important powers in public policy. We want to determine who has the ability to decide on budgeting timetables and budget perspectives, who can set deadlines in budget decision-making and how much time different actors have at their disposal during budgets procedures in order to establish who the most powerful players are inside IOs.

Second, we focus on the role of international public administrations (IPAs) in budgeting. Little is known about the work and impact of the permanent bureaucracies of international organisations in budget procedures: How much influence do they have and at what time(s) are they involved? Which part of the bureaucracy can steer budgeting top-down, and which parts contribute bottom-up? How strong are IPAs vis-à-vis their masters, the member states, and how much of this strength is the result of fixed rules versus practices that have evolved over time? Those aspects have largely been neglected in the study of IOs, and our research is going to fill this gap.

Overall, given the importance of budget procedures for international organisations, answering questions about the timescape of budgeting with a focus on IOs‘ permanent bureaucracies will contribute to the core aim of the DFG Research Unit: to better understand the role and impact of IPAs inside their organisations and in international politics more generally.

To do so, we compare the timescape and involvement of IOs’ bureaucracies in budgeting in a number of organizations from the core sample of the Research Unit, ranging from the UN and the EU to several specialised UN agencies, with the goal of finding and explaining significant similarities and differences.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Goetz Project head
Dr. Ronny Patz Researcher