Secrets in Global Governance: Disclosure Dilemmas and the Challenge of International Cooperation



Austin Carson, University of Chicago

Date and Time

January 9, 2020 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Seminar Recording: ​


About this Event: Scholars and practitioners have long argued that compliance with international rules often requires building institutions or other mechanisms to ease access to information about possible violations. This book introduces a different information problem -- disclosure dilemmas -- that requires equipping IOs with secrecy. States and firms often possess private information that sheds detailed light on the compliance of others with international rules. Yet fears of revealing intelligence sources or helping commercial rivals can deter them from disclosing it. Building a “confidentiality system” in an international organization can allow the institution to receive and protect such sensitive details, enabling disclosure without wider dissemination. This, in turn, elicits the sharing of unique and sensitive information which fills evidentiary gaps and makes cooperation more effective. For example, targeted intelligence disclosures to the IAEA can fill in gaps about hidden nuclear weapons programs. Similarly, targeted disclosures of internal firm documentation to the WTO can clarify whether trade barriers have caused damage to foreign firms. The book offers a unified, multi-method approach to understanding international cooperation and how institutions work, spanning economic and security domains from nuclear proliferation to trade to human rights. In addition to practical lessons about how to improve compliance with international rules, the book recasts the role of institutions in International Relations and identifies a source of tension between cooperation and normative goals like global governance transparency.


Chapter One


Speaker's Biography: Austin Carson is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His first book, Secret Wars: Covert Conflict in International Politics (Princeton UP 2018), argues that secrecy helps great powers meddle in conflicts while keeping war limited. It was recently award the Lepgold Book Prize for best book in 2018. A second book with Allison Carnegie, Secrets in Global Governance: Disclosure Dilemmas and the Challenge of International Cooperation (Cambridge UP forthcoming), shows how secrecy allows international organizations to use sensitive information to assess compliance. His research has appeared in International Organization, American Journal of Political Science, and Security Studies.