Student Blog – Karly Hanson | Time to React: The Efficiency of International Organizations in Crisis Response

Dr. Heidi Hardt presented her research and the topic of her book, Time to React: The Efficiency of International Organizations in Crisis Response, May 14 during the final Tower Center Monthly Seminar of the semester. Dr. Hardt’s research focused on the timeliness of post-Cold War peace operations from four international organizations: the African Union (AU), European Union (EU), Organization of American States (OAS), and the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Looking at response times, from when a demand was presented to when there were troops on the ground, Hardt found that on average the EU takes a longer time to reach a decision than the other organizations, which contradicts due to its financial capacity, tight membership, homogenous culture, and economic integration, opposes her initial intuition. After considering many factors, such as the ones listed above, Hardt determined that response time can be explained by the organizational culture. The organizations that meet informally, and therefore build interpersonal relationships, are able to respond to crises more efficiently. The European Union frequently holds formal meetings, but because they are so time consuming, the ambassadors do not socialize outside of these meetings. Other organizations, such as the AU, holds formal meetings less frequently, so the majority of the interactions are informal and therefor foster the development of the essential interpersonal relationships Hardt discussed during the seminar.

Hardt’s argument contradicts the popular theory that state’s interests and other political conflicts are responsible for the slower response times to military and civilian crises such as what appeared to be the case in the Syrian incident, and what happened in Rwanda 20 years ago. When Tower Chair Josh Rovner asked Hardt to address this, she said that over the years while leadership in the various regions has changed, the organizational culture of the four organizations she studied did not. The social networks have sustained themselves and allow the organizations to move around the confounding politics.

The formal culture within organizations such as the European Union is not effective. In those situations, people are not able to communicate as easily and freely as they are with their friends. Even in situations of global crises, trusting relationships are important for cooperation and efficiency within any organization. Personal relationships, as Hardt argues, should always be a priority. Delays cost lives, and these international organizations need to be aware of measures that could reduce those delays, like setting aside time for employees to meet casually.

- Karly Hanson, SMU student and Tower Center Intern

Click here to listen to the presentation.
Click here to download the presentation slides.

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