Accepted paper:

Dynamics of rentier bureaucracies: why Abu Dhabi is more committed than Qatar to the international partnership on climate change


Martin Lestra (European University Institute)

Paper short abstract:

I use a historical-sociological approach to Abu Dhabi and Qatar's bureaucracies to examine how the degree of power centralization explains their different degree of cooperation on SDD 13 (former MDG 7).

Paper long abstract:

Why is it that similar states decide to take different paths in the multilateral realm? Why is it that whilst the UAE has opened its doors to the International Renewable Energy Agency; Qatar has in parallel shunned the UNEP and failed to make any significant commitment to the multilateral agenda for climate change? Renewed interest in external relations of rich Gulf states shows that this subclass of actors is less inclined to cooperate than most states. Political economists argue that rentiers' favourable position in trade relations and capacity to weather the costs of international isolation guarantees their (relative) autonomy from international constraints. International relations scholars point to Gulf states' narcissism, which promotes bilateral ties over multilateral commitments. Yet one major caveat is left unanswered: Why is it that very similar rentier states knowing similar incentives and constraints display different degrees of commitment to international cooperation? I expand on rentier state theory to argue that different degrees of power concentration in Abu Dhabi and Qatar cause different dynamics of intra-bureaucratic rivalries. These in turn impact the degree and continuity of these states' commitment to international partnerships. Using the case of SDG 13 (former MDG 7), I argue that while Abu Dhabi's iterative relationship with Dubai has led to increasing and incremental international cooperation on climate change, Qatar's centralized power structure has made cooperation weak and sporadic. I rely on a process-tracing methodology at the meso-level of ministries, agencies and companies; and fifty elite interviews conducted in the Gulf.

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Partnerships and power in the 2030 Agenda