Formal Bilateral Influence Capacity

The Diplometrics Program has built and released databases on international organizations, diplomatic exchange (embassies), and treaties monitored by the United Nations, including the Formal Bilateral Influence Capacity Index (FBIC). The Diplometrics Program has also developed tools to help visualize and structure the data, such as the UN Voting Coincidence Dashboard. This data feeds a research agenda that is interested in measuring and modeling international relations and will inform the International Politics submodule of the International Futures (IFs) model.

The project expects to add to this data collection effort by producing data sets on non-state actors including international non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, and others.

  • Why measure bilateral influence capacity?

    Bilateral influence capacity, also referred to as relational power, can be used to better understand more granular trends in the distribution of power across the international system. The Pardee Center has introduced the FBIC Index to track relational power in the international system from 1960 through 2020 for all pairs of states. This index is operationalized using data that cut across economic, political, and security dimensions of bilateral influence.

  • How is "formal bilateral influence capacity" defined?

    Formal indicates the state-sanctioned or state-sponsored and publicly acknowledged nature of the leverage we seek to measure. This includes interactions like diplomatic exchange, arms transfers, and goods trade but excludes actions like state financing of violent non-state actors or covert attempts to disrupt foreign elections. Bilateral highlights the country-to-country nature of the measures we examine. Multilateral and network effects can be examined by analyzing a collection of bilateral connections together, highlighting patterns such as spheres of influence. However, these are byproducts of the collections of bilateral interactions rather than explicit components of our measures of influence capacity. By influence, we intend to measure relational power between countries, where power refers to one country’s ability to get another country to do what it otherwise would not do (or to refrain from doing what it otherwise would do). In other words, influence can play into strategies that involve both compellence and deterrence. Finally, capacity emphasizes the material-based foundation of our measures of influence, which exclude policymakers’ willingness or ability to act.

  • How can the FBIC Index support future research?

    Various researchers have attempted to measure capabilities in multidimensional indices, providing some context to the quantitative study of international relations. In addition to academic utility, these measures have also provided insights useful to U.S. policymakers. The FBIC Index can enhance policymakers’ understanding of the transformations in the global power landscape at the country, regional, and global levels.

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