International organizations sometimes institutionalize country groupings by specifying differentiated commitments that may, in turn, affect negotiation dynamics. Drawing on incentive-based and socialization arguments, we develop a “constructed peer group” hypothesis suggesting that by creating these groups those organizations may actually construct new lines of confrontation over and above the substance-based disagreements existing between countries. This generates a particular type of path dependence, rendering broad-based international agreements more difficult in the future.
We analyze this question at the example of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's increasingly politicized split between Annex I and non-Annex I countries. Using a self-coded dataset of country oral statements during the negotiations between December 2007 and December 2009 we assess whether Annex I membership influences a country's stance toward other countries’ arguments, while controlling for country characteristics that may drive their preferences and the affiliation to Annex I. We find that the split between Annex I and non-Annex I has indeed influenced negotiation behavior and amplified the divide between developing and industrialized countries in the climate negotiations.