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Delegation to International Organizations: Agency Theory and World Bank Environmental Reform


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  • Nielson, Daniel L.
  • Tierney, Michael J.
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    Current international relations theory struggles to explain both the autonomy and transformation of international organizations (IOs). Previous theories either fail to account for any IO behavior that deviates from the interests of member states, or neglect the role of member states in reforming IO institutions and behavior. We propose an agency theory of IOs that can fill these gaps while also addressing two persistent problems in the study of IOs: common agency and long delegation chains. Our model explains slippage between member states interests and IO behavior, but also suggests institutional mechanisms staff selection, monitoring, procedural checks, and contracts through which states can rein in errant IOs. We evaluate this argument by examining multiple institutional reforms and lending patterns at the World Bank from 1980 to 2000.Several people gave us helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. In particular, we thank Lisa Baldez, Michael Barnett, T.J. Cheng, Scott Cooper, David Dessler, Daniel Drezner, Jay Goodliffe, Darren Hawkins, Wade Jacoby, Robert Keohane, Ralf Leiteritz, Dave Lewis, Mona Lyne, Scott Morgenstern, Sue Peterson, Brian Sala, Steve Swindle, Mike Thies, Robert Wade, Kate Weaver, Sven Wilson, and Bennet Zelner. We owe a special debt of gratitude to Lisa Martin and two anonymous reviewers, as their criticisms were the most painful and helpful. We also thank the participants in the faculty research seminars at Brigham Young University, the College of William and Mary, and Duke University. The research for this article would not have been possible without support from BYU s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and College of Family, Home and Social Sciences, Duke University s Political Science Department, and the Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William and Mary. For research assistance, we are grateful to Nate Bascom, Spencer Bytheway, Adam Ekins, Eric Hatch, Jen Keister, Jennifer Neves, Chris O Keefe, Joshua Wheatley, and, especially, Kari Sowell.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal International Organization.

    Volume (Year): 57 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 02 (March)
    Pages: 241-276

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:57:y:2003:i:02:p:241-276_57

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