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Agency and Accountability in Multilateral Development Finance: An Agenda for Change


  • Smyth Sophie E.

    (Temple University)


Recent development challenges highlight a pressing need to re-evaluate whether the post-World War II behemoths of multilateral development finance are up to the tasks being demanded of them today. The institutions that dominate the current order, the United Nations (“UN”) and the World Bank, are undergoing a crisis of confidence as the world’s development aid donors engage in an ongoing quest to find alternatives to them. This quest takes the form of setting up numerous funds narrowly tailored to finance specific, narrowly-defined needs. Examples of these funds include the Global Environment Trust Fund (GEF) and the Global Fund to Fight HIV Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis. The Climate Change Fund, proposed in the December 2009 Copenhagen Accord (and recently renamed the Green Climate Fund), is poised to follow this approach. This ad hoc special purpose fund approach lacks a coherent, unifying vision of how to meet today’s development challenges. The funds that have been created fill a need but suffer from several deficits, ranging from governance gaps and lacunae in accountability, to high transaction costs and uncertain status in the international political and legal order. These deficits generate new risks and costs for the international aid architecture. In this Article, I argue that the time has come to re-design the interrelationship between these special purpose funds and the UN and the World Bank so that these funds can operate in sync with these institutions rather than as bypasses of them.

Suggested Citation

  • Smyth Sophie E., 2011. "Agency and Accountability in Multilateral Development Finance: An Agenda for Change," The Law and Development Review, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 66-140, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:lawdev:v:4:y:2011:i:1:n:3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Heimans, Jeremy, 2004. "Multiactor Global Funds: New Tools to Address Urgent Global Problems," WIDER Working Paper Series 047, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:99:y:2005:i:01:p:29-43_05 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Barnett, Michael N. & Finnemore, Martha, 1999. "The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(04), pages 699-732, September.
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