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The paper is interested in showing the role of the World Bank as an IO and the case of allocation of international aid as a governance issue. It embraces the realist and neorealist perspectives as the underlying IR theories to explain and explore this case. The WB remains a prominent international organ for development whose work transcends state boundaries. Its influences affect the policy of nations. Nations powering or funding the WB and those with sufficient power to influence its directives also play a role in governance internationally through it. Thus, these dynamics make for an interesting case regarding the implication of IOs and global governance, and reiterating the strengths and weaknesses of the applicable IR theories.

International Organizations

International organizations (IO) in the context of international relations refer to the acting in three or more states while being less constrained by the state borders. They have work overlapping with that of the state. They also cover duties not handled by a given state. The World Bank form part of the four intergovernmental organizations that form the four pillars of global economic governance. The others are Financial Stability Board (FSB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO) (Wouters and Odermatt, 2014). In many cases the traditional roles of these organizations expanded into new ones and some were replaced. Their institutional design serves the need to develop and enforce rules for the global economy. In this paper, particular attention will be given to the World Bank and the formation of conditions for aid.

Global Governance

Global governance relates to the demonstration and policing of order with capabilities for social and political responses. The distinctive factor is the presentation of these efforts beyond levels of individual states. Such activities are institutionalized by IOs (Fleischer and Reiners, 2021, p.1234). Their work transcends boundaries and allows them to permit order and systemize global relations. Therefore, IO are contributors to global governance.

Governance relates to a manner through which power exercising in management of resources at organizational levels manifests. It covers economic and social resources and has to be specific to an application area such as development (Santiso, 2001). When applied to development and then extrapolated to a global scenario, the organization would morph into countries and management would include institutional ethos of the international organizations involved in the resulting framework (Santiso, 2001).

After World War II, the new international community was built around the United Nations, which then gave way to the globalization that ushered a dense and interdependent world order. However, there have been institutional inertia and institutional fragmentation that continue to affect the path towards global governance (Held, 2016). At Bretton Woods in 1945, there was sufficient capacity for writing the rules of the world but today, there has been a 300% increase in the number of states. It takes the G20 to run a forum for global economic management. The cooperation is due to the inability of individual capabilities. The high number of countries needed for consensus illustrates the challenges nations face today when pursuing any endeavor for global governance. The other issue is the problem of socio-economic conditions forcing countries to cooperate and work with many IOs that exist in this space. Therefore, there is considerable navigation of both domestic policy space within nations and foreign and international policies with other states, and in the management of socio-economic problems (Held, 2016).

IR Theories – Realist and Neo-Realist Perspectives

Realist IR theory contents that global cooperation and governance is happening under the guidance of a few powerful states (Slaughter, 2019). The issue can further be explored when considering public administration when international organizations play a strong role. The international relations (IR) perspective puts international public administration interests as part of global governance. There is the consideration of the importance of the IOs. However, a more advanced outlook today concerns the specific ways in which these IOs matter. Scholarly frameworks allow the linking of delegation theory and sociological institutionalism to several features. The first feature is the international organization also presented as intergovernmental organizations being extensions of governments because they come from governments. The international public administration is the administration body of the IO. However, the specifics of public administration at an international level may limit the application of IR theories. The challenge would be the unclear conceptualizing of bureaucratic influence that IO presents in public administration internationally. There is also the disregard of relevance for the specific bureaucratic policy preferences (Ege, Bauer, and Wagner 2020, 552).

The under-developed theoretical foundations do not cover the existing findings in public administration literature and they do not inform further development of international public administration discourse (Christensen and Yesilkagit 2019, 947). The challenge with realism is that it may look into empirical questions and treat them theoretically. The main reason is the reliance on fundamental assumptions about the international system that are considered more accurate and all-encompassing compared to specific empirical cases that might arise (Donelly, 2002). However, while this perspective may shine in providing comprehensive guidance, it surely lack in its ability to be specific and to incorporate new dynamics at hand. The other challenge is that with international relations, the available empirical data may have limited generalizability (Donelly, 2002). Therefore, it is not sufficient for realist to rely on this data to establish causal relationship and predict phenomena. The theoretical perspectives seem to fit the analysis of long-term historical patterns and trends better than empirical notes especially for normative international relations discourse (Donelly, 2002).

The Allocation of Development Funds by the World Bank

The case of conditionality of aid is brought about by concerns over the effectiveness of aid internationally. World Bank stretches its policies to the frontier pushing for good governance as part of its development strategy (Santiso, 2001). In all the types of international development, the World Bank is a notable player as both the traditional and the new forms of global developments (Caria, 2022, p.72. Its conditionality seen from the realist and neo-realist perspective interweaves with opportunities and challenges the recipients of aid face. Furthermore, these realists can be seen for their influence on the overall trajectory of global governance issues around aid for development (Caria, 2022, p.72).

Changes in the world economy over the last decade continue to reshape global economic order. The outcome remains unclear. However, changes to the global hegemony are showing with the realist and neorealist perspectives of international relations providing a way to gain legitimacy and tighten alliances. The United National through the Sustainable Development Goals seems to be using this approach to maintain its legitimacy as part of the IO that make up the traditional cooperation regime (Caria, 2022, p. 75).

Meanwhile, there are middle powers, and southern countries outside the traditional western hegemony that are providing alternative aid and development frameworks. They face horizontally common challenges. A third force is by the International Cooperation for Structural Transformation (Caria, 2022, p. 72). Here, China is the leader in presenting its development agenda as the new way of achieving global development.

The findings from Cormier and Manger (2022) shed light of the influence of World Bank research regarding conditions attached to loans. The realist perspective claims that those primary actors in international relations follow selfish interests and seek power. Hence, the WB as one of the IOs follows the influence of power dynamics among states. Meanwhile, Cormier and Manger (2022) show the research this IO does on specific topics notably affects the prevalence of conditions the World Bank ends up imposing on beneficiaries. There is emphasis on financial liberalization and privatization, trade and investment liberalization, governance reforms, and borrower ownership in loan conditions. These conditions are also prevalent in the research topics in the published material from this global institution.

The realist IR practitioner sees these findings as a reflection of global economic and political landscape. The conditionality often associates with the Washington Consensus. Conditions might be relaxed if recipients or stakeholders are powerful states. The neorealist approach looks at systemic factors. These would be the distribution of power among states and the role the IOs play. Cormier and Manger (2022) put that the World Bank research shapes an understanding of the economic ideas and their link to policy prescriptions. Powerful states shape the interest of the IO while these interests when applied to the international setup create realities that inform the prevailing international system which further shapes the positions, conditions, and objectives of the World Bank.

For illustrative purposes, the Chinese aid and subsequent financial liberalization appears in tandem with relaxed rules for aid perhaps due to a competitive dynamic in the global setup (Cormier and Manger, 2022). Therefore, this would be evidence for the World Bank adapting to conditions of the funding landscape. There is the feedback from research that ensures conditions reflect the realities the IO faces, and its reactions or action then also inform the realities of the global setup. The cyclic influence prevails.

Hierarchies are a common feature in international politics that will not be going away anytime soon. The IOs are sites and agents of inequality reproduction and transformation. They bring in heuristic frameworks that can be used to extend knowledge about the different processes leading to inequality production and transformation.

The contention here is that IOs will be taking up and transforming the global stratification patterns. Their distributional decision rely on legitimacy and these IOs have to justify process, judgements, and linkages between different categories and rights and privilege attached to them. They then lead to feedback into the global social environment. The inequality reproduction where some states will present more power over other while navigating hierarchies of IOs can also constitute sites in which state and non-state subjects are facing challenging social hierarchies (Fehl and Freistein, 2020).

The criticism to this view is that much attention goes to the formal IOs like the World Bank because such literature will then limit the scholarly investigations. They will not be open enough to patterns that become a reality and change daily because of routine conduct of world politics. This concern will be considered when evaluating conditionality by the World Bank as a globally powerful IO as well as a conduit through which powerful states may have influence over the less powerful states s. While the states may not influence World Bank, policies on governance concerning international aid directly (Fehl and Freistein, 2020). They nevertheless form a consensus in their priorities for development that influence the predominant constitution and arrangement of World Bank research, which then affects resulting conditions and their importance to global aid development structures.

The World Bank case further confirms the challenges regarding the formation of world government. There are complex dynamics and no doubt the IOs are now regarded suspiciously (Weiss, 2009). Already the emergence and continuing strengthening of the cooperation between Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (BRICS) is increasing the pace of reshaping global economic governance (Hooijmaaijers, 2019). However, the degree to which BRICS represent a new landscape in which World Bank and other traditional IOs will be navigate is still not well known. Early indications show that these new alignments of states have the potential of reshaping the gatekeeping role played by traditional IOs and states in global economic governance. It remains to be seen how an organization like World Bank would be coordinating its interest in developing states amid the changes in aid dynamics as domestic policy interests of China, India and other BRICS countries also play a role in affecting the realities and preferences of all players in the international system (Hooijmaaijers, 2019).


The realities of global governance is that it faces institutional inertia, and institutional fragmentation amid rising multi-polarity. IR theries of realism and neoliberalism appear to explain the phenomenon as aligned to global economic governance. The capabilities of IOs will continue to increase depending on their alignment to emergent and existing socio-economic problems. An intergovernmental organization like the World Bank occupies a unique position safeguarding global economic interests, and through its aid conditions it affects the foreign and domestic policies of dependent states. Meanwhile, it must also seek legitimacy through relaxation of some of its policies, introduction of new conditions aligned to emergent socio-economic conditions, and all these highlights the implication of systematic setups. Global governance remains hardly shaped by any particular class of players. States on their own and IOs on the other part must all find collisions of ideas, framework, and legitimacy to realize their influence. They must also intertwine their operations or tactics with those of the other party for them to stay legitimate.

The right criteria to assess global governance should be the extent to which the parties involved are shaping the outcomes that otherwise present as realities. The interests of the stakeholders together with mechanisms they are using to oversee shared interest are most important as a criterion for evaluation. When picking case studies for scrutiny, the example of the World Bank on the issue of aid for development confirms the underlying role of the information or data that makes up the reality or lens through which such an institution or organization at the intergovernmental level ends up perceiving the world.

References List

Caria, S. (2022). “Cooperation Regimes and Hegemonic Struggle: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries.” Politics and Governance10(2):71-81.

Christensen, J. and Yesilkagit, K. (2019). “International public administrations: a critique.” Journal of European Public Policy26(6):946-961.

Cormier, B., and M. S. Manger, (2022). “Power, ideas, and World Bank conditionality.” The Review of International Organizations17(3):397-425.

Ege, J., Bauer, M.W. and Wagner, N. (2020). “Improving generalizability in transnational bureaucratic influence research: A (modest) proposal.” International Studies Review22(3):551-575.

Fehl, C., and K. Freistein. (2020). “Organising global stratification: how international organisations (re) produce inequalities in international society”. Global Society34(3):285-303.

Fleischer, J. and Reiners, N. (2021). “Connecting international relations and public administration: Toward a joint research agenda for the study of international bureaucracy”. International Studies Review23(4):1230-1247.

Hooijmaaijers, B. (2021) “China, the BRICS, and the limitations of reshaping global economic governance.” The Pacific Review 34(1): 29-55.

Santiso, C. (2001). “Good governance and aid effectiveness: The World Bank and conditionality”. The Georgetown public policy review7(1):1-22.

Slaughter, S. (2019). “The G20 and realist International Relations theory”. In The G20 and International Relations Theory (pp. 37-55). Edward Elgar Publishing.

Weiss, T. G. (2009) “What Happened to the Idea of World Government.” International Studies Quarterly 53(2): 253–271

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