Within the last fifteen years, nine multilateral development banks (MDBs) have established internal accountability offices (IAOs). These IAOs, the most well-known of which is the World Bank Inspection Panel, allow communities within borrowing states to bring complaints against MDBs if loan programs cause them harm and violate MDB policies. The IAOs have been touted as effective fire-alarm mechanisms and remedies to the democratic deficit problem; they have also been criticized as broadly ineffective and toothless. What explains the variation in IAO impact and efficacy? I argue that borrowing states significantly constrain the impact of MDB IAOs and that borrowing state influence varies depending on regime type. Democratic borrowing states will be more willing to absorb the potential costs associated with MDB IAOs—including program changes and possible program termination—than will autocratic states. The argument is supported with quantitative evidence from a new dataset of all complaints filed through 2015.
Erica Gould is the Director of the International Relations Honors Program at Stanford University. She teaches courses on honors thesis writing, international political economy and international organizations. She has taught previously at the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Gould’s research has centered mainly around the question of how international organizations are controlled. She is currently working on a project concerning international organizational decision-making rules and also one on the accountability mechanisms associated with international organizations. Her publications include Money Talks: The International Monetary Fund, Conditionality and Supplementary Financiers (Stanford University Press, 2006), as well as articles in academic journals and several edited volumes. In addition to her research and teaching, Dr. Gould serves on the Board of Accountability Council, an international NGO based in San Francisco. She received her PhD in Political Science from Stanford University and her BA from Cornell University.