IFI governance


US Roles In Bank Examined

14 June 2000

A new book sets out current issues in multilateral development bank reform and the way that the US pushes its interests in the institutions. Written by former USAID official Barbara Upton, it sets out very interesting interview material.

It argues that “by pushing unrealistic or contradictory mandates upon multilateral institutions, aggressively seeking the appointment of inappropriate individuals to leadership positions, and failing to deal, in some cases for decades, with obvious problems, the US may have played an important role in the poor performance of many multilateral institutions and then sought to blame them for the ensuing failure.”

Addressing the question of how can the US government portray itself as the champion of social and environmental policy reforms at the Bank while still also using it as a tool to open markets for US companies Upton concludes that: “the United States either advocates so many priorities it is ineffective or advocates positions so inconsistently that it does not achieve results”.

She urges the establishment of a structured process to prioritize US objectives and build coalitions with other key governments. NGOs should be involved, perhaps in a formal advisory body to balance the problem that “the group dealing with the MDBs in the US government … can become too insular and fail to ask the hard questions or challenge long-held assumptions.”

The Multilateral Development Banks: Improving US Leadership is available from Praeger Publishers