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Accountability, Governance and Reform in the International Financial Institutions

By Ngaire Woods | January 1, 2001

Abstract: In recent years both the IMF and the World Bank (the IFIs) have become more transparent and more participatory. Yet they are still under pressure from governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alike to become more accountability. This paper dissects the core components of accountability: transparency, compliance, and enforcement. It explains the way vertical accountability is arranged through representation on the Boards of each of the IMF and the World Bank, highlighting the many flaws in this system. The paper then discusses how these gaps in accountability are being magnified by widening mandates and conditionalities of the IFIs. As new stakeholders are created by the wider activities of the institutions, these stakeholders are, in turn, demanding more opportunity to hold the IFIs to account. The paper recommends that the IFIs need to consider a series of changes in governance at the level of staff, management, the Executive Boards, and in relations with member countries. However, the paper ends by noting that even with improvements, there will always be strong limits on how accountable the Fund and Bank might be. For this reason, their activities should be harnesses strictly to those for which they can legitimately claim to be accountable.

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Read More: Finance, Governance, Global

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