Sophomore Seminars

International Organizations and Accountability


International organizations (IOs), such as the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations, and others, have been widely criticized as insufficiently accountable. For example, some argue that states are not able to control IOs whose bureaucracies have grown out of control and run amok, while others argue that the real problem is that communities most impacted by IO activities, such as those receiving World Bank loans or UN peacekeeping operations, are least able to influence their activities. Still others contend that the voting rules by which states control IOs are outdated and should be reformed to remedy these problems.

Through readings, discussions and case studies, students will learn about a range of international organizations in order to better understand what they do and how they are supposed to be controlled. In addition, we will evaluate the critiques of IO accountability that come from the right and the left, as well as the North, South, East and West, and will analyze different mechanisms of accountability, both formal and informal. Students will have the opportunity to research and present on specific international organizations and accountability mechanisms, as well as delve into a comprehensive database of multilateral development bank accountability complaints.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Erica Gould

"I am a political scientist by training and have spent my career studying international organizations.  International organizations impact individuals’ lives throughout the world in significant ways, yet we do not have a firm understanding of how they are controlled and which factors define their activities. My first major project, Money Talks: The International Monetary Fund, Conditionality and Supplementary Financiers, focused on the IMF and asked why we had seen such a major expansion in IMF conditionality. More recently, I have been interested in international organizational accountability in its various forms. For example, I have two ongoing research projects, one on IO decision-making procedures and the other on a novel new institutional reform designed to address accountability concerns by sub-state communities. I also direct the International Relations Honors Program and teach courses in International Relations and International Policy Studies, and am a Fellow at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Off campus, when we aren’t in the middle of a global pandemic, I enjoy travelling, sitting fieldside to cheer on my kids, and volunteering for non-profits.  During the pandemic, I’ve been reading and cooking a lot, and have started mountain biking and meditation."