GEG WP 2010/56 Challenging Global Accountability: Contracts and Culture in the World Bank

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Full Title: Challenging Global Accountability: The Intersection of Contracts and Culture in the World Bank

Author: Nilima Gulrajani

Type: GEG Working Paper 2010/56


Global accountability is commonly understood as a contractual mechanism between principals and agents where standards of behavior are objective and respond to functional needs, agents are autonomous, motivations are self-interested and practices are procedural. This paper theorizes an alternative to this rationalist framing of global accountability anchored in theories of sociological
institutionalism that rest on a constructivist ontology. In this latter perspective, standards of accountable global behaviour derive from socially constructed global cultural norms governed by the logic of appropriateness that both produces and contours embedded global actions. The argument is made that epistemologically distinguishing and empirically uniting contractual and cultural understandings offers new vistas for understanding the challenge of global accountability. This is illustrated with a comparative investigation of contractual accountability mechanisms and cultural accountability norms inside two World Bank country offices in Bolivia and Vietnam.

Author Bio

Nilima Gulrajani is Senior Researcher at the Global Economic Governance Programme at the University of Oxford and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She is an internationally recognized expert on foreign aid effectiveness and international development management.