International Organizations as Collective Agents: Fragmentation and the Limits of Principal Control at the World Health Organization
European Journal of International Relations, Forthcoming
40 Pages Posted: 4 May 2013
Date Written: May 2, 2013
What factors influence IO faithfulness to mandates assigned by member states? Although recent literature treats IOs agents as autonomous actors in global politics, most work continues to treat the bureaucracy of an international organization as a unitary actor. I argue that the unitary actor assumption limits our ability to assess how internal factors such as fragmentation influence agent faithfulness. When we conceive of IO bureaucracies as collective agents — those including more than one bureaucratic actor and subject to internal fragmentation — IO faithfulness can be more fully explained. Specifically, fragmentation limits faithfulness by inhibiting the effectiveness of principals’ control mechanisms (i.e. oversight and agent screening and sanctioning). These arguments are illustrated using a case study of the World Health Organization and its efforts to improve health systems between 1982 and 2008.
Keywords: international organizations, global governance, principal-agent theory, delegation
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