The Global Governance of Ideas: International Organisations as Agents of Policy Diffusion

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway University of London
Department Name: Politics, Internatl Relations & Philos

Abstract

Intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) are key actors in the spread of ideas, relying on their widely held legitimacy to influence policymakers around the world through a combination of coercion and persuasion. They devise rules and norms on issues as diverse as economic policy, health security, and environmental protection. Given the profound influence IGOs have on domestic policy decisions, the ideas these bodies represent are at the centre of current policy debates. Nonetheless, despite persistent academic attention, the avenues through which ideas travel from IGOs to domestic policymakers remain insufficiently understood. How do these ideas diffuse, where and when are these ideas implemented, and why do ideas become embedded in some countries but not others?

This project will be among the first to systematically examine the activities of IGO technical assistance missions. The three core research questions are:
1. Why do IGOs provide technical assistance?
2. How does IGO technical assistance spread ideas to domestic officials?
3. What effect does IGO technical assistance have on domestic policy?
To answer these questions, this project draws on recent theoretical advances in international relations and policy studies.

The focus of the empirical research will be the IGO underpinning the world economic order: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a central hub of knowledge on issues of key concern to developing countries, like fiscal and financial sector policies. The IMF presents a 'strategic research site', offering a unique analytical lens into the spread of policy norms to countries across the globe. The centrality of the organisation in global economic governance makes it a prime candidate for developing theoretical contributions that will be relevant to scholars across the social sciences.

The analysis will scrutinise the inner workings of IMF technical assistance activities, which account for one-quarter of the organisation's operating budget and is provided free-of-charge to requesting member countries. To study this phenomenon, the project will create a dataset of IMF technical assistance that systematizes information on all activities between 1990 and 2019, to be analysed using advanced quantitative methods. The project will also generate in-depth case studies of two frequent recipients of technical assistance-Kenya and Rwanda-by employing qualitative analyses of interviews with domestic officials and IMF staff. The research findings will contribute to academic debates on the diffusion of policy ideas by IGOs, and to policy debates on how to reform global governance.

What is at stake? IGOs typically court controversy because of the more conspicuous formal compliance mechanisms at their disposal-like the policy reforms governments must implement to obtain access to loans from international financial institutions. But profound influence is also exerted quietly in the background in providing domestic policymakers with routine technical assistance. These commonplace acts of persuasion are hidden from public scrutiny, and global governance institutions have been unaccountable for them. Consequently, this project aspires to lay the foundations for evidence-based policy debates on how IGOs provide technical assistance in order to increase public oversight and accountability for their actions.

The project is designed with a view to maximise impact for three groups of beneficiaries: academics, policymakers, and civil society. To effectively reach academic beneficiaries, the project will rely on academic articles, a book, conference organisation and attendance, and a reading group. To achieve non-academic impact, the project will rely on policy briefs, an interactive website, and pieces in popular media. To meet these objectives, the project will also draw on its Expert Advisory Board, and the institutional support of Royal Holloway's Department of Politics and International Relations.

Publications

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Stubbs T (2023) The return of austerity imperils global health. in BMJ global health

 
Description Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (Islamabad) Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation of 1 hour to audience of ~50 policy practitioners and civil society groups on the climate-related implications of IMF lending agreements in Pakistan, followed by discussion and strategizing for 2 hours
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description End Austerity Coalition Convening (Washington, DC) Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Expert consultant on a 3 hour expert meeting in Washington DC to strategize End Austerity campaign
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description IMF Interventions in Developing Countries (Nuffield) Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation of 30 minutes to audience of ~20 IMF staff, academics, and independent experts on IMF technical assistance and its impact on climate objectives, followed by 1.5 hours of discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description IMF+ Climate Campaigns Convening (Washington, DC) Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Expert consultant on a 2 day workshop in Washington DC to strategize campaigning on the IMF with a climate lens
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description International Monetary Fund Civil Society Organization Meeting with European Executive Directors 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Contributed to Civil Society Organization (CSO) Background Briefing and presented my research "Mixed messages: IMF loans and the green transition in Argentina and Pakistan" and "Cautious optimism: How IMF economic surveillance can foster the green transition" at CSO Meeting in Washington, DC, with the eight European IMF Executive Directors, part of the IMF's consultation and engagement process for development of its work program for 2023-2024 (11 October 2022).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation at International Monetary Fund/World Bank Civil Society Policy Forum (Washington, DC) Annual Meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation of 20 minutes to audience of ~100 IMF staff, policy practitioners, and civil society groups on the climate-related implications of IMF lending agreements in Argentina and Pakistan, followed by 1.5 hours for response by IMF staff, panel discussion, and audience questions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentations at German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and German Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Conducted an independent study for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) titled "Recovering forward: How the IMF can support a green, inclusive and resilient recovery in the aftermath of Covid-19". The goal of the project was to conduct a stocktaking of IMF operations vis-à-vis the extent that green, resilient, and inclusive development is supported, and to develop an assessment framework to inform the position of the German IMF Executive Director for future IMF programs (July 2021-January 2022). Three presentations were delivered to BMZ to communicate ongoing findings, and one presentation was delivered to BMZ and BMF to present the final report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022
 
Description Task Force on Climate, Development and the International Monetary Fund (TCDIMF) (Washington, DC) Roundtable 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited to and participated in roundtable discussion entitled 'This time must be different: Aligning the IMF's crisis response with climate and development goals' held by the Task Force on Climate, Development and the International Monetary Fund (TCDIMF) in Washington, DC. The goal of the event was to discuss how the IMF's lending toolkit can be reformed to align with climate and development goals, how the newly created Resilience and Sustainability Trust can be scaled and rapidly deployed to this end, and how debt restructuring predicated by the IMF can be aligned with climate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022