States are traditionally considered the primary creators of international organizations (IOs). Recent research has added nuance to this view, highlighting the role of international bureaucrats in designing new IOs.

We build on this research but relax the assumption that these IO officials are primarily motivated by collective bureaucratic interests, such as increasing their budgets and autonomy. Instead we theorize these officials not as bureaucrats but as policymakers, with particular (and at times conflicting) individual beliefs.

We argue many processes of IO creation cannot be understood without understanding the principled and causal beliefs of the specific individuals who championed them.

We show how the beliefs held by one founding individual helps explain the creation of each of the World Bank’s private sector arms: the International Finance Corporation (IFC), created in 1956; the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), created in 1966; and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), created in 1988.

We demonstrate that plausible counterfactual individuals who could have held the same positions at the time had contrasting beliefs, and thus would not have pursued IO creation. We suggest this approach may help explain otherwise puzzling patterns of regime complexity and variation in the timing of IO creation.

About the speaker

Taylor St John is an Assistant Professor in International Relations at the University of St Andrews. She researches international institutions and how they change over time, especially in investment. Her monograph, The Rise of Investor–State Arbitration, was published by Oxford University Press.

She is currently researching reform negotiations underway in the UN with Professor Anthea Roberts. She was previously a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, PluriCourts, University of Oslo, and before than, Fellow in International Political Economy, London School of Economics. She received a DPhil and MSc from the University of Oxford.

This event will be delivered online via Zoom.

Image credit: Image of visitor at World Bank Group Visitor Centre, Washington DC, from World Bank flickr account, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Event details

Event date

Tue, 22 Feb 2022, 12:30 - 1:30pm