Does civil society really democratize global governance? Examining transnational civil society engagement with the World Bank.

by Christopher L Pallas

Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom)
Year: 2010
Record ID: 1392577
Full text PDF: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/3019/


Academics and practitioners alike recognize that global governance institutions suffer from a democratic deficit. A large body of literature suggests that civil society can reform global governance, but a countervailing body of work indicates that civil society may actually facilitate new forms of elite domination. This thesis seeks to contribute to this debate by examining the impact of civil society on policymaking at the World Bank. This thesis' core question is: 'Do data about the World Bank support the idea that civil society can democratize global governance.' Using three case studies, the thesis examines how civil society organizations engaging with the Bank interact with one another, set their agendas, and achieve their impacts, and how these organizations engage with local civil society and governments in developing countries. The resulting data are analyzed using a framework for democratic legitimacy derived from the work of Uhlin, Scharpf, and Dingwerth. The case studies reveal civil society is far more atomized than indicated in much of the literature. Strong ideological commitments, coupled with financial incentives, inhibit dialogue between organizations and make it difficult for international organizations to respond to the concerns of grassroots stakeholders. Civil society advocacy increases stakeholder control over the World Bank, but new channels of influence are controlled primarily by elite organizations based in the global North. Civil society organizations also utilize state power to achieve their objectives, soliciting the assistance of the Bank's major donors in ways that marginalize developing country governments. The thesis finds that civil society has abundant impact on the World Bank and that some impacts, like improved transparency and accountability, facilitate direct stakeholder influence over the institution. However, the thesis concludes that because transnational civil society consolidates that influence in the hands of a minority of stakeholders, it does not democratize the World Bank.