The limits of global authority: World Bank benchmarks in Ethiopia and Malawi

Published: 21 Oct 2015

Global benchmarks (re)shape political conversations and institutionalise authoritative languages. It does not necessarily follow, however, that benchmarks can exert a lasting or significant influence over policies and behaviour of benchmarked actors. We analyse how the World Bank uses benchmarks to manage its relations with both donors and recipient governments. We analyse the role of the World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA), both at headquarters and in relation to the recent history of two countries in Africa: Ethiopia and Malawi. We find that the CPIA is not – and contrary to what one would expect from the CPIA’s nominal function and the literature on benchmarks – a very important tool for signalling incentives and allocating funds, or shaping the policy dialogue or the World Bank’s strategy in these two countries. Rather, the CPIA is used highly selectively as one factor among many in the negotiations between World Bank staff and governments. We conclude that the CPIA helps establish the World Bank as an actor that embodies global authority on development issues, including with donors, but that there is a tension between such global authority on the one hand, and concrete authority to shape policy in domestic contexts, on the other.

  • Published year: 2015
  • DOI: 10.1017/S026021051500042X
  • Language: Engelsk
  • Pages: 993 - 1010
  • Volume: 41
  • Booklet: 5
  • Journal: Review of International Studies