Good Government, Courtesy of the World Bank

One of the most frequent criticisms of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund is that they impose one-size-fits-all solutions on developing countries. For years, skeptics and activists have railed against the "Washington Consensus" that these institutions impose, primarily through their lending conditions but also through expert advice and publications.

Is that charge still fair?  In a new paper, Matt Andrews of Harvard's Center for International Development looks in detail at recent World Bank projects. He concludes that the Bank has become deeply involved in defining "good governance" for many developing states. "[O]rganizations like the World Bank are increasingly shaping the ideas, opportunities, demand and supply of public sector reform in developing countries," he writes. He also finds that the Bank's prescriptions are pretty consistent across countries:

Countries are commonly supported in creating governments that are market-friendly, disciplined, and modernized; with specific types of common interventions introducing reforms like privatization, civil service modernization, the creation of autonomous agencies, and more.

At least in the paper, Andrews is agnostic about whether this good governance template is a good thing; many close observers of the Bank will not be.

The Multilateralist

Does the New York Times Think the Libya War Was Illegal?

The New York Times' piece on the British parliament's rejection of a forceful response in Syria contains a strange passage:

The vote took Britain into new constitutional territory, the lawmaker added, with Parliament effectively vetoing military action. Political recriminations are likely. But there was little disguising the humiliation for Mr. Cameron, who recalled Parliament specifically for a motion that he first watered down, then lost.

There is also a deep wariness here of using military force without the explicit backing of international law, expressed most clearly in a Security Council resolution, though without one, Britain participated fully in the NATO campaign to unseat Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya.

There was of course a Security Council resolution authorizing force in Libya (Resolution 1973). The Times is either a) unaware of this; or b) suggesting provocatively that the Council resolution was stretched beyond its meaning by NATO. That latter claim is plausible but it certainly deserves more explanation than the article provides.