Undemocratic decision-making

Multilateral development banks have been criticised for being undemocratic due to the disproportionate power and influence wealthier member countries have in decision-making. Since voting power is weighted according to the financial contributions of member countries, the wealthy countries who contribute more money have the greatest say and influence over decisions at these institutions. For example,

–         In the IDA of the World Bank 12 countries control more than 50% of the vote, which is greater than votes held by the remaining 158 member countries;[1]

–         In the ADB, seven countries control more than 50% of the vote, which is greater than votes held by remaining than 60 member countries.[2] 

While in 2010 the World Bank implemented reforms to its voting power, the Bretton Woods Project notes that high-income countries will still control over 60% of the votes. [link to: http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/doc/wbimfgov/wbgovreforms2010.pdf]

Furthermore, the ways in which MDBs prioritise and implement programs and projects have been characterised by lack of participation and consultation with local communities and lack of accountability to affected communities.[3]

Bureaucratic culture

A common criticism of MDBs is that they are overly bureaucratic and often prescribe a single set of policies as solutions, without sufficient regard to local needs and contexts. This can result in inappropriate projects and programs which at times can do more harm than good, as demonstrated in the section on conditionalites.

United Nations agencies have also been criticised for taking too long to respond to problems because of their complex bureaucracies, and also that much of the aid money is spent on the salaries of personnel in these organisations rather than on the actual programs and projects.



Next page

Last updated 12 November 2010

[1] http://siteresources.worldbank.org/BODINT/Resources/278027-1215524804501/IDACountryVotingTable.pdf

[2] http://www.adb.org/About/membership.asp

[3] For case studies of problem projects funded by the World Bank and ADB, see: http://www.bicusa.org/en/Institution.Projects.5.aspx; http://www.forum-adb.org/inner.php?sec=1&id=2

Share This