The Need for Reform in International Organizations

International organizations should be heavily reformed before creating and instituting international law. It is hypocritical for institutions that have systemic biases and fundamental flaws to be implementing laws on countries that have been given little to no say in the creation of the laws. While some of these laws should seem obvious, such as human rights law, there are also some, such as economic laws, that ignore the specific contexts of countries. International law should not be a one size fits all solution and while a common goal can be things like the ending poverty, there should also be different plans of action for different countries.

International organizations, like the United Nations, were created by a handful of powerful, rich, and primarily Western countries. When these countries and their delegates create law, it is within the contexts of their own successes and cultures. These organizations not only create law but organize international cooperation on many different topics, but there are always the few powerhouse nations leaving the remaining nations and delegates with very little say in matters. There are inherent, primarily Western, biases within these organizations that are rarely acknowledged, let alone mitigated.

One such international organization is the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is a semi-independent branch of the United Nations based in Washington DC. The IMF was created during the Second World War when global powers were beginning to shift, and debts were rising from the destruction in Europe[1]. This was also the beginning of an era which relies heavily on more open market, or neoliberal, capitalism which depends on rich countries taking advantage of the poorer countries, perpetuating global income inequality[2]. Trickle-down economics is another facet of this era that the IMF was based on; the idea that improving the economy of the government and the wealthy will in turn benefit the poorer citizens.

While the IMF policies may promise an improved economic standing to nations which sign onto these conventions, the implementation of them can have significant side effects. In a study that used data on 86 different countries who received help from the IMF from 1982-2009, it was found that the majority of the burden of the IMF’s economic policies (Structural Adjustment Plans) was placed on the impoverished citizens of the nations[3]. While some side effects may be short-term, even short-term burden on certain groups can have lasting long-term effects. Because of this, it is still necessary to consider to what extent the IMF takes the socio-economic context of the specific nation into consideration and what criteria is used to declare certain side effects as acceptable.

One of the primary policy recommendations of the IMF is cutting government spending, which often means cutting public welfare spending and letting the liberalized market take over many public institutions[4]. When these policies are followed in developing or less developed countries where infrastructure is often already a problem, the door opens for many other issues to infiltrate the nation. There have been studies that link the neoliberal development of income inequality with inequality in health of citizens, especially when considering the other social factors that affect accessibility to healthcare[5].

Other than the effects on citizens’ health, there have also been side effects of neoliberal policymaking that should be considered by organizations that recommend policies. Natural resource dependency, other sources of foreign investment, governmental structure and power, intra-state conflicts or inequalities, state history, and population statistics are all pivotal in making economic policy recommendations[6]. Each factor in a state is very different, and not all developing nations are the same. They must be incorporated into plans in order for them to be successful and cause minimal harm to citizens, especially already marginalized communities who may be hurt the most.

The IMF needs to evaluate the effects of its policy recommendations before making the recommendations. There should be specific research done on the socio-political contexts of the nation so that the changes in economic policy do not cause unwanted long-term effects for those citizens who receive the majority of the burden in taxes and less public welfare opportunities. There must also be a systemic reform in the way the IMF, and similar international organizations, understand and respond to their own biases. Creating new jobs for people does not balance out the increase in prices for basic human needs such as food and healthcare. One neoliberal set of policies does not apply for every nation.

Originally from North Carolina, Madison Lee Hepler a junior at George Mason University studying Global Affairs with a concentration in Global Governance. 


[1] “What Is the IMF?” IMF, April 11, 2022. https://www.imf.org/en/About/Factsheets/IMF-at-a-Glance. 

[2]ElGindi, Tamer. “Natural Resource Dependency, Neoliberal Globalization, and Income Inequality: Are They Related? A Longitudinal Study of Developing Countries (1980–2010).” Current Sociology 65, no. 1 (2016): 21–53. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392116632031. 

[3]Oberdabernig, Doris A. “Revisiting the Effects of IMF Programs on Poverty and Inequality.” World Development 46 (2013): 113–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2013.01.033. 

[4]“The IMF and the Poor, Preface, the Poor and the IMF’s Mandate, Policy Advice.” International Monetary Fund, 1997. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/pam/pam52/preface.htm#:~:text=These reforms include eliminating distortions,it easier for people in. 

[5]Coburn, David. “Beyond the Income Inequality Hypothesis: Class, Neo-Liberalism, and Health Inequalities.” Social Science & Medicine 58, no. 1 (2004): 41–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0277-9536(03)00159-x. 

[6] ElGindi, Tamer. “Natural Resource Dependency, Neoliberal Globalization, and Income Inequality: Are They Related? A Longitudinal Study of Developing Countries (1980–2010).” Current Sociology 65, no. 1 (2016): 21–53. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392116632031. 

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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