The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 285–308 | Cite as

Global governance behind closed doors: The IMF boardroom, the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility, and the intersection of material power and norm stabilisation in global politics

  • Liam CleggEmail author


Up on the 12th floor of its 19th Street Headquarters, the IMF Board sits in active session for an average of 7 hours per week. Although key matters of policy are decided on in the venue, the rules governing Boardroom interactions remain opaque, resting on an uneasy combination of consensual decision-making and weighted voting. Through a detailed analysis of IMF Board discussions surrounding the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF), this article sheds light on the mechanics of power in this often overlooked venue of global economic governance. By exploring the key issues of default liability and loan conditionality, I demonstrate that whilst the Boardroom is a more active site of contestation than has hitherto been recognized, material power is a prime determinant of both Executive Directors’ preferences and outcomes reached from discussions. And as the decisions reached form the backbone of the ‘instruction sheet’ used by Fund staff to guide their everyday operational decisions, these outcomes—and the processes through which they were reached—were factors of primary importance in stabilizing the operational norms at the heart of a controversial phase in the contemporary history of IMF concessional lending.


IMF International organizations Executive board Executive directors Concessional lending 

JEL Codes

D73 F33 F55 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics, Derwent CollegeUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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