The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 413–440 | Cite as

Choosing international organizations: When do states and the World Bank collaborate on environmental projects?

  • Patrick Bayer
  • Christopher Marcoux
  • Johannes Urpelainen


While international cooperation research emphasizes institutional design, states mostly interact with existing organizations. How do states choose organizations for cooperation? We develop a theory of agency choice for development projects, emphasizing the importance of domestic institutions, the scope of cooperation, and the resources of the implementing agency. If states are to cooperate with funding agencies that have abundant resources, such as the World Bank, they must accept more stringent conditions on project implementation. We argue states accept the stringent conditions that resourceful organizations demand if the public goods from project implementation are highly valuable. Empirically, this is the case for democratic states, large projects, and projects that produce national instead of global public goods. We test this theory using data on 2,882 Global Environment Facility (GEF) projects, 1991–2011. The GEF offers an ideal case because various implementing agencies are responsible for the actual projects. States implement projects in collaboration with the World Bank, which has the most expertise and resources among the GEF’s implementing agencies, if their regime type is democracy, the project size is large, and the benefits are primarily national. Qualitative evidence sheds light on causal mechanisms.


International organizations International cooperation Foreign aid Environment Donor-recipient interactions Global Environment Facility 

JEL Classifications

F55 F59 H87 Q56 Q58 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 6th Political Economy of International Organizations Conference, held at the Universities of Mannheim and Heidelberg, February 7–9, 2013. We thank all conference participants for their comments and are particularly indebted to Katharina Michaelowa, Ulrich Wagner, Axel Dreher, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Bayer
    • 1
  • Christopher Marcoux
    • 2
  • Johannes Urpelainen
    • 3
  1. 1.University of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.DePauw UniversityGreencastleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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