“Not Built for Peace: Why Informal Accountability Determines International Peacebuilding Success”
Abstract: Of central concern to the study of international organizations is their ability to achieve the normative aims of their principals. Existing scholarship on International Organizations (IOs), International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), and state aid agencies has explained their success and failure in terms of institutional design, bureaucratic pathologies, and headquarter-level interactions between IOs, INGOs, and states. Scholars have largely ignored the behavior and performance of these global governors’ country-level offices, assuming that they simply implement the tasks delegated to them. Using evidence from the hard case of international peacebuilding, I show that IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors vary significantly in their ability to achieve their local peacebuilding aims; heterogeneity that existing peacebuilding and global governance scholarship fail to explain. I argue that IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors achieve positive peacebuilding performance only when they have formal accountability routines that prioritize peacebuilding and informal field-based accountability routines. Individual country-level staff create these informal accountability routines by circumventing formal routines, delegating informal power to local actors who are underrepresented by institutions of global governance. The implication is that the legitimacy of IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors in the international security policy arena is partly dependent on the agency of individual staff who are willing to bypass the systems their principals established to hold them accountable. In other words, bad behavior is necessary for good performance.