China’s contested placement from 85th to 78th in the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business ranking gained a lot of attention throughout the fall months of 2021 as news outlets highlighted how networks and net worth can be leveraged to have the odds fall in one’s favor.

Speculations mounted as to who was involved and Kristalina Georgieva, the chief of the IMF, came under pressure for the suspicious data points. While some were quick to speak on Georgieva’s behalf (such as the former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz), and her name was eventually cleared, the Doing Business reports have lost their credibility and publication has been suspended.

Situations such as this call into question reporting mechanisms for intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), along with the purpose and purse strings of those involved.

Over the past two decades IGOs have grown in size and influence as the financial resources from private actors have proliferated. The financing of IGOs bulged in the 1990s when the attainment of earmarked contributions (featuring conditional lending terms) became an encouraged practice for the UN, IMF, and World Bank. 

Accordingly, the operational activities, under the UN system, saw an increase in donors with special interests from 1994 to 2009 by a rate of over 200 percent. And yet the involvement of multinational corporations and politically inclined ‘philanthropists’ has received little attention.

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