Research Handbook on Transparency
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Research Handbook on Transparency

Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn

In the last two decades transparency has become a ubiquitous and stubbornly ambiguous term. Typically understood to promote rule of law, democratic participation, anti-corruption initiatives, human rights, and economic efficiency, transparency can also legitimate bureaucratic power, advance undemocratic forms of governance, and aid in global centralization of power. This path-breaking volume, comprising original contributions on a range of countries and environments, exposes the many faces of transparency by allowing readers to see the uncertainties, inconsistencies and surprises contained within the current conceptions and applications of the term.
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Chapter 14: Transparency at the World Bank

Daniel J. Metcalfe


As transparency in government has grown enormously over the past few decades, it was inevitable that this trend would spread to international organizations as well. These consist not only of major international governing organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union, but also international financial institutions that wield enormous influence, especially in the still-developing parts of the world. The World Bank, with more than 10,000 employees, mega-billions of dollars in assets, and 188 member nations, is regarded as the world’s preeminent international financial institution. Since World War II, the World Bank has provided development assistance first to Europe and Japan and then to other developing countries – and most recently, it has increased its engagement with civil society in addition to member governments. During its first 60 years, the World Bank was hardly known for its openness; in fact, it operated with a secretiveness that was quite traditional among international financial institutions. But this institutional culture became controversial when in 2005 Paul D. Wolfowitz began a brief, two-year tenure as World Bank President, one curtailed by a personal scandal that made the Bank seem no different than many of the corrupt Third World governments with which it deals.

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