Do International Organizations use multilateral institutions to advance their own interests at the expense of less powerful coutries? Do International Organizations use multilateral institutions...

Do International Organizations use multilateral institutions to advance their own interests at the expense of less powerful coutries? 

Do International Organizations use multilateral institutions to advance their own interests at the expense of less powerful coutries?


Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I understand the question correctly, it seems to be asking if international organizations manipulate institutions designed to help the common good in the world for their own benefit. I certainly would hope not.  I think that some specific context needs to be given here.  If by "International Organizations," we are speaking of humanitarian endeavors such as UNICEF or The Red Cross/ Red Crescent, I would answer in the negative.  I do not think that these organizations manipulate multilateral institutions like the United Nations to leverage control over less powerful country.  Infact, I see them helping out the less powerful countries in issues like refugee assistance, infrastructure help, and issues of hunger and scarcity of food.  The presence of the United Nations and relief organizations all over the world is not done at the expense of less powerful nations.  Rather, these endeavors help those who are in need.  I realize that an implicit argument is that a construct of the West is acting in a benevolent manner that could represent imperialistic aims.  Yet, I don't see it like that.  I understand that argument, but when I see United Nations workers battling famine in Africa or helping to build schools in parts of Asia or South America, I don't see this as an "West vs. the Rest" issue.  I see it as humanitarian.

If, however, "international organizations" relate to businesses, I am not sure if I can answer with the same amount of certainty.  Indeed, many have argued that the United States entry into the Iraq War was done with these aims in mind.  Organizations like Blackwater and Halliburton are present in the discussion as to why the war was waged.  These would be examples of "international organizations" being able to influence policy and direction of multilateral institutions in favor of less powerful countries and people.  If "international organizations" are defined as businesses and the military industrial complex, I think that the answer is a bit more skewed and skeptical.  I would examine the film Syriana for a detailed analysis as to how there can be collusion between business organizations, multilateral institutions, and countries that cannot exert such direction on world policy.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If by "International Organizations" you mean Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), then the answer must reflect the fact that there are hundreds of NGOs. Duke University lists 690 NGOs. It would be folly to say that none of these 690 International Organizations of the NGO type "use multilateral institutions to advance their own interests at the expense of less powerful countries." Let's follow the Bretton Wood Project by defining "multilateral institutions" to mean institutions that have authority to operate over large expanses of territory and have governmental connection, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and various UN agencies. With 690 contestants in the equation, it is equally folly to suggest that all International Organizations, understood to be NGOs, "use multilateral institutions to advance their own interests at the expense of less powerful countries." the thing to do is to find specific instances when some do and other instance when some do not and compare the frequency, the net result and the harm or benefit derived.

Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'll echo the other posters in pointing out that it depends on what your definitions of “International Organizations” and “less powerful countries” are. I believe that every organization, business and nation are seeking to secure their own interest in some way, even with the agreed upon goal of helping others. Charity organizations are still in part interested in their own survival. Even the most powerful and benevolent nations and businesses know that they must put their needs first, before they can help others. This can sometimes lead to unethical practices that exploit the little guy; they're supposedly trying to help.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, the short answer is, yes they do.  The World Trade Organization is a good example, as an exclusive organization that gives preferential trade status to its members who are, for the most part, wealthier countries.  The IMF, which sets world monetary policy, grants and administers loans to the developing world, has very few representatives outside of the industrial west. It's impossible for these organizations (and others like them) to simply be altruistic in nature, and impossible for the nations/people running them not to act in their own country's self-interest a good deal of the time.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, I don't think they do.

International organizations like the UN or the WTO don't really have interests of their own that are necessarily different from those of the less powerful countries that you mention.

Now, it may be the case that more powerful countries use international organizations and multilateral institutions as ways of advancing their own agendas.  It is much more feasible to argue, for example, that the US uses the UN for its own purposes than to say that the UN uses multilateral institutions to try to harm weak countries.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As kplhardison says, the question is phrased in such a way that it would be hard to imagine a case in which there would be an absolute either/or black-and-white answer. Presumably the intentions of most of these organizations is actually to benefit the countries in which they operate, and presumably many of them do benefit those countries.  However, even organizations that benefit small countries may do unintended harm as well. The difficulty in answering this question lies in the way the question is framed.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You might get a more specific answer if you were more specific about the organizations or the institutions you are referring to here.  I do think that large institutions have considerable influence over less powerful countries.  They need to aid or funds.  When a business goes into an underdeveloped country, for example, the country may bend over backward to give it what it wants because of the monetary boon having that company provides the struggling country.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to depressingly agree with #6. Unfortunately, if we look at organisations such as the WTO and the IMF, it is one long history of disadvantaging those that have least in the first place to give more to those who have most. If you want to look into this further, you might want to examine the issue of debt and Structural Adjustment Policies, by which rich countries were made richer at the expense of poor countries.