Get access

Donors’ Preferences and Agent Choice: Delegation of European Development Aid


  • For their comments and suggestions, I would like to thank Guy Whitten, Brett Ashley Leeds, James Vreeland, the editor, and the anonymous referees; participants at the 2008 conference “Analyzing European Politics in the 21st Century” at Texas A&M University; and panelists at the 2009 Texas Triangle IR conference and the 2009 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. This research was supported by a grant from the European Union Center of Excellence, Texas A&M University. Replication materials will be available at the ISQ Web site.


McLean, Elena V. (2012) Donors’ Preferences and Agent Choice: Delegation of European Development Aid. International Studies Quarterly, doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2012.00727.x
© 2012 International Studies Association

While delegation to international organizations has received substantial attention in the international relations literature, the issues of institutional choice and delegation levels remain understudied. Existing research examines donor countries’ decision to distribute aid bilaterally or turn to a multilateral organization; this article shifts the focus toward a closely related, but often overlooked, decision that donors need to make—that is, they select an agent from a range of international organizations and determine the level of delegation to a given agent. I argue that in their delegation decisions, donors are guided not only by standard calculations of delegation costs and benefits, but also by policies that international development agencies adopt and implement. These policies are shaped by member governments’ preferences, and a donor country will delegate more to the organizations whose members have foreign policy preferences more in line with the donor country’s own preferences, ceteris paribus. The article presents a set of empirical tests that lend support to this argument. Cross-country data on European development aid given during the period 1960–2000 are used in the analyses.