Jiesheng Li

The Politics of aid delegation: The IDA and bilateral donors

Supervisor: Andre Broome, Edward Newman

My research seeks to discover "What factors account for the changing pattern of foreign aid allocation among major donors in the 21st century?" States have two main routes to channel their foreign aid, (1) bilaterally and (2) through an International Organisation such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Principal-Agent (PA) theory in International Political Economy suggests that states delegate a task to International Organisation (IO) due to the abilities and effectiveness it possess. PA theory ignores the ability of the principal, in this case the state, to perform the same task they delegate to the IO.

This thesis places a focus on the state, identifying various actors which aim to influence the allocation of foreign aid. This is contrary to the single principal or collective principal concept in PA theory. My research focuses on three main IDA shareholders, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, all who are major bilateral donors themselves. Overall, it draws out a new angle in state-IO relationships and the limits to PA theory.


Having completed my undergraduate studies in Economics and Political Science at Birmingham, I moved on to read a Masters in Development Studies at Cambridge before returning back to Birmingham in 2010 for a PhD in International Political Economy (IPE). My interests thus cover the scope of critical IPE, especially Constructivist IPE, Principal-Agent theory and International Development, with a focus on international organisations. Beyond academia, I have assisted with research at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on the issue of Value for Money and Aid Fungibility, contributed to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s 2010 Human Development Report.


  • BSc. Economics and Political Science (Hons) Birmingham (First Class Honours)
  • MPhil. (Taught) Development Studies, University of Cambridge (Merit)

Research interests

  • Constructivist International Political Economy
  • Principal-Agent Theory
  • International Organisations
  • Bilateral Aid Organisations
  • Foreign Aid
  • International Development

Teaching responsibilities

  • POLS 107 Introduction to Political Economy, 2011-2012, 2012-2013
  • POLS 205, International Political Economy 2012-2013

Professional memberships

  • British International Studies Association (BISA)
  • BISA International Political Economy Group (IPEG)
  • International Studies Association (ISA)
  • American Political Science Association (APSA)
  • United Nations Association, UK

Conference papers

Li, J., 2012, “States governing the international aid regime”, Paper presented at the International Political Economy Group Conference, The Future of Global Economic Governance, 10-11 September 2012, University of Birmingham, UK

Li, J., 2012, “US foreign aid allocations: From George Bush to Barack Obama”, Paper presented at the Fifth Oceanic Conference on International Studies, 18-20 July 2012, University of Sydney

Li, J. (2011), “The UK’s Aid Reviews: Principal-Agency Theory at work?”, POLSIS Colloquium ,University of Birmingham, 27 October 2011

Li, J. (2011), “The politics of aid delegation: The IDA and major bilateral donors”, POLSIS Colloquium, 23 March 2011

Li, J. (2011), “Re-examining aid delegation: World Bank shareholders and bilateral donors”, Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) Annual Postgraduate Colloqium, Birmigham, 24 February 2011


Li, J.,( 2011), “A Critical Assessment of the 2011 UK Multilateral and Bilateral Aid Reviews”, Birmingham Brief, University of Birmingham, 21 April 2011


Email: jxl682@bham.ac.uk