"The Challenge of COVID-19 and the World Health Organization’s Response: The Principal-Agent Model Revisited"
Published in 2021
Overview: Despite post-Second World War aspirations to the contrary, the State-dominated Westphalian system remains the key ingredient of the global institutional architecture. Nevertheless, non-State entities have entered en masse the space accorded to them by the “gatekeepers” and have been able to exert some impact on policy outcomes across and within national borders. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, the most significant actors among the non-State players have been international organizations. A proper grasp of their relationship with their State “masters” is essential for students of international law and politics.
Agency theory has been invoked for this purpose and has proved to be a source of valuable conceptual and practical insights. The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) underwhelming performance when confronted with an epidemic/pandemic of enormous magnitude and severity, however, suggests that there is considerable scope for placing the principal-agent model in a much broader context and examining it from an unconventional angle.