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Human rights and U.S. foreign policy in the multilateral development banks

Daniel B Braaten, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Promoting human rights is an important foreign policy goal for the United States. There are many foreign policy areas through which the U.S. promotes human rights including voting against countries which violate human rights in the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). Promoting human rights, however, is not the only foreign policy goal of the U.S. in the MDBs. The U.S. also seeks strategic goals such as supporting allies and promoting domestic economic prosperity as well in the MDBs. Realist international relations theory posits that strategic interests will trump promoting human rights in the MDBs. For the U.S. however liberal international relations theory argues that promoting human rights can be considered an equivalent foreign policy goal for countries such as the U.S. Therefore strategic interests will not automatically trump promoting human rights for the U.S. This dissertation seeks to answer two questions regarding human rights in U.S. foreign policy in the MDBs. First, what role do human rights play in determining U.S. votes in the MDBs? Here I find that a country's record on violating political rights is a significant factor in determining whether the U.S. will vote in favor of proposals for that country. A country's record on violating rights of personal integrity, however, is not a significant factor. Whether a country receives military aid from the U.S. and a country's GDP per capita are also significant determinants of U.S. votes in the MDBs. The second question this dissertation answers regarding human rights in U.S. foreign policy in the MDBs is what rights specifically does the U.S. promote in the MDBs and which countries, specifically, does the U.S. vote against because of their human rights record. Overall, I find that while the U.S. has voted against loans going to many countries for human rights purposes the bulk of U.S. attention is centered on countries that fail to apprehend war criminals within their borders, primarily Serbia, and voting against loans that go to China.

Subject Area

International Relations|Political science

Recommended Citation

Braaten, Daniel B, "Human rights and U.S. foreign policy in the multilateral development banks" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3503470.