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The Decline of Multilateralism in the United Nations

Project: 13
Name: Erin Graham, PhD (; 609.375.7496)
Department: Politics


My project analyzes how international organizations like the United Nations are financed. I track changes in how states and private actors provide financial contributions to United Nations agencies over time, and explore the implications of those changes for how these organizations are governed. In particular, I assess how unilateral control by donors, especially wealthy states and private actors like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has increased while the authority of multilateral governing bodies has declined. This generally means that developing country recipients have less influence over how United Nations development money is distributed and allows donors to use UN agencies much as they would bilateral development programs. My research investigates how and why UN institutions developed to allow increased donor influence over decision-making and how UN agencies are attempting to cope with this new reality.

Associated Independent Study

Although the three-credit independent study project would be shaped to fit the needs and interests of the CoAS Humanities Research Fellow, they would have the opportunity to conduct a literature review on the history of financing international development aid, engage in a multilateral development aid data collection project, and/or track the rise of new donors in multilateral development, including private actors and rising states like China.

Gained Experience

The student will gain critical research skills including systematic data collection from UN agency websites, as well as content analysis of archival documents already gathered from four archives (US National Archives, LBJ Presidential Library, Columbia University, and the United Nations archives). The CoAS Fellow would also learn a great deal about how global institutions mobilize resources and make decisions. It would be particularly useful for any student interested in working in foreign affairs, or an an international or non-governmental organization.


The main outcome of the project will be a book. The timeline for a Fellow to join the project is excellent since I will be working on the empirical chapters of the book this summer.


Consistent with what I have noted above, the student's main tasks will be:

  1. Collection of United Nations financing data
  2. Review and content analysis of archival documents
  3. Writing policy summaries based on data collection and archival analysis


The work will take place at Drexel University. I will provide the student access to archival documents.


I will be around throughout the summer and have a flexible schedule. I would work with the student to set up regular meeting times that work for both of us.

Interview Availability

April 10, April 11, April 12