In recent decades, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have been strongly criticized for funding a series of harmful projects which led to adverse environmental, social, and economic impacts on borrower countries, such as deforestation, displacement of indigenous peoples, and unemployment. The most notable example of the harmful environmental and social consequences resulting from an IFI funded-project was demonstrated in the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada River in western India, funded by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 1985, which led to the displacement of thousands of farmers and the loss of their livelihood. While examples of the harmful economic impacts resulting from IFIs’ interventions could be found in the Structural Adjustment (SA) programs extended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the IBRD to developing countries. While the role of IFIs has expanded over time, affecting billions of people, their accountability mechanisms remained behind and have been criticized for lacking sufficient independency and enforceability. Moreover, such mechanisms are only concerned with the environmental and social impacts, while the issue of economic accountability has not received due attention by most of IFIs. Though IFIs heavily influence the economic policies of their borrower countries through their structural adjustment programs, they refuse to share the responsibility for the failure of such policies. This paper advocates for holding IFIs legally responsible for the harmful economic consequences arising from their development interventions. The paper identifies the applicable laws and relevant primary rules from which the international obligations of IFIs are derived and discusses the human rights obligations under international law and the extent of its applicability to IFIs. Then, the paper applies the rules of the responsibility of IFIs on the case of the IMF interventions in Argentina. Finally, the paper identifies the appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms to which states and non-state actors could raise their claims against IFIs.


School of Global Affairs and Public Policy


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2019

First Advisor

Sayed, Hani

Committee Member 1

Taha, Mai

Committee Member 2

Beckett, Jason


104 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


I would like to express my sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to my thesis supervisor Prof. Hani Sayed for his continuous support and valuable guidance and feedback during the course of developing this thesis. I could not have imagined having a better supervisor for my thesis. I also would like to thank my thesis readers Prof. Mai Taha and Prof. Jason Beckett for their insightful comments and questions, which allowed me to broaden my research perspectives. Special thanks go to all my professors who taught me during my LL.M. studies especially Prof. Thomas Skouteris who broadened my understanding of international law. My limitless thanks to Dr. Diana Van Bogaert, for the precious and continuous support and encouragement during the course of my studies at the AUC, her valuable guidance helped me a lot in believing in myself and in my potentials. I also owe a deep gratitude to the Department of Law and to Yousef Jameel Public Leadership Program for providing me with such precious opportunity to accomplish my LL.M. degree at the American University in Cairo. Last but not least, thanks to all my lovely family members and friends who were supportive to me during such valuable journey.

Available for download on Tuesday, September 19, 2023