Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Governance and Human Security

First Advisor

Maria Ivanova

Second Advisor

David Levy

Third Advisor

Adugna Lemi


Climate change is skyrocketing environmental sustainability to the top of the international development agenda, which poses a complex challenge for international organizations (IOs). Researchers and practitioners alike have shown that the environment is deeply intertwined with other development priorities, such as agriculture and economic growth. As such, we cannot treat the environment as a singular development issue, a fact that is further reflected in the growing calls for IOs to mainstream environmental considerations and concerns into their non-environmental activities. This dissertation is a policy-focused study of the World Bank, the first major international organization to undertake far-reaching environmental reforms. Using Ethiopia as a case study, I conducted a discourse analysis of 25 years of World Bank-funded development projects and conducted key stakeholder interviews in order to determine whether the Bank was successful in mainstreaming the environment into its activities, how organizational structures and incentives contributed to the progress of mainstreaming, how Bank-employed environmental specialists were able to challenge prevailing development practices, and, if mainstreaming did indeed take place, why the Bank continues to fund environmentally damaging industrial agricultural practices. Epistemic community theory suggests that in order to mainstream the environment, the Bank needs to replace its previous dominant development ideology with a pro-environmental ideology. My analysis reveals that the Bank is mainstreaming the environment, but not because it is dominated by environmentalists or an environmental ideology. Mainstreaming is occurring, but it is uneven and does not indicate dominance of one ideology over another. Environmental specialists and non-environment staff work together, learn from one another, and are building interdisciplinary understandings of development practice. The analysis reveals some key features of successful environmental mainstreaming -- such as the importance of facilitating outside knowledge partnerships with local actors, the qualities of impactful environmental specialists, and how to communicate the importance of the environment to non-environmental experts -- that can be operationalized by development organizations.


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