The Future of the World Bank

The World Bank is the world’s largest development institution and a leading source of funds, ideas, and expertise for development. This initiative, now closed, offered new insights about what the World Bank is — and ought to be — and gave practical suggestions for making the World Bank more effective, accountable, and legitimate in a rapidly changing global economy. This work continues with the September 2015 launch of CGD's High Level Panel on the Future of Multilateral Development Banking. Photo: World Bank / cc


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The World Bank has long been the biggest development institution in the world. To retain its relevance in the 21st century, however, it must adapt to new and powerful global economic currents. CGD’s Future of the World Bank initiative offered insights and recommendations to help the Bank continue its leading role on the international development stage. This work continues with the September 2015 launch of CGD's High Level Panel on the Future of Multilateral Development Banking.

CGD work focused on practical suggestions for improving the World Bank. The Center’s recommendations, which ranged from suggesting that the bank should use more of its considerable technical and financial resources to address global public good challenges to calling for a restoration of the founders’ original vision of the bank as a global credit union, aimed to help the bank achieve its official goal of alleviating poverty. CGD President Nancy Birdsall, who was formerly the head of the bank’s policy research department, has written and spoken extensively on these issues and the closely related question of the bank’s role in addressing climate change.

CGD has also done extensive work on World Bank leadership succession, urging an open, competitive and merit-based selection process, most recently during the process that led to the selection of the current president, Jim Yong Kim, in 2012. Ahead of leadership successions at the World Bank in 2007 and the IMF in 2011, CGD conducted online surveys that found broad support within the development policy community for a more open and competitive process.

Past work also includes The Hardest Job in the World: Five Crucial Tasks for the New President of the World Bank. This still-relevant report from a 2005 CGD working group lays out bold but practical recommendations for restoring the legitimacy and increasing the effectiveness of the World Bank.


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The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest bilateral development agency. CGD’s work focuses on strengthening USAID’s position as a leading development agency by providing research and analysis on the agency’s various development initiatives and operational reforms.

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The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an independent US foreign assistance agency with a focused mission of reducing poverty through economic growth. MCC’s model of assistance is predicated on key principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, transparency, and sustainable results. CGD provides regular analysis and research on the policies, operations, and effectiveness of the agency, along with ideas for innovation and adaptation.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is the US government’s development finance institution. It is a leading agency in implementing President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD’s work focuses on how OPIC can most effectively promote economic opportunity and growth.

Interagency Development Initiatives

The US government often coordinates the work of various agencies through initiatives aimed at particular development challenges. CGD’s work looks at the impact of these interagency initiatives by exploring their ability to deliver on development goals.

Recent US administrations have sought to incorporate key principles of aid effectiveness into their foreign assistance architecture while proposing reforms to boost operational capacity. CGD regularly evaluates US efforts to implement these reforms and principles, which cut across agencies, sectors, and initiatives.

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As the lead agency on foreign affairs, the Department of State takes the lead in a number of areas of development policy, particularly at the nexus of development and democracy. State is also tightly linked to USAID and houses PEPFAR.

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US Treasury leads the Administration’s engagement in multilateral development assistance, participates in bilateral policy dialogue with developing countries, and provides technical assistance related to public financial management in many developing countries. CGD’s research focuses on how the United States can more effectively leverage its role in multilateral institutions and recommendations on how these institutions can adapt to an evolving development landscape.