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 offers new insights about what the World Bank is—and ought to be—and gives practical suggestions for making the World Bank more effective, accountable, and legitimate in a rapidly changing global economy.  Photo: World Bank / cc


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The Future of IDA Working Group report Soft Lending without Poor Countries: Recommendations for a New IDA published, October 9, 2012.


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 offers insights and recommendations to help the Bank continue its leading role on the international development stage.

CGD work focuses on practical suggestions for improving the World Bank. The Center’s recommendations, which range 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, aim 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’s research and policy engagement often fills a gap by looking beyond day-to-day management issues confronting the bank to important but longer-term challenges that might otherwise be neglected. One such challenge is that more than half of the countries now eligible for loans from the bank’s soft lending window, the International Development Association (IDA), will graduate out of IDA-eligibility by 2025. The remaining countries will be almost entirely African, and a majority will be countries currently designated fragile or post-conflict. Todd Moss and Jean-Michele Severino convened the Future of IDA Working Group to help spark ideas for solutions. In 2012 the working group released its report, Soft Lending Without Poor Countries: Recommendations for a New IDA. The report has been widely discussed among the IDA deputies, the donor representatives responsible for helping to fund the bank. 

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.