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With Jim Kim’s abrupt departure from the World Bank, there has been a swirl of commentary on questions of legacy, the best of which aim to answer the question, “how is the bank doing?” For large multilateral institutions like the World Bank, that’s a frustratingly difficult question to answer. Seemingly objective measures like volume of financing or sectoral targets are simplistic and bring their own value judgements about what the institution should be doing. Annual reports give us a narrative about institutional performance, but a heavily biased one.
China continues to borrow an average of $2 billion a year from the World Bank, making it one of the Bank’s top borrowers—despite being the world’s second-largest economy and itself a major global lender.
SDGs. Billions to trillions. South-South development cooperation. Development finance. If these terms resonate with you (positively or negatively), and you’ve never heard of the International Development Finance Club (IDFC), you should rectify that. At least, that’s the conclusion we’ve drawn after a year-long study of the IDFC and its member institutions. This work has culminated in a new CGD report, The International Development Finance Club and the Sustainable Development Goals: Impact, Opportunities, and Challenges.
CGD research has become Exhibit A virtually every time the charge of “debt trap diplomacy” has been leveled against China in the media this past year. Yet, our research shows that many of China’s borrowers are managing their debts just fine and seem unlikely to fall into any traps.
Next week in Zambia, donors to the World Bank’s financing window for low-income countries, the International Development Association (IDA), meet to discuss IDA’s future. This “mid-term review” is both a stocktaking session and a teeing up of the next round of fundraising for the world’s largest concessional lending fund. Formal negotiations will commence next year, but the meetings in Zambia set the scene for those negotiations.
What would it look like today if major multilateral finance institutions like the World Bank had never adopted the climate agenda as a binding constraint on their operations? Unfortunately, we have a real-world approximation of that hypothetical in the form of Chinese development finance. At least, that’s a conclusion I draw from an important new report from World Resources Institute (WRI) and Boston University, Moving the Green Belt and Road Initiative: From Words to Actions.
The IDFC represents a unique mix of bilateral agencies, national development banks, and regional development banks. As such, it holds promise for bringing new and productive collaborations to the SDG agenda that extend well beyond the work of the major multilateral development institutions. In a new brief, our efforts to map the scale and scope of IDFC members’ development financing through a membership survey and public databases provide some interesting takeaways: