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CGD experts have played an important role in debt relief deals for several developing countries. We provided technical analysis that led to a $30 billion reduction in Nigeria’s debt, and analysis that helped shape debt reductions agreements for Liberia and South Sudan.
When the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors assemble in Washington later this month. they would do well to focus on another looming debt crisis that could hit some of the poorest countries in the world, many of whom are also struggling with problems of conflict and fragility and none of which has the institutional capacity to cope with a major debt crisis without lasting damage to their already-challenged development prospects.
International actors have criticized decisions by the Trump administration to reject the Paris Climate Accord, abandon the Trans Pacific Partnership, and withdraw from a United Nations declaration intended to protect the rights of migrants. However, there is one international body, the Paris Club, whose members may be rooting for the United States to leave. That’s because, in the absence of congressional action, continued US membership in the Paris Club could impair the economic prospects of some of the poorest countries in the world.
The Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), the latest phase of debt reduction for poor countries from the World Bank, the IMF, and the African Development Bank, will come close to full debt reduction for at least 19 and perhaps as many as 40 countries. Debt relief proponents see it as a momentous leap in the battle against global poverty. CGD research fellow Todd Moss argues that actual gains in poverty reduction will be modest and slow.
Over the last several years, the United States and other major donor countries have supported a historic initiative to write down the official debts of a group of heavily indebted poor countries, or HIPCs. Donor countries had two primary goals in supporting debt relief: to reduce countries' debt burdens to levels that would allow them to achieve sustainable growth; and to promote a new way of assisting poor countries focused on home-grown poverty alleviation and human development. While the current "enhanced HIPC" program of debt relief is more ambitious than any previous initiative, it will fall short of meeting these goals. We propose expanding the HIPC program to include all low-income countries and increasing the resources dedicated to debt relief. Because debt relief will still only be a first step, we also recommend reforms of the current "aid architecture" that will make debt more predictably sustainable, make aid more efficient, and help recipient countries graduate from aid dependence.
Nigeria has $33 billion in external debt. The government has been trying unsuccessfully for years to cut a deal with creditors to reduce its external obligations but to date has only managed to gain non-concessional restructuring. The major creditors also have good reasons for wanting to seek a resolution, yet agreement has been elusive. Fortunately, there is a brief window of opportunity in 2005 to find a compromise that can meet the needs of both sides. This note briefly outlines a proposal for striking such a deal through a discounted debt buyback.
The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President shows how modest changes in U.S. policies could greatly improve the lives of poor people in developing countries, thus fostering greater stability, security, and prosperity globally and at home. Center for Global Development experts offer fresh perspectives and practical advice on trade policy, migration, foreign aid, climate change and more. In an introductory essay, CGD President Nancy Birdsall explains why and how the next U.S. president must lead in the creation of a better, safer world.