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.