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Six recommendations for reforming multilateral development banks: an essay series


December 1, 2017

Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are now the cornerstone of global development. The commitments that must be fulfilled to achieve the SDGs are highly demanding – partly because of the scale of resources required but also because of the sheer complexity of intertwined policies and their means of implementation. Achieving the new set of goals will require a variety of actors working in concert. It will also require a clear understanding of needs and priorities, particularly of those countries that are lagging behind. At the same time, development challenges are now set against a backdrop of growing populism and rising public scepticism about the merits of multilateralism and collective action. As a result, national policies are becoming increasingly inwardlooking.

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) are unique among international actors because of their distinctive development model. They are well placed to help make Agenda 2030 a reality by helping to mobilise finance, tackle issues that cross national borders, and reach the poorest and most vulnerable people in fragile contexts. But the increasing scale and breadth of global development challenges, a constrained lending envelope, and reduced support for a multilateral system under growing scrutiny all point to the need to review whether the current MDB system is fit for meeting the challenges of the 21st century and how it could be reformed.

This essay series presents perspectives on how the MDB system should be reformed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. They focus on elements of strategic direction and policy coherence, operational and financial reforms, and how to respond to an evolving client base. The notes also offer insights into how MDBs can help address the under-provision of global public goods, the financial challenges of countries affected by fragility and the needs of middle-income countries.

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