Providing global public goods: what role for the multilateral development banks?

Research reports and studies
April 2017
Inge Kaul

There is a growing list of global challenges, from climate change and the spread of communicable diseases and antimicrobial resistance to excessive financial volatility, illicit trade, cyber-attacks, terrorism and forced migration. In some areas, the world is coming close to reaching thresholds of irreversibility, as with climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Resolving these global challenges requires effective international cooperation. But what exactly would it take to generate such cooperation? Are we pulling all the levers at our disposal? And if not, how should we do so?

This report addresses these questions. It takes a close look at how the multilateral development banks (MDBs), as one part of the operational side of international cooperation, deal with global border transcending challenges. Many challenges affect us all, whether in rich or poor countries, in powerful or fragile states; and because they possess the properties of public goods, we also refer to them as global public goods (GPGs). The analysis shows that the MDBs are supporting initiatives in several GPG policy fields, currently placing the emphasis on climate change, communicable diseases and situations of fragility, conflict and violence that could spill across national borders and pose global security risks. It also finds that GPG provision requires an issue-based operational model that recognises that adequate GPG provision often depends on national and regional inputs from public, private, civil and other individual actors.