A guide to multilateral development banks

Working and discussion papers
June 2018
Annalisa Prizzon and Lars Engen

The mandates and operations of multilateral development banks (MDBs) have evolved and expanded in recent decades. Many were created in the 1960s, during the period of decolonisation, while others came into being after the end of the Cold War to support reconstruction, development and regional integration. MDBs were called upon to step up these efforts in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015, and now the ambitious, universal and cross-sector Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030. Given their mandates, sector and country coverage and knowledge, MDBs can also play a role as a catalyst for other financing – private sector, domestic revenues – encapsulated in the idea of scaling up resources from ‘billions to trillions’ to turn the SDGs into a reality.

Among other things, MDBs are also expected to help policy-makers address a growing list of global challenges, such as the impact of climate change, protracted crises, mass movements of refugees and migrants, and pandemics – all challenges which require cross-border solutions that share the risks and pool the resources of MDBs and other multilateral organisations.

In this scenario of a growing ‘to do’ list, higher expectations and flatlining budgets, MDBs need to expand their efficiency gains as a matter of urgency, and build on platforms for collaboration at global, regional and sub-regional levels, taking advantage of their sector expertise and country-level knowledge and reach. This guide provides a systematic comparative analysis of MDBs, aiming to build the evidence and inform reflections on the MDB system. It provides a useful stock-take of the current mandates, structures and instruments of 25 global, regional and sub-regional multilateral development banks.

Where is the highest concentration of multilateral development banks in the world?