How can a Biden administration strengthen the United States’ role at the International Financial Institutions?

The recent U.S. presidential election presents an opportunity for the U.S. to enhance accountability, inclusion, and sustainability at the International Financial Institutions. We provide several recommended steps the Biden administration can take to prioritize engagement with the IFIs.

The Bank Information Center welcomes the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States. We look forward to working with the new administration to improve the governance and operation of the international financial institutions (IFIs) in which the U.S. is a member. The U.S. has historically played a strong leadership role at many of the IFIs, championing reforms that enhance accountability, inclusion, and sustainability in their work. As the IFIs step up to play a critical role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that the U.S. government continues to build on this legacy. We call upon the Biden administration to prioritize engagement with the IFIs and to:

1. Appoint well regarded, skilled U.S. representatives to the IFIs. One of the first and most critical steps the Biden administration can take is to quickly identify, nominate, and confirm candidates with experience working in international development to serve as the U.S. representatives to the IFIs--known as Executive Directors. Early appointment of skilled Executive Directors is critical to enabling the U.S. to exert influence at the institutions.

2. Urge bold action on climate change. The Biden administration must advocate for a more ambitious approach to climate change at the World Bank and other IFIs. Despite the World Bank’s rhetoric on the need for climate action, the Bank still invests in a variety of projects with negative climate impacts. During the campaign, President-elect Biden frequently addressed the urgent need for energy transition, and under his leadership, the U.S. will have the opportunity to bring that conversation to the IFIs and encourage these institutions to match their rhetoric with action

3. Encourage strong protections for marginalized groups. The Biden administration should take a leading role in urging the IFIs to take meaningful steps to further protect the rights of marginalized groups. As the author of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), President-elect Biden has long been an advocate for preventing gender based violence and supporting survivors. We encourage the Biden administration to extend this advocacy to the development space, pushing IFIs to address risks to marginalized groups and enable marginalized groups access to project benefits. The Biden administration should urge the World Bank and other IFIs to strengthen gender-sensitive policies that identify, protect, and prevent harm to marginalized groups, in particular children, women, and persons with disabilities.

4. Reinforce accountability systems. Strong systems for accountability enhance the development impact of IFI-funded projects and provide redress for communities who are negatively impacted by them. The Independent Accountability Mechanisms (IAMs), in particular, are critical to providing communities with a path to remedy when they suffer harm and can be an important source of learning for the institutions. Their creation was largely due to pressure from the U.S. government and civil society, and the Biden administration should make it clear that strengthening these mechanisms is a key priority. The ongoing review of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) environmental and social accountability system is a timely opportunity for the Biden administration to actively encourage the adoption of strong policies to strengthen the mechanism for the  World Bank Group’s private sector arm. 

Above all, BIC encourages the Biden administration to proactively engage with the IFIs and work with civil society to advance all of these priorities, recognizing the potential for these institutions to improve lives, combat climate change, and foster multilateralism when they are accountable to the people they are meant to serve.