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The Bretton Woods Institutions We Need

Throughout their 80-year history, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have demonstrated their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In the face of increasingly complex, shared challenges like climate change, both institutions must evolve to fill major gaps in today's global-governance architecture.

WASHINGTON, DC – On the 80th anniversary of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, we should reflect on what these Bretton Woods institutions have achieved since World War II. In addition to supporting unprecedented levels of global growth and poverty reduction, they have helped address and overcome myriad economic and financial crises. Now, we have an opportunity – and a duty – to take stock of their institutional mandates and ensure that they are equipped to meet the urgent challenges of the twenty-first century.

It is widely recognized that the “global commons” issues that transcend national borders (including climate change, pandemics, and migration) present the greatest challenge to the current multilateral architecture. Given the urgent and existential nature of the climate challenge, the imperative for collective action is urgent. Yet progress has been too slow.

A new report from the Bretton Woods Committee’s Multilateral Reform Working Group addresses the causes of this impasse and seeks a path forward. We identify “gaps” (in governance, implementation, and accountability) in both the public and the private sector, and we show why only a system-wide approach to reform will suffice.