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Realizing the Potential of Public Development Banks and Development Finance Institutions for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals
There are more than 500 Public Development Banks (PDBs) and Development Financing Institutions around the world. Spread over all continents, with varying sizes, geographies and areas of intervention, their usefulness is increasingly recognized by academics and policy makers. But while these banks are crucial for the financing and therefore the achievement, of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), their role, functioning and effectiveness remain overlooked, mostly due to a lack of data and research.

Because they are government-supported, have an official mandate to carry out public policy objectives, and their combined assets amount to $11.2 trillion, PDBs represent important instruments to address market failures and promote a responsible and sustainable economy, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Despite their current global renaissance, academic research on these institutions remains limited. This research program aims to fill this gap, and to better understand these key institutions, with the ambition of Realizing the Potential of Public Development Banks for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals.


The objective of this research program is to deliver concrete recommendations on how to scale up PDBs' potential at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supporting structural transformations towards a more responsible and sustainable global economy. It focuses on three main actions:

  • Academic research

Launched as part of the research program, the International Research Initiative on Public Development Banks (PDBs) brings together 28 researchers from 20 institutions around the world. The objective is to create an international community of academics and experts reflecting on the following research questions: What are the comparative advantages of PDBs in financing SDGs? How effective are these institutions in reaching SDGs? 

Five open, thematically-focused working groups cover the key challenges exposed by the research program:  
- The characterization of SDG-compatible investments
-  Development Finance Institutions’ business models
- Development Finance Institutions’ governance
- The financial regulation of Development Finance Institutions
- The global development finance architecture
In total 15 research papers will be published under this research program.

  • The first database on Public Development Banks (PDBs)

Visit the database

Who are the development banks, what are their characteristics and mandate? What assets do they mobilize, and what is their weight in the global financial market? Based on their annual reports, the database on Public Development Banks (PDBs), developed by the research program provides, for the first time, a comprehensive mapping of development banks worldwide. An analysis work is in progress using this data to establish a typology of these institutions. 

Simultaneously, AFD is working on two algorithms. The first aims to computerize the search for financial data; the second, based on an algorithm created in partnership by AFD and the SDG Financing Lab of OECD, will make it possible to highlight the way in which ODDs are taken into account by development banks.

  • Policy dialogue

The main objective of this research program is to deliver concrete recommendations for decision-makers. First results will be shared with all stakeholders during the 14th AFD International Research Conference on Development, The Visible Hand: Development Banks in Transition in the framework of the Finance in Common Summit, the first global meeting of all public development banks held in November 2020.

The researchers involved in this program come from the following institutions :
National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Argentina (Argentina); Institute of New Structural Economics, Peking University (China); School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia University (USA); Development Bank of Minas Gerais, BDMG (Brazil); Columbia University (UK); UNDESA (United Nations-Department of Economic and Social Affairs, USA); Institute of Development Studies (UK); LSE (UK); Ferdi - Fondation pour les Etudes et Recherches sur le Développement International (France); Overseas Development Institute (ODI Sales Ltd., UK); Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies (USA); Green Climate Fund (USA); Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI, France); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Switzerland); BNDES (O banco nacional do desenvolvimento/The Brazilian Development Bank, Brazil); Toulouse School of Economics (France); National School of Development, Peking University (China); Agence française de développement (AFD, France).


All the working papers published under this research program, listed below, are available for free downloading. For each research paper, you can also read a overview in two pages, and watch a short video.


Inclusion of Development Banks in the Global Financial Architecture

Business Model of Development Banks

Characterization of SDG-compatible investments

Regulatory frameworks


PDB Database Building Flagship Reports 


    Project start date
    Project end date
    200 000
    Financing amount

    Program coordinators:

    Jiajun Xu, Executive Deputy Dean at the Institute of New Structural Economics (INSE) at Peking University 

    Stephany Griffith-Jones, Financial Markets Director at Columbia University (England)

    Régis Marodon, Special Adviser on Sustainable Finance at the Agence française de développement (AFD)