Decision makers: Who has the power to change the situation? For the MDBs, the decision-makers are the bank staff (President, Vice-Presidents, country and sector directors), Board of Executive Directors, and the country Finance Ministries and individual government agencies with authority on IFI matters or particular IFI projects.

When campaigning on MDBs, it is a good idea to start with the Board of Executive Directors. The Executive Directors (EDs) make the day-to-day approval decisions on policies and projects. EDs are a subset of the member countries. For example, the World Bank has 24 EDs that represent all 185 country members. It will be important for the campaign to secure support from both powerful donor government EDs (e.g. US, Germany, Japan, UK, France, Nordics) and borrowing government EDs (e.g. China, India, Brazil, Mexico). So far, MDB campaigns have struggled to get borrowing country governments on board – so campaigns should make extra effort and provide more attention to the EDs representing these countries.

For more information on the governance structures and tools for MDB activists see the Bank Information Center at:

The decision-makers at the ECAs and national development banks that could be targeted by coal campaigns include the institutional leaders and managing staff and government bodies overseeing appropriations.

Pressure groups: Who can influence those actors? Government agencies with oversight or authority over IFIs shape the decisions of the Executive Directors. Parliamentarians can be key, as often the parliament will have oversight of the budget for the institution or replenishment of MDB contributions.

For the ECAs and national development banks, it will be important to get major institutions to reform first, which should have a domino effect on other bilateral financing agencies, as is already happening with coal power restrictions. A special target group is the OECD Export Credit Group, which has financing guidelines offered in the Common Approaches document.[1] Lastly, the IFIs (especially the MDBs) have a public image to maintain, and as such are highly vulnerable to public pressure and the press.

Points of intervention: Because the MDBs have been the target of many types of public campaigns that run the gamut of social and environmental issues, there are several established opportunities for intervention.  These include:

  • IFI Policy and Strategy Reviews: Typically, every 3 to 5 years the MDBs, and to a lesser degree the ECAs/national development banks, review and update various bank-wide policies and strategies that are relevant to the coal sector, including sector strategies (energy, mining, natural resources, water) or operational policies (social and environmental performance standards/safeguards). The policy review processes typically begin one to two years before the revised policy is submitted to the Board, and this timeframe represents an important period to exert influence on the final policy. In order to have the most influence during these processes, it is important to have several meetings with bank staff and EDs and to submit well-prepared case studies and evidence-based documents throughout the process – not only during the official consultations.
  • Annual Meetings: Every Spring or Fall the MDBs hold annual meetings for the Board of Governors, which have one representative for every member government. These meetings are an important opportunity to hold actions and release reports to bring attention to the campaign. In some developed countries, like the US, the media does not pay regular attention to the MDBs – so sometimes the Annual Meetings can provide more media outlets. The schedule for annual meetings can be found on the MDB’s websites.
  • Consultations: The MDBs, and to a lesser extent ECAs and national development banks, hold public consultations on projects, country strategies, and bank operational policies/strategies. Because consultations take place before a policy or project is approved by the IFI, it is an important time to have influence on public finance and subsidies. All of the MDBs require public consultation for category A projects (i.e. projects with potential significant environmental impacts), which include the vast majority of coal projects, but not necessarily for coal-associated policy lending operations or FIs.

Consultations for MDB country strategies (sometimes referred to as Country Assistance Strategies or Country Partnership Strategies) provide an important chance to influence the MDBs and individual countries’ future development and policy priorities. MDBs develop a new country strategy detailing the planned program of assistance and overall development goals and outcomes for borrowing countries every 3 to 5 years. MDBs typically begin working on new country strategies a year in advance and should post upcoming consultations on the country webpage of the respective MDB. However, consultations are not always held or allow for limited participation, so it is a good idea to contact the bank to find out the schedule, current status, and to request a consultation.

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[1] For more information on the OECD Export Credit Group see ECA Watch or Pacific Environment.