Standardizing Sustainable Development: A Comparison of Development Banks in the Americas


Kevin P. Gallagher and Fei Yuan. 2017. “Standardizing Sustainable Development: A Comparison of Development Banks in the Americas.” Journal of Environment and Development , 26, 3, Pp. 243-271. Publisher's Version


There is a sense of urgency in emerging market and developing countries in general, and Latin America in particular, for international development banks to generate a pipeline of infrastructure projects in order to reboot lagging economies and to meet broader sustainable development goals. In meeting those goals, it is important to also ensure that such efforts are socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. To draw lessons for this new wave of development finance, this article conducts a comparative analysis of social and environmental safeguards across international development banks. We find a significant divergence in safeguard policy across development banks operating in the region, with Western-backed development banks requiring that borrowers harmonize to developed country standards to others such as China's and Brazil’s banks deferring to host country standards. On the basis of this research, we develop a framework that allows analysts to better empirically examine the impact of different safeguard regimes on environment, social, and development outcomes.