The sudden re-calibration of geopolitics in the weeks since Russia launched its bloody invasion of Ukraine is a truly tectonic event that is reverberating through multilateral institutions.
The World Bank, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have suspended activity in Russia. On 11 March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Union (EU) was working to suspend Russia's membership at "multilateral financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank"--an unprecedented move.
The Global South has been more ambivalent. China and India have not joined economic sanctions, nor have a number of other countries across the developing world. Thirty-five countries abstained from voting against Russia at the UN General Assembly on 2 March, including Bangladesh, Bolivia, El Salvador, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Despite this ambivalence, even Southled institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB) have announced a temporary halt to operations in Russia and Belarus.
It is too soon to know where this will all lead, with bullets still flying in Ukraine. Nonetheless it is worth considering how the conflict might affect multilateral development banks (MDBs)--critical institutions in international development cooperation.