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Development trust funds: An engine for catalytic growth

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As the World Bank embarks on our mission of creating a world free of poverty on a livable planet, we must work together with a diverse range of partners if we’re going to reach our goals.

Trust funds are one of the ways in which the World Bank works with development partners.  A powerful tool for global development, these financing instruments are funded by one or more donors and support poor and middle-income countries. The World Bank manages these funds, ensuring sound oversight, transparency, and accountability, but trust funds are partnerships, both in the way money is raised and how it is spent. They enable the World Bank to work with a variety of donors and partners, and to mobilize, direct, and support grant money where it is most needed.

In a world of infinite demand and finite resources, the value for money and collaboration opportunities that trust funds present are critical. They help mobilize co-financing, allowing us to do more to address worldwide challenges and support public goods.

As the World Bank implements a new playbook with scalable and replicable solutions, how can we further strengthen the impact of trust funds? This was one of the topics discussed last month at the ninth Trust Fund Forum, held in Geneva. At the forum, donors to the World Bank’s trust funds and financial intermediary funds gathered to exchange lessons and ideas in the context of today’s challenges.  

One of the issues raised is how trust funds are not just sources of financing, but also engines of knowledge production. They enable countries to obtain technical assistance, expertise, and research to support national development, from the sustainable provision of water services to unlocking finance for women entrepreneurs. On average, trust funds pay for two-thirds of the World Bank’s analytical work. We plan to launch a new Knowledge Compact for Action to ensure our engagements and operations are informed by the best global and country knowledge available, and trust funds will play a central role in this work.

Our trust funds are also global first responders—they are agile and flexible, and often first to provide large grants to countries confronting crises and shocks, including in fragile, conflict-affected, and vulnerable (FCV) regions or when natural hazards strike. They complement the World Bank’s longer-term lending instruments and development programs. Between 2019 and 2023, trust funds disbursed $25.3 billion to FCV regions for activities executed by its recipients. In the most recent financial year, the three largest recipients of total FCV funding from trust funds were Ukraine (93.4 percent), Afghanistan (2.2 percent), and Ethiopia (1.4 percent).

While trust funds are small in comparison to financing from the International Development Association or the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, they can have a catalytic, outsized impact on development. Trust fund disbursements quadrupled to $21 billion between 2022 and 2023, demonstrating that these types of funds are the vehicle of choice for delivering rapid, targeted support where it is needed most.

Every year, trust funds help dozens of countries build their own capacity, design effective policies for a wide range of development needs, pilot and scale up projects, incubate innovation, and respond to crises, improving millions of lives. In recent years, trust funds have played an integral role in World Bank efforts to accelerate global climate action; develop carbon pricing policies and carbon markets; improve public health systems and outcomes, while rapidly rolling out emergency funding for pandemic responses; provide services in FCV contexts; create opportunities for women to participate fully in economic life; and help countries improve public financial management to avoid fiscal distress and debt crises.

The World Bank is answering the urgent call for accelerated development with the largest response in its history.  We will use all the tools at our disposal—including the financial resources, operational expertise, and global partnerships that trust funds provide—to protect people, strengthen resilience, and restore growth.




Maitreyi Bordia Das

Director, Trust Funds and Partner Relations, Development Finance (DFi)

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