The multilateral system’s contribution to international development goals on governance (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1221)

The report identifies the roles of multilateral players at national, regional and international level



What is the multilateral system’s contribution to international development goals on governance? The report will identify the international development goals on governance, and the roles of different multilateral players at national, regional and international level.

Key findings

The multilateral international development system is sprawling and fragmented, with multiple autonomous specialised organisations that coordinate on specific issues. Traditionally this system has run on hierarchical lines; today more dynamic instances of coordinated governance are emerging, with multilateral organisations partnering regionally with public and private actors.

Key roles for multilateral organisations on governance include:

  • Leadership on international agreements that set out global governance goals, and shaping international development policy-making.
  • Partnership with bilateral donors, other multilateral organisations and other bodies, on financial investment, policy, advocacy, knowledge sharing and programmes.
  • Responding to regional needs and demands, with regional multilateral organisations particularly well-placed to do this.
  • Support to country governance reforms – from electoral processes to access to justice to public sector management and anti-corruption – providing fiduciary, knowledge, advisory, technical assistance and capacity-building to a range of stakeholders, including in fragile and conflict affected situations.
  • Investment in knowledge production and dissemination at country, regional and international levels. Some organisations also support national stakeholders’ capacity for generating and using evidence and data.
  • Designing measurable governance indicators and monitoring progress.

The literature highlights two key challenges to the effectiveness of the overall multilateral system, which impact on its contribution to governance goals: (1) how to ensure effective, representative and coherent global governance for international development goals, and (2) how to end the proliferation of organisations and funds, and earmarked funds.

The annex provides profiles of multilateral organisations that work to further international development goals on governance. The profiling covers organisations that report governance spend in the OECD DAC Creditor Reporting System. It also includes other organisations that are identified in the literature as contributing to governance goals. Finally it provides a brief summary of sector focused organisations that work on sectoral governance goals. This list is not comprehensive, but rather highlights some of the main organisations working in this area.


Carter, B. The multilateral system’s contribution to international development goals on governance (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1221). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2015) 14 + 24 pp.

Published 1 January 2015