Launching new research

What is the Bretton Woods 2.0 project?

The Bretton Woods Institutions were created in 1944 in the hopes that stronger international economic coordination would prevent another world war. Today, more than 75 years later, these institutions need to be revitalized and reimagined for a transformed global economy.

In an era of fierce geopolitical rivalries and unprecedented crises at a global scale, there is a profound need for reforms to the world’s monetary and financial system. But how exactly? What would a Bretton Woods system look like if it first emerged today?

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Some of today’s challenges would be familiar to the founders of the Bretton Woods System:  think of the use of trade and tariffs to further geopolitical objects or the debate about international taxation; Some challenges were anticipated back in 1944, including the rise of new economic powers. And some challenges are wholly new; just consider the impact of climate change on the global economy and the proliferation of digital currency. 

Programmatic Review

Governance and parallel institutions: Over the past 75 years the structure of the global economy has gone through major transformations including the rise of new economic powers, the emergence of more than forty regional multilateral development banks and financial institutions, and the rise of state-led international development finance. We will examine potential governance reforms in the Bretton Woods Institutions for them to remain relevant, effective, and efficient in the face of changing realities of the global economy in the 21st century.

Macro-critical global trends: Macro-critical global trends are challenging the capacity and ability of Bretton Woods Institutions to deliver on their mandates. Increasing frequency of extreme weather events, mushrooming sovereign debt, aging population, deteriorating supply chains, and growing food and energy insecurities are some of these trends that are undermining the stability and inclusive growth prospects in the global economy. We will analyze these trends as they relate to global economic governance while also keeping in mind that financial sanctions, industrial policies, and other forms of economic statecraft are becoming more common in today’s global affairs.

Future of money and Fintech: Rapid technological change and continuous emergence of new players and new public and private digital currencies have transformed the global landscape of financial industry. We acknowledge that Bretton Woods Institutions have important roles to play in this front and need to transition from simply reacting to evolving technologies and digital currencies to having a pro-active role in legal, regulatory, as well as technical discussions around these issues.

Non-state and quasi-state actors: Growing number of multinational corporations, especially the big tech, have market caps, revenues, and even earning that are greater than the GDP of majority of countries and are shaping the future of global economy and financial markets. At the same time, more than 130 Sovereign Wealth Funds, controlling $9.6 trillion of assets, and pension and retirement funds with $56 trillion of assets, are the emerging heavyweights in global financial industry. The Bretton Woods 2.0 project will analyze the role of these non-state and quasi-state actors in global economy landscape and what this means for global economic governance and Bretton Woods Institutions.

Featured work and analysis

At the intersection of economics, finance, and foreign policy, the GeoEconomics Center is a translation hub with the goal of helping shape a better global economic future.

New Atlanticist

Apr 5, 2023

David Malpass on China’s role in the World Bank and how to prevent a ‘lost decade for growth’

By Katherine Walla

The president of the World Bank, speaking at the Atlantic Council as he prepares to hand over the reins to his successor, has one big worry about the global economy: a “reversal in development.” 

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New Atlanticist

Apr 4, 2023

Five ways the World Bank can redefine its role in the global economy

By Nicole Goldin, Mrugank Bhusari

With a new president on the horizon and an appetite for reform in the US and beyond, the World Bank is ready for change. It can start by focusing on these five policy priorities.

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Mar 15, 2023

Essential but unevenly distributed: IMF’s response to sovereign debt and financial crises

By Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou

The IMF’s response to today’s multifaceted challenges will require broader financing support.

Africa Economy & Business

Bretton Woods 2.0

Feb 23, 2023

The big questions (and answers) about Ajay Banga’s nomination to lead the World Bank

By Atlantic Council experts

What to know about the former Mastercard chief executive officer’s surprise nomination to lead the World Bank.

Economy & Business Fiscal and Structural Reform

New Atlanticist

Feb 22, 2023

China and private lenders are blocking a solution to the global debt crisis. The G20 must step in.

By Vasuki Shastry and Jeremy Mark

The international community must apply pressure so that China and private-sector lenders join in facilitating a collective haircut that includes all lenders.

China Economy & Business

Bretton Woods 2.0

Nov 30, 2022

A badly designed Ukraine bailout could backfire on the IMF. Here’s how to get it right.

By Martin Mühleisen

The IMF should stick to what it does best in aiding Ukraine: Using its macroeconomic expertise to corral broader support while sticking to its guidelines for its own loan.

Conflict Economy & Business


Nov 11, 2022

The target of limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees is practically dead. Why do emissions per capita matter?

By Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou

Achieving the target to limit global warming to below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, by the end of the century seems more unfeasible than ever. The reason is simple. The most critical of greenhouse gases have continuously risen in the past decade and CO2 emissions are only expected to grow more in 2022 and for the foreseeable future. COP27 needs to pave the path for a renewed international cooperative and enforceable framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by the world’s top emitters both in absolute terms and in per capita terms.

Climate Change & Climate Action Economy & Business


Oct 31, 2022

The global infrastructure financing gap: Where sovereign wealth funds and pension funds can play a role

By Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou and Naomi Aladekoba

Having more than $65 trillion in assets, institutional investors such as SWFs and pension funds are uniquely positioned to bridge low-income economies’ infrastructure financing gap in the coming decades. The Bretton Woods Institutions (BWI) can encourage investment in developing countries’ infrastructure through providing various guarantee and insurance mechanisms, thereby reducing risk for private investors.

Economy & Business Inclusive Growth


Aug 2, 2022

The global slowdown: Why Sub-Saharan Africa is so important

By Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou and Naomi Aladekoba

The global community, with the leadership of the IMF and the World Bank, needs to focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. While the population in countries that have moved into the high-income and upper middle-income categories are now aging rapidly, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to one of the world’s youngest population structure. In addition to lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in this region, sustained and inclusive growth over the next two decades in Sub-Saharan Africa could contribute to the growth in the global economy.

Africa Economy & Business


Jul 28, 2022

Keeping everyone in the club: How sanctions complicate the Bretton Woods Institutions’ job

By Mrugank Bhusari, Maia Nikoladze, Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou

With a voting majority at the Bretton Woods Institutions, the G7 and EU can collectively ask the institutions to comply with their sanctions. This is complicating the IMF and World Bank’s functions.

Economic Sanctions Economy & Business