Sovereign Wealth Funds, Capacity Building, Development, and Governance

32 Pages Posted: 11 May 2017 Last revised: 7 Jun 2017

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: May 10, 2017


Though operating in some form or another for over half a century, sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) did not become an object of general attention until the early part of the 21st century when a combination of the need of developed states for investment and the growing acceptability of state investment in private markets abroad made them both threatening and convenient. Assured by the framework of the Santiago Principles most states now view SWFs as a useful multi-purpose sovereign investment vehicle. Yet over the last decade or so, SWFs appear to have developed the potential to become an important instrument in good governance and development, especially for resource rich and capacity poor developing states. Following the lead of Chile, and with the patronage of IFIs, these SWFs have begun to serve objectives as and with development banks both within and beyond their home state. This paper considers the capacity of SWFs to serve ends beyond mere fund value maximization as envisioned in the Santiago Principles. It explores the value of SWFs as a means of enhancing governance capacity in weaker states, its utility in enhancing development objectives, the emerging landscape of joint ventures among SWFs for development and their intersections with emerging infrastructure and development banks, and their importance in enhancing the operationalization of emerging international business and human rights standards not only within their own organizations but through their investment activities. A brief assessment of these trends ends the paper. Lastly, it develops a set of transformative changes in approaches to SWF instrumentality that SWFs, especially the smaller SWFs and those in developing states, might deploy in structuring and operating their SWFs within a globalized economic order. These strategies are meant to avoid the circular characteristics of current discussions grounded on premises of finance instrument silos and state based systems that no longer accord with the realities of, and fail to take advantage of the possibilities now offered through, global finance and can be grouped into the three transforming categories suggested in Section III: regionalization strategies; financial objectives strategies; governance strategies.

Keywords: Sovereign Wealth Funds, Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Sovereign Investment

JEL Classification: E02, F02, F63, H87, K33, M48, P45, R58

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, Sovereign Wealth Funds, Capacity Building, Development, and Governance (May 10, 2017). Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 34, 2017, Penn State Law Research Paper No. 10-2017, Available at SSRN:

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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