Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Governance

Program Name/Specialization

Global Political Economy


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Eric Helleiner

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Kathryn Hochstetler

Advisor Role



What explains the Development Bank of Latin America’s (CAF, in Spanish) continuity and expansion since the 1990s? This thesis explores how an initially small Andean development bank crafted a successful strategy to survive in a troubled region and eventually thrive as an important lending source. This thesis argues that CAF’s expansion can be attributed to four main factors: 1) leadership, 2) institutional design, 3) member governments’ preferences and 4) Brazil’s push for regional cooperation beyond trade.

Theoretically, this thesis draws upon two sets of interrelated academic debates to explain CAF’s growth: 1) International Political Economy (IPE) and International Organization (IO) theories discussing the main motivations for the design, culture, and behaviour of international institutions, and 2) IPE and International Relations (IR) literature on national interests, regional cooperation and development governance in South America.

This thesis makes an empirical contribution to existing literature by providing the first detailed analysis of the history of CAF, while seeking to explain the reasons behind its expansion within a region in which defaults on external debt obligations have not been uncommon. Theoretically, this thesis invites scholars to reengage with the study of leadership in IOs. The study of CAF highlights the importance of successful agency under strong leadership in the survival and growth of RFIs. This thesis accounts for how and when CAF has employed its granted discretion and taken advantage of its institutional features to expand its mission and act in ways that were not originally outlined by its principals. It also examines how CAF has successfully balanced in its own terms the distinct demands of two types of stakeholders (member countries and credit rating agencies), while partaking in regional discussions and agendas related to infrastructure development. Moreover, this thesis shows that the rise of certain states as regional leaders can also influence an IO’s strategy in trying to understand and engage more often with a state that is leading the agenda on regional cooperation.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season