This Briefing Paper examines the history of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and considers its present and future role. Economic and political changes in Latin America, increased resources and new US policy towards the region have enhanced the IDB's importance. Latin American governments now have the confidence to initiate and join in regional programmes. US interest has been focused on the region by its problems, including debts, drug exports, and the environment but also by the prospects for trade and investment. Both Latin American governments and, more recently, the US have encouraged the IDB to assume a new leading role. In conclusion, the paper notes the IDB’s stronger position in the 1990s compared to the early 1980s and argues that, if the optimistic forecasts are right, its member countries will be among the successes of the 1990s.