World Bank

Source: Civicus - Third World Institute
The annual meeting of the governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in the first week of October is traditionally an occasion for protesters to rally against the system and criticise these sister institutions created at Bretton Woods at the end of World War II. The highest authorities of the Bretton Woods institutions have opened a door with their self-criticism. Perhaps the protests during the annual meeting will no longer come from the demonstrators on the corner in Washington, but from inside the meeting itself. [see more]
The World Bank is the single largest source of development finance in the world. With its financial power and its policy advice the Bank shapes development policies across Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Its main self-proclaimed objective is to eradicate poverty. Yet, evidence suggests that World Bank programmes often increase social inequalities and cause environmental destruction. NGOs have been lobbying for a change in the Bank’s policy descriptions and decision-making structure for decades, resulting in some reforms.

The World Bank was founded as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. Initially, the Bank provided credits to rebuild European countries after the World War II. In this role, however, it was quickly replaced by the US Marshall Plan. Instead, the Bank began to provide loans to low- and medium-income countries. Within the World Bank Group, the role of the IBRD is now one of providing loans mainly to medium-income countries such as Mexico, Brazil and India. This support usually goes to special projects. Recently, however, the share of adjustment loans has increased. Attached to the loans are conditions relating to structural and policy reforms to be implemented by the borrower country. The IBRD is able to raise significant funds on international capital markets at preferred "AAA" credit rates. It lends these funds at interest rates slightly below those offered by commercial lenders and with more time to pay them back. The IBRD has made a profit every year since it came into existence - over US$3 billion in 2003.

When it became clear that IBRD loans were too expensive for many developing countries, the International Development Association (IDA) was founded in 1960. It grants financial assistance to low-income countries, mostly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, at no interest (except a small fee). To be eligible, IDA borrowers must lack sovereign credit-worthiness, have a very low per capita income, and must meet certain performance criteria set by the World Bank. More than half of IDA funds are provided by donor countries, the rest consist of repayments of loans and a small amount comes from the transfer of IBRD profits.

In addition to IBRD and IDA, three other organizations are part of the World Bank Group: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) was founded in 1956 and promotes private sector investment by supporting high-risk sectors and countries. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), established 1960, provides political risk insurance to investors in and lenders to developing countries. Finally, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which was created 1966, settles investment disputes between foreign investors and their host countries. All five organizations are headed by one president, currently the US national James Wolfensohn. The headquarters of the World Bank are in Washington DC, and it employs about 10,000 staff around the world.

The Bank’s finance and policy advice has an enormous impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries. It uses its financial power to shape the policies of its borrowers across a wide range of economic and social areas. While the Bank claims that its programmes create economic growth and reduce poverty, civil society groups maintain that the institution, in co-operation with the IMF, implements the neo-liberal policies of the “Washington Consensus”. This, they argue, solely serves the interests of the Bank’s main shareholders - the G7 states - and does not help the poor in the developing world. The G7 States have a total share of more than 40 per cent of the votes with the US alone controlling 16.4 per cent. As an 85 per cent majority is required for major decisions, the US can block changes, for instance, in the voting system.

Until the 1980s the World Bank mainly financed microeconomic projects such as dams and pipelines that were suppose to trigger development on a macroeconomic level. This role was challenged by two tendencies. First, more medium-income countries could borrow money from the financial markets, leaving the World Bank's role centred on poorer countries. Second, the projects were often criticized by NGOs for their negative impact on the local environment and population. In response, the World Bank started to co-operate with civil society and increased its share of macroeconomic initiatives to help the poor. Up to now, however, the role of the World Bank remains controversial as it largely fails to deliver on its promises.
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Thursday, October 21 2010
Mea Culpa
(Source: Civicus - Third World Institute)
Thursday, October 21 2010
Energy for the poor?
(Source: Oil Change International)

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Rethinking Bretton Woods

Third World Network

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Bretton Woods Project

CEE Bankwatch Network

Bank Information Center


Halifax Initiative

Friends of the Earth United States


World Bank president: who will be next?

Corruption at the World Bank

Wolfowitz saga exposes structural flaws of the World Bank (Global Policy)

Behind the World Bank's ouster of Paul Wolfowitz (

Wolfowitz and the hypocrisy of the West (Pambazuka News)

Fighting corruption needs more than a "spray gun" (Action for Economic Reforms)

The World Bank versus poor countries: Deconstructing Wolfowitzism (Africa Files)

The World Bank’s conflicted corruption fight (International Rivers Network and Environmental Defense)

The World Bank weeds out corruption: Will it touch the roots? (Bretton Woods Project)

Wolfowitz needs to look at corruption of yesterday and follow the positive example of Norway (Eurodad)

Adios, World Bank! (Foreign Policy In Focus)

Love, lies, Wolfowitz and the Bank (The Zeleza Post)

World Bank conditionalities

The World Bank is redefining what is good for business. If you say so... (Agenda Global - La Diaria)

Quick fixes or real solutions? World Bank and IMF responses to the global food and fuel crises (Eurodad)

Conditionality in Latin America (Forum on the Future of Aid)

Loosening the leash? The World Bank conditionality review (Eurodad)

World Bank still pushing economic policy conditions (SUNS)

IMF-WB policies in low income countries

Conditionality in World Bank crisis-lending to Ghana (Eurodad)

The World Bank in times of crisis: too many commitments and few disbursements (IFIs Latin American Monitor, ITeM)

African Agriculture and the World Bank: Development or impoverishment? (Pambazuka)

World Bank’s handling of fragile states "unsatisfactory" (Bretton Woods Project)


Gender Justice (Gender Action and Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL))

Demanding Accountability: Civil Society Claims and the World Bank Inspection Panel

General information

Glossary of World Bank and IMF terms (Bretton Woods Project)

Demystifying International Development Association (IDA) replenishment (Bank Information Center)

Citizen’s Guide to the World Bank (CEE Bankwatch)

What is the World Bank? (Bank Information Center)

The track record of the World Bank

Energy for the poor? (Oil Change International)

The World Bank and energy: time for a catalytic conversion (Bretton Woods Project)

'No regrets': The World Bank and climate change (Bretton Woods Project)

Argentina versus the World Bank: Fair play or fixed fight? (IRC Americas Program)

A Marxist at the World Bank (Third World Network)

Corporate power and influence in the World Bank (Focus on the Global South)

The temple of capital is cracking (Ventana Global)

Robert Zoellick and the World Bank: Putting the fox in charge of the hen-house (nef (new economics foundation))

Business as usual at the World Bank after brief Wolfowitz era (Afrodad)

World Bank: Wolfowitz or Zoellick, is that the question? (Rede Brasil)

World Bank in historical perspective (Znet)

Whistling in the dark: Why the World Bank's latest poverty projections are meaningless (Jubilee Research at nef)

The influence of the United States on the World Bank (CADTM)

The World Bank during neoliberal and neoconservative fusion (Pambazuka)

The World Bank and the respect of the human rights (CADTM)

Unofficial track record of the World Bank (CEE Bankwatch)

World Bank social and environmental policies: abandoning responsibility (Bretton Wood Projects)

"Community Driven Development" strategy fails to reduce poverty in East Timor (Focus on the Global South)

The Wolfesohn era at the World Bank: a decade of contradictions (Focus on the Global South)

World Bank accountability: demand for reparations won't go away (Bretton Woods Project)

Report and discussion paper on IFIs and human rights (Halifax Initiative)

The Bank’s role in microeconomic project lending

Microcredit, macro problems (Focus on the Global South)

World Bank finds way to bypass restrictions in lending for infrastructure to sub-national entities (Center of Concern)

The Bank’s role in microeconomic project lending (Choike)

IMF-World Bank long-term development strategies

Civil society organizations criticise the World Bank as regards its environmental and human rights responsibilities (Social Watch)

Mea Culpa (Civicus - Third World Institute)

Brave new world emerges from IMF and World Bank Istanbul meetings (Center of Concern)

The continued failure of the World Bank and IMF to fully assess the impact of their advice on poor people (Eurodad)

World Bank's new poverty estimates spark controversy (Choike)

The elusive quest for 'fiscal space' (Bretton Woods Project)

Gender guide to World Bank and IMF policy-based lending (Gender Action)

World Bank conditionality update (Eurodad)

Difficult beginnings between the UN and the World Bank (CADTM)

Good business in 2006: The World Bank insists on the liberalization of economies (DE3)

The roles of the US Government and World Bank in the drive to privatize basic services in developing countries (Bank Information Center)

World Bank and IMF conditionality: a development injustice (Eurodad)

IFC: One step forward, one step back (Halifax Initiative)

The rise of the relief - and reconstruction complex (Focus on the Global South)

World Bank trade policy evaluated in-doors (IFIs Latin American Monitor)

The World Bank’s role in IIRSA (Bank Information Center)

Factoring trade considerations into debt policies: The failure of World Bank and IMF-led frameworks (Center of Concern)

The roles of the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO in liberalization and privatization of the water services sector (Citizens' Network on Essential Services)

World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Support Credit, continuity or change? (Debt and Development Coalition Ireland)

Open on impact? Slow progress in World Bank and IMF poverty analysis (EURODAD)

Odious debt: Calls for arbitration mount (Bretton Woods Project)

IMF and World Bank long-term development strategies (Choike)

Civil society cooperation and World Bank reform

The necessary reform of the World Bank (INESC - Rede Brasil)

At last! Farewell Wolfowitz

Civil society and Wolfowitz's World Bank: reform or rejection revisited (CADTM)

Paul Wolfowitz, 10th World Bank President (CADTM)

The World Bank’s strategy on governance and anticorruption, a civil society perspective (CIDSE)

Beware the big, bland wolf: The first year of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank (Bretton Woods Project)

CSOs criticize World Bank's new social standards (IPS)

Reforming the World Bank: Will the gender strategy make a difference? A study with China case examples (Gender Action)

Who rules the World Bank? (Bank Information Centre (BIC))

The World Bank as a U.S.foreign policy tool (Third World Network)

The Wolfowitz coup at the World Bank (Third World Network)

Wolfowitz era begins: Realpolitik 1, Democracy 0 (Bretton Woods Project)

Protesting Wolfowitz for the World Bank petition update and next steps (Eurodad)

Wolfowitz nomination: a moment of truth for Europeans foreign and development policies. (Eurodad)

Opposition to Wolfowitz gathers steam (IPS)

Bush nominates arch-hawk to lead World Bank

Civil society co-operation and World Bank reform (Choike)

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