Leadership of the IMF and World Bank has been guided by a historical 'gentleman's agreement' between Europe and the United States. What does this agreement entail? And how could it be reformed?
The IMF and World Bank continue to be amongst the most relevant and significant powerful norm-setters, convenors, knowledge-holders and influencers of the international development and financial landscape. This Inside the Institutions sets-out some of the most common criticisms of the World Bank and IMF under three broad lenses: democratic governance, human rights and the environment.
The Bretton Woods Institutions are the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were set up at a meeting of 43 countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, USA in July 1944. Their aims were to help rebuild the shattered postwar economy and to promote international economic cooperation.
This Inside the Institutions looks at the funds available to the IMF and the World Bank, including the origins of IBRD and IFC resources and an overview of the most recent changes in the IMF and IDA’s funding streams and mechanisms.
The IMF was conceived primarily as a supervisory institution to promote international monetary cooperation and facilitate the growth of international trade. This is to be achieved through maintaining monetary exchange stability and assisting member countries who are experiencing balance of payments problems.
The World Bank Group is made up of five institutions, four of which were created after 1944, all sharing a similar mandate of reducing poverty and facilitating economic growth in developing countries. The original institution is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), often simply known as the World Bank. Other institutions have been added: the International Development Association (IDA); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
The World Bank is the largest public development institution in the world, lending around US$ 25 billion a year to developing countries. The main purposes of the Bank, as outlined in Article One of its Articles of Agreement, are: "to assist in the reconstruction and development of territories of members by facilitating the investment of capital for productive purposes" and "to promote the long-range balanced growth of international trade and the maintenance of equilibrium in balances of payments by encouraging international investment ... thereby assisting in raising the productivity, the standard of living and conditions of labour in their territories".
The different arms of the World Bank Group lend money to developing countries and private enterprises.
The IMF provides various types of loans to member governments. This background article explains how IMF lending works and sets out the differences between the main types of IMF lending.