International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), independent specialized agency of the United Nations, with headquarters at Washington, D.C.; one of five closely associated development institutions (also including the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, International Finance Corporation (see below), International Development Association (see below), and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) that constitute the World Bank Group. Plans were laid at the Bretton Woods Conference (1944) for the formation of a world bank; the IBRD was formally organized as the original institution of the World Bank in 1945, when 28 countries ratified the agreement; there are now 189 members. The IBRD aims at reducing poverty in middle-income and creditworthy poorer countries through loans, guarantees, risk management products, and analytical and advisory services. The bank not only makes loans to member nations, but, under government guarantee, to private investors, for the purpose of facilitating productive investment, encouraging foreign trade, and discharging burdens of international debt. All members of the bank must also belong to the International Monetary Fund. The bank is self-sustaining and has maintained a profit on its lending activities. It is controlled by a board of governors, one from each member state. Votes are allocated according to capital subscription. Ordinary affairs are conducted by 22 executive directors, five appointed by the five largest capital subscribers, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States, and 17 elected by the remaining members. Regional vice presidents oversee the bank's operations in five regions: Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, East Africa, West Africa, and (in one grouping) Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

The bank also operates the Economic Development Institute, which offers training in economic development for officials of member countries. Another development institution is the International Finance Corporation (IFC; est. 1956), which invests in private enterprises without government guarantee. The IFC has 184 member nations. The bank organized the International Development Association (IDA; 1960) to extend credit on easier terms, mainly to developing countries. The IDA has 172 member nations. Members of the IFC and IDA must be members of the IBRD. Criticism that the IBRD-financed projects were environmentally destructive led the bank to establish an environmental fund (1990) providing low-interest loans for developing countries; the IBRD continues to be criticized to failing to adequately address human rights in its development work. Developing nations have complained that the IBRD imposes the free-market system on them, thereby discouraging planning, nationalization, and public investment.

See E. S. Mason and R. E. Asher, The World Bank since Bretton Woods (1973); C. Payer, The World Bank: A Critical Analysis (1982); S. Please, The Hobbled Giant: Essays on the World Bank (1984); E. Conway, The Summit: Bretton Woods, 1944 (2015).

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