The World Bank was originally established to support reconstruction in Europe after World War II, but has since reframed its mission and expanded its operations both geographically and substantively. Today, the Bank’s mission is to reduce poverty. It has over 184 member countries and provides over $30 billion annually for activities ranging from agriculture to trade policy, from health and education to energy and mining. The World Bank provides funding for bricks-and-mortar projects, as well to promote economic and policy prescriptions it believes will promote economic growth.
The World Bank is not a bank in the common sense of the word. A single person cannot open an account or ask for a loan. Rather, the Bank provides loans, grants and technical assistance to countries and the private sector to reduce poverty in developing and transition countries.
The World Bank Group is actually comprised of five separate arms. Two of those arms – the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA) work primarily with governments and together are commonly known as “the World Bank”. Two other branches – the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) – directly support private businesses investing in developing countries. The fifth arm is the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which arbitrates disagreements between foreign investors and governments. This webpage outlines key features of the two arms that are now collectively referred to as the World Bank: IBRD and IDA.
People and communities have a right to understand what the World Bank is doing in their country, and participate in and influence the development of Bank projects and policies. Bank Information Center activities to promote these goals include:
- investigating problematic Bank-funded projects that are negatively impacting people and the environment
- participating in World Bank policy reviews, and promoting increased transparency, accountability and public participation in the institution’s operations
- tracking thematic issues such as human rights, climate change and governance, constantly challenging and expanding the dominant discourse around these important topics
- providing hard-to-obtain information about the Bank to concerned individuals and organizations, thus expanding access to and understanding of the institution and its impacts