What is the World Bank Group?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 February 2020
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The World Bank, more properly known as the World Bank Group, is a collective of five financial institutions which aim to improve conditions in the developing world. It is run like a multinational corporation, with numerous nations working together to direct funds where they are needed. The World Bank is formally run by a board of governors with an assortment of rotating members, headed by a President, who is typically a United States citizen.

The organization was founded in 1944, to assist with the rebuilding of nations impacted by the Second World War. The value of an organization focused on lending economic assistance to those in need on an international level was recognized, and the World Bank became a permanent institution. The five organizations in the World Bank Group include the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which focuses on low-income nations, the International Development Association, for the poorest and neediest nations, the International Finance Corporation, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, and the International Center for Investment Disputes.


The multiple organizations within the World Bank Group cooperate to provide economic, educational, social, medical, and environmental assistance to developing nations. The guise World Bank assistance may take varies widely. For example, the World Bank may offer microlending to developing nations, empowering citizens economically with the money to start their own businesses. The World Bank also provides medical assistance, environmental reviews, infrastructure rebuilding, and disaster recovery services. Primarily, the World Bank focuses on lending assistance from an economic point of view, offering low income loans or grants to nations who need them, and allowing the countries to use the money as needed. This differs from other international aid organizations, which provide direct physical assistance, such as doctors and medical supplies to AIDS afflicted nations, or construction workers to rebuild flood damaged homes.

Like many organizations which ultimately aim to alleviate poverty, the World Bank has come in for its share of criticism as well as praise. Some developing nations resent the restrictions which may be placed on World Bank loans, especially those which promote modernization at the risk of losing traditional ways of life. The World Bank also tends to have a uniform approach, rather than examining each nation and its needs on an individual basis. This can lead to cultural issues, or to offers of assistance which may ultimately be rejected because they include demands which the receiving nation feels are unreasonable.

Within the World Bank, criticisms have been leveled by many staffers, including Joseph Stiglitz, former Chief Economist. In the early twenty first century, the World Bank became involved in several extensive assessments, to determine how it could be changed to be more effective and less subject to international criticism.



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