is an international organization that provides loans to governments and private firms for
development projects, such as irrigation, education, and housing. It also grants loans to
support government policies that it believes will strengthen a country's economy, such as
lower import tariffs and more efficient judicial systems. The bank's official name is the
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Almost all countries are members of the World Bank. The bank gets most of its funds by
borrowing in world financial markets. Its bonds are backed by the pledges of its members
and by the loans it makes to governments and firms. The bank is an agency of the United
Nations. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.
Plans for the World Bank were drawn up at an economic conference held in Bretton Woods,
New Hampshire, in 1944. The bank began operating in 1946.
The International Development Association, established in 1960, is a World Bank affiliate
that makes interest-free, long-term loans to impoverished countries. Another affiliate,
the International Finance Corporation, was established in 1956 to encourage private firms
to invest in less developed countries.
The World Bank has faced criticism, especially in the United States. Critics note that the
bank has had little success in persuading some developing countries to adopt the policies
the bank believes would improve their economies. Critics also argue that the bank should
not fund investment projects that can be financed by private loans.