The past 70 years have seen major changes in the world economy. Over that
time, the World Bank Group—the world’s largest development institution—has
worked to help more than 100 developing countries and countries in
transition adjust to these changes by offering loans and tailored knowledge
The Bank Group works with country governments, the private sector, civil
society organizations, regional development banks, think tanks, and other
international institutions on issues ranging from climate change, conflict,
and food security to education, agriculture, finance, and trade. All of
these efforts support the Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty
by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity of the poorest 40 percent of the
population in all countries.
Founded in 1944, the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development—soon called the World Bank—has expanded to a closely associated
group of five development institutions. Originally, its loans helped
rebuild countries devastated by World War II.
time, the focus shifted from reconstruction to development, with a heavy
emphasis on infrastructures such as dams, electrical grids, irrigation
systems, and roads. With the founding of the International Finance
Corporation in 1956, the institution became able to lend to private
companies and financial institutions in developing countries. And the
founding of the International Development Association in 1960 put greater
emphasis on the poorest countries, part of a steady shift toward the
eradication of poverty becoming the Bank Group’s primary goal.
The subsequent launch of the International Centre for Settlement of
Investment Disputes and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency further
rounded out the Bank Group’s ability to connect global financial resources
to the needs of developing countries.
Today the Bank Group’s work touches nearly every sector that is important to
fighting poverty, supporting economic growth, and ensuring sustainable gains
in the quality of people’s lives in developing countries. While sound
project selection and design remain paramount, the Bank Group recognizes a
wide range of factors that are critical to success—effective institutions,
sound policies, continuous learning through evaluation and
knowledge-sharing, and partnership, including with the private sector.
The Bank Group has long-standing relationships with more than 180 member
countries, and it taps these to address development challenges that are
increasingly global. On critical issues like climate change, pandemics, and
forced migration, the Bank Group plays a leading role because it is able to
convene discussion among its country members and a wide array of partners.
It can help address crises while building the foundations for longer-term,
The evolution of the Bank Group has also been reflected in the diversity of
its multidisciplinary staff, who include economists, public policy experts,
sector experts, and social scientists, based at headquarters in Washington,
D.C., and in the field. Today, more than a third of staff are based in
demand for its services has increased over time, the Bank Group has risen to
meet them. For perspective, the World Bank made four loans totalling $497
million in 1947, as compared to 302 commitments totalling $60 billion in