The World Bank is a source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. It is owned by 185 member countries. The Bank gives loans and offers advice and training in both the private and public sectors.
Since inception in 1944, the World Bank has expanded from a single institution to a closely associated group of five development institutions.
The World Bank was created at the end of World War II when many European and Asian countries needed financing to fund reconstruction. Created out of the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, the Bank was successful in providing financing for these devastated countries. The Bank now functions as an international organization that attempts to fight poverty by offering developmental assistance to middle and poor-income countries.
The shareholders are represented by a board of governors, who are the ultimate policy makers at the World Bank. Generally, the governors are member countries' ministers of finance or ministers of development. They meet once a year at the annual meeting of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In January of 2010, the World Bank and other major multilateral financial institutions rallied to lend desperately needed assistance to Haiti, where a powerful earthquake had virtually flattened the capital Port-au-Prince. The World Bank alone said it planned to provide an additional US$100 million in emergency aid to Haiti. At the time, the World Bank noted that its international development association had extended US$308 million in interest-free loans to Haiti since 2005, and that all current assistance to Haiti was in grant form.
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Robert Zoellick was the 11th president of the World Bank Group. He is chairman of the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors and president of a group of the five interrelated organizations of The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation (IFC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Zoellick announced in February of 2012 that he would be stepping down from the position.