The World Bank

The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the common sense. We are made up of two unique development institutions owned by 184 member countries—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). Each institution plays a different but supportive role in our mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. The IBRD focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries, while IDA focuses on the poorest countries in the world. Together we provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes.


Since inception in 1944, the World Bank has expanded from a single institution to a closely associated group of five development institutions. Our mission evolved from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) as facilitator of post-war reconstruction and development to the present day mandate of worldwide poverty alleviation in conjunction with our affiliate, the International Development Association.

Once we had a homogeneous staff of engineers and financial analysts, based solely in Washington, DC. Today, we have a multidisciplinary and diverse staff that includes economists, public policy experts, sector experts and social scientists, and 30% of our staff is now based in country offices.

Reconstruction remains an important focus of our work, given the natural disasters and post conflict rehabilitation needs that affect developing and transition economies. We have, however, broadened our portfolio's focus to include social sector lending projects, poverty alleviation, debt relief and good governance. At today's World Bank, we have sharpened our focus on poverty reduction as the overarching goal of all our work.


At the World Bank we have made the world's challenge—to reduce global poverty—our challenge.

Our work focuses on achievement of the Millennium Development Goals that call for the elimination of poverty and sustained development. The goals provide us with targets and yardsticks for measuring results.

Our mission is to help developing countries and their people reach the goals by working with our partners to alleviate poverty. To do that we concentrate on building the climate for investment, jobs and sustainable growth, so that economies will grow, and by investing in and empowering poor people to participate in development.


Total member countries in each institution:  

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD):                     184

The International Development Association (IDA):                                               165

The International Finance Corporation (IFC):                                                       178

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA):                                        167

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID):              143


The World Bank is like a cooperative, where its 184 member countries are shareholders. 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 Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.

Because the governors only meet annually, they delegate specific duties to 24 Executive Directors, who work on-site at the bank. The five largest shareholders, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States appoint an executive director, while other member countries are represented by 19 executive directors.

The President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, chairs meetings of the Boards of Directors and is responsible for overall management of the bank. By tradition, the bank president is national of and is nominated by the largest shareholder in the bank, the United States. The President is elected by the Board of Governors for a five-year, renewable term.

The Executive Directors make up the Boards of Directors of the World Bank. They normally meet at least twice a week to oversee the bank's business, including approval of loans and guarantees, new policies, the administrative budget, country assistance strategies and borrowing and financial decisions.

The World Bank operates day-to-day under the leadership and direction of the president, management and senior staff, and the vice presidents in charge of regions, sectors, networks and functions.

Vice Presidents are the principal managers at the World Bank. For more information about bank vice presidents, key bank managers and the organization of the bank, visit:

In addition to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association, three other institutions are closely associated with the World Bank: the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). All five of these institutions together make up the World Bank Group.