The World Bank is an international organization conceived at the Bretton Woods Conference (1944) to meet the need to finance the reconstruction of countries devastated by the Second World War. The official name of the institution created in Bretton Woods was 'International Bank for Reconstruction and Development' (IBRD). The institution, which was capitalized with the sale of bonds backed by the member countries, has gradually changed its focus towards the developing countries, many of which have become independent nations after the war.
The structure of the organization has become more complex and lead to the establishment of other institutions – which today make up the World Bank Group – created to satisfy the demands that the IBRD was not able to meet. In 1956, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) was created, with the objective of promoting the expansion of the private investment in the developing countries. It was followed, in 1960, by the creation of the International Development Association (IDA), which enabled the concession of loans to the poorest countries that did not fulfill the requirements to receive the IBRD loans. Among the developing countries, Brazil has been one of the major IDA donors.
The International Centre for Settlement of Investments Dispute (ICSID) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) were created in 1966 and 1988 respectively, within the perspective of spurring foreign investment in developing countries.
The World Bank has become an important reference due to its analyses and experiments related to the development process. The institution has already been criticized for financing projects that have caused environmental disasters or that have not considered social impacts. However, the World Bank has sophisticated its procedures for elaboration, analysis and continuity of the projects it finances. For the poorest developing countries, the Bank’s assistance plans are based on strategies to reduce poverty.
The economic success of many developing countries, which today have access to sources of private financing for their investments, has encouraged the World Bank to redirect its focus in order to prioritize countries most in need. Topics such as environmental protection and climate change are now highlighted on the institution's agenda.
The organizational structure of the World Bank is similar to that of the IMF, with a Board of Governors, where the voting power is distributed according to each country’s participation as guarantee of the Bank capital in the event of default (which has never occurred), and a Board of 25 Directors, elected every two years by the 188 directors. Brazil is member of a Chair that also represents the following countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Philippines, Guiana, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2010, the voting power at the World Bank was revised to increase the voice of developing countries. The countries with most voting power are now the United States (with veto power), Japan, China, Germany, United Kingdom, France and India. Brazil, South Korea, Spain, India, Mexico and Turkey, among others, have achieved significant gains.
The political guidelines of the World Bank are discussed and approved in biannual ministerial meetings (April and October) at the Development Committee. The Committee is comprised of 25 members, reflecting the composition of the Board of Directors.