1944International CooperationA new institution is created at the Bretton Woods Summit with the primary purpose of rebuilding Europe and improving agricultural production in nations with unmet economic potential. Twenty-eight countries sign on as founding members; today, 187 countries are members. More founding history »
1947 Rebuilding Europe First loan issued to France for $250 million to rebuild infrastructure. First Bank field offices are set up in Paris, Copenhagen and Prague to ensure that funds from post-war reconstruction loans are properly allocated.
1948 Harnessing Wild Rivers Independent India begins its first major water project to tame the Damodar River, formerly known as the “River of Sorrows” for its devastating floods. Power generation, irrigation and sanitation projects will be established with the Bank’s financial support and technical assistance.
1950 Europe’s Steel Revival Bank investment in the reconstruction and modernization of steel capacity in France, Belgium and Luxembourg reaches its peak. The revitalized steel industry will provide for continued post-war reconstruction throughout Europe.
1960 Brokering a Lasting Water Deal After almost a decade of dispute, Pakistan, India, and the World Bank sign Indus Waters Treaty. The water-sharing deal is the longest standing agreement faithfully implemented and upheld by both India and Pakistan.
1960Assistance for the World’s PoorestInternational Development Association (IDA) is established as part of the World Bank to reduce poverty by providing interest-free credits and grants. Today, IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 79 poorest countries and the largest single source of donor funds for basic social services in these countries.
1964Japan’s Bullet TrainsThe most advanced railway project of its time is developed with $80 million from the Bank. The Tokyo-to-Osaka line carries the famous rapid bullet trains. Expanded high-speed railway lines have since carried more than 6 billion passengers.
1966Settling Disputes The Bank’s Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes enters into force with 20 original members. The convention is a precursor to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, which will expand to 156 nations and provide a peaceful mechanism for resolving investment conflicts.
1971 Revving Up the Green Revolution The Bank builds a worldwide network of agricultural research centers by establishing a scientific partner organization to replicate the success of India and Mexico. Massive agricultural production increases through technology adoption help countries keep pace with the nutrition needs of rapidly growing populations.
1973 Early Investments in Renewable Energy El Salvador develops new electric power-generating and transmission facilities featuring the first geothermal power plant financed by the Bank in Latin America.
1973Helping Subsistence FarmersTo boost the productivity of the rural poor, the Bank increases lending for agriculture by more than 40%; three out of every four projects include components to help smallholder farmers. The integrated rural development project will become the prototype for assistance aimed at subsistence farmers.
1974Wiping Out River BlindnessAn international partnership to eradicate river blindness begins its work in 11 African countries. By 2002, it saves millions of people from the debilitating disease. The effort also clears the way for agriculture on 2.5 million hectares where the disease once spread. The distribution network created to eradicate river blindness will be used to deliver other critical health interventions.
1975Investing in the EnvironmentThe first World Bank loan targeted to improving the environment is signed with the government of Finland. The project includes investments in water pollution controls, particularly by the pulp and paper industry, and research to improve the design and implementation of national programs for water pollution control.
1978In-Depth Economics The Bank releases the first World Development Report (WDR), which delves into prospects for accelerating growth while alleviating poverty. WDRs continue to deepen economic and development knowledge today.
1985Food During DroughtThe World Bank follows up with a second year of donations to the World Food Program for emergency food supplies to drought-stricken sub-Saharan Africa.
1988Mitigating Risks World Bank adds an affiliate through an international convention establishing the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The number of members will grow from the original 29 to 175 nations. The new institution promotes foreign direct investment by insuring investors against political risks while also providing a space for dispute mediation and expert advice.
1989 Stopping Ozone Damage The Bank is named an implementing agency in the Montreal Protocols, which aim to phase out substances that deplete the ozone layer and threaten human health with UV exposure. By the end of 2006, Bank projects aimed at reducing ozone-depleting chemicals in 25 developing countries will result in 69% phase-out. The target is 95% phase-out by 2015.
1991 Protecting ForestsBank announces it will not, under any circumstances, finance commercial logging in primary tropical forests, such as the Amazon. In addition, the financing of infrastructure projects that may lead to the loss of such forests will be subject to more rigorous environmental assessments.
1991Empowering South AfricaPresident Nelson Mandela meets with Bank leaders to discuss the institution’s role in post-apartheid South Africa. These early talks lead directly to the development of Bank-sponsored industrial competitiveness and job creation projects a few years later in South Africa.
1995 Reconstruction for Peace Bank team enters embattled former Yugoslavia to begin country’s reconstruction. The Bank’s presence as a multilateral agency helps prepare and negotiate a new Constitution, and the promise of funds contributes to historic Dayton Peace Accord.
1996Unleaded GasolineThe World Bank plays a catalytic role in the worldwide phase-out of leaded gasoline and conversion to unleaded fuels to reduce health problems linked to lead, such as brain damage, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Beyond a call to action, the Bank builds political awareness, works with governments to design and adopt appropriate phase-out policies and facilitates their implementation.
1997Cash Transfers Mexico launches its first conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, a model that would eventually reach 5 million poor households. By 2009, the Bank will support 13 countries in adopting CCTs, which link cash payments to poor families to enrolling children in school or taking infants to clinics.
1998 Fraud and Corruption HotlineNew measures to combat fraud and corruption include a hotline to receive tips from the global community. As a result, dozens of individuals and firms are banned from work within the Bank Group, or in association with Bank-financed contracts.
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2000 Cutting-Edge Carbon Finance The Prototype Carbon Fund is launched as the first market-based mechanism to address climate change and promote the transfer of finance and climate-friendly technology to developing countries.
2000 War on HIV/AIDS President Wolfenson becomes the first Bank leader to speak before the UN Security Council where he calls for a “war on AIDS” and asserts that resources being devoted to the epidemic are inadequate. A decade later, new HIV infections will have fallen 19%. Read More »
2001 Delivering VaccinesThe Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, of which the Bank is a primary member, delivers its first vaccines. In this decade, the Alliance’s vaccines will reach an estimated 200 million children and avert an estimated 3.4 million premature deaths.
2003 Setting Responsible StandardsTen leading commercial banks adopt the Equator Principles, choosing to follow Bank environmental and social guidelines for all their investment work in developing countries.
2005 Renewing IraqThe World Bank makes its first loan to Iraq in three decades. By 2011, numerous gains have been made under difficult conditions, including benefits from the original education loan to rehabilitate 82 schools for 57,000 students.
2007 Strengthening Health SystemsThe Bank adopts a new strategy to emphasize strengthening health systems through collaboration with partners and data collection to better measure results. In this decade, the Bank becomes one of the main financiers of health and nutrition programs in the developing world by committing a total of $15 billion to 400 programs and projects.
2008 Food Crisis ResponseImmediate relief is needed for countries hard hit by historic high and volatile food prices. The Bank responds with the Global Food Crisis Response Program, which helps nearly 40 million vulnerable people in 44 countries by 2011. Read More »
2009 Combating Financial CrisisMoving swiftly, the Bank Group expands and speeds up lending, assistance and advice to hard-hit developing countries. In fiscal year 2009, the Bank Group committed nearly $60 billion to support countries affected by the crisis, a 54% increase over the previous year, and a record high for the institution.
2009 Recovering from Natural DisastersFive years after the tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, total reconstruction nears completion. In the first year alone, Bank and government recovery efforts rebuild more than 16,000 houses for displaced persons, construct 335 new schools and restore 235 kilometers of roads.
2010 Education for AllThe Bank hits a record high of almost $5 billion in education lending. In the previous decade, IDA countries trained more than 3 million additional teachers and built or renovated more than 2 million classrooms for 105 million children. Read More »
2011 Beating Back TuberculosisA decade after the Bank joins the Stop TB Partnership, most countries report they are on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 6, to halt and begin to reverse TB incidences by 2015, in comparison to 1990 levels. Globally, the percentage of people successfully treated for TB has reached its highest level, at 86%. Read More »
2011 Open Development DataOne year after the Bank opens its vast storehouse of data to the public, about 100,000 people a week access thousands of free, curated and searchable datasets on education, poverty, health, water access and other indicators. The tradition of open data dates back to 1983 when the Bank released the world debt tables. Read More »