Honoring a Legend
Distinguished World Bank Group legal alumni, representatives from the Egyptian diplomatic community, current and former members of the World Bank Group Boards of Executive Directors, senior management, family members, and more gathered on November 7 to honor the late Ibrahim F. I. Shihata, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank from 1983 to 1998 and Secretary-General of ICSID from 1983 to 2000. The former Board Room, MC13-121, was renamed the Ibrahim F. I. Shihata Conference Room in his memory during a dedication ceremony that included a moving tribute video, a presentation of his life and work by Vikram Raghavan and warm remarks by Mr. Shihata's wife, Samia Farid Shihata, herself a former Advisor to the Board of Executive Directors at the IMF.
An impressive and impactful career
During his tenure, Mr. Shihata led the initiative to create MIGA and played a major role in the establishment of the World Bank Inspection Panel. He also chaired the task force that prepared the World Bank Guidelines on the Treatment of Foreign Direct Investment and provided the legal framework for the World Bank to enter new areas of development that had previously been considered off limits, such as stabilization loans and debt reduction operations.
As the General Counsel of the World Bank, Mr. Shihata was actively involved in policy discussion and formulation, helping the institution respond to a host of development needs not envisaged when the World Bank's Articles of Agreement were written at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944. His views of the World Bank's Articles of Agreement continue to serve the institution and keep the World Bank relevant in a world dramatically different than the one of post-World War II.
In his role as Secretary-General of ICSID from 1983 until 2000, Mr. Shihata oversaw a 60 percent increase in membership that grew to 132 member countries. This growth corresponded with an extensive increase in the Centre's caseload. Mr. Shihata also helped strengthen ICSID's research and publications activities, notably by founding the ICSID Review-Foreign Investment Law Journal.
In an impressive career before joining the Bank, Mr. Shihata attended Harvard Law School where he completed his doctoral dissertation on the International Court of Justice in 1964. It was published the following year and remains widely cited to this day. He then served as a member of the Egyptian Conseil d'Etat and a member of the Technical Bureau of the President of the United Arab Republic of Egypt. He also taught law at Ain-Shams University in Cairo between 1964 and 1966 and again between 1970 and 1972.
Then in 1966, Mr. Shihata was appointed legal advisor of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. In this role, he was the principal drafter of the constituent treaties of several regional development finance institutions, such as the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation, and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa. Mr. Shihata was instrumental in drafting the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)'s charter and served as its first director general. Mr. Shihata was also closely involved in the creation of the International Fund for Agricultural development (IFAD) and joined its board of directors.
A prolific writer, Mr. Shihata wrote close to thirty books and over two hundred essays. He also spoke and lectured at conferences, seminars, and universities around the world. As Vikram Raghavan noted in his presentation, twenty years after Mr. Shihata's last published work his ideas and values "remain peerless and prescient."
He passed away on May 28, 2001. He is survived by his wife, Samia, and their three children, Sharif, Yasmine and Nadia. A link to an informative piece that includes titles to several of his publications on the WBG Archives website can be found here.
Former colleagues of Mr. Shihata remember his brilliant mind and vision, his deep knowledge and love for the law, incredible pride for his Egyptian heritage, and, above all, his dedication to his family. Former World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, shared a message of love and respect for Mr. Shihata via video message, and added that his colleague and dear friend was a "source of light for all of us."