The World Bank is an international financial institution owned by its 184 member countries. It was set up at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944 and is referred to, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others, as one of the Bretton Woods Institutions. Its main objective is to provide development funds to the world's poorest nations in the form of loans and technical assistance. Voting power in the World Bank depends on contributions, so the G8 countries (Japan, Italy, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Russia) control over 50% of the votes.
The World Bank is a major voice in national and international health policy debates. Its health-related activities are now larger than those of WHO and UNICEF, with health-related loans quadrupling during the 1980s and 1990s. In the fiscal year 2002, Bank lending to help countries improve health, nutrition and population (HNP) outcomes totalled US$1.4 billion. Significant support, amounting to US$320 million, was directed (in 2002) toward combating HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other communicable diseases. A second Multi-country HIV/AIDS Programme (MAP) for Africa was also approved, earmarking another US$500 million in International Development Association (IDA) resources for projects that support the scaling up of national HIV/AIDS prevention and care programmes. Activities also include health service financing and delivery. The Bank is also a significant contributor to health policy research and a supporter of health sector reforms to produce more effective public health activities and improve regulation of the expanded private sector in health.
The stated health focus of the Bank's work with client countries is to:
- Improve the health, nutrition and population outcomes of the poor and protect the population from the impoverishing effects of illness, malnutrition and high fertility.
- Enhance the performance of health systems by promoting equitable access to preventive and curative health, nutrition, and reproductive health services that are affordable, effective, well managed, of good quality, and responsive to clients.
- Secure sustainable health service financing by mobilizing adequate levels of resources and maintaining effective control over public and private expenditure.
- Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs)
- Washington Consensus
- Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)
- International Financial Institutions
- Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF)
- Global Democracy Deficit
- Global Burden of Disease