The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are the largest and most influential of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs). Along with regional development banks, they exert huge influence over the economies of developing countries.
Often referred to as the Bretton Woods Institutions, the decisions of the World Bank and IMF affect the lives of millions. However, the damaging strings that the World Bank and IMF attach to aid, loans and debt relief often make it more difficult for poor countries to effectively tackle poverty. These strings and conditions, combined with the technical advice they give, can force poor countries to cut or restrict vital spending on health and education.Rich nations have dominated the World Bank and IMF by refusing to give voting power to developing countries and rigging the process of selecting leaders: the head of the IMF has always been a European, while the head of the World Bank has always been an American. Campaigning by ActionAid and our partners has resulted in agreement on a more democratic selection process in 2008, but rich countries are still clinging to their voting powers. Developing countries urgently need to have their voices heard at the World Bank and IMF, so that they can challenge the policies that most affect their citizens. The World Bank and IMF must be truly democratised, with board composition and voting power rebalanced to make sure that developing countries are able to represent themselves fully.