Founded in 1944, the World Bank is one of the world's largest sources of international development assistance. Working in more than 100 developing economies it provides a mix of finance and ideas to improve living standards and eliminate the worst forms of poverty. The Bank is owned by its 184 member countries whose views and interests are represented by a Board of Governors and a Washington-based Board of Directors. Member countries are the shareholders and have the ultimate decision-making power in the World Bank.
The UK plays an active and leading role in the organisation. We hold one of the five permanent executive directorships (alongside the USA, Japan, Germany and France) and support the bank’s focus on accelerated debt relief, the fight against HIV/AIDS and improving development effectiveness.
In working with developing countries the World Bank forges partnerships with government agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to formulate assistance strategies. These strategies emphasise the need for investing in people, particularly through basic health and education, protecting the environment, supporting and encouraging private business development as well as focusing on inclusion, governance and building effective institutions as key elements of poverty reduction.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was set up in 1945 as a specialised agency of the United Nations to help promote the health of the world economy by administering a system of fixed exchange rates. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C. but the organisation is governed by it is 184 member countries.
The IMF's functions include promoting the balanced expansion of world trade, the stability of exchange rates and the orderly correction of a country's external payments problems. This is done in three main ways; monitoring, lending and technical assistance.
Monitoring involves analysing economic and financial developments, both in member countries and at the global level, and is often accompanied by specific policy advice. IMF lending is exclusively to member countries with difficulties meeting payments to the rest of the world, known as balance of payment problems. Unlike the World Bank, the IMF does not lend money for specific projects.
Another way in which the IMF promotes the health of the world economy is through technical assistance to the governments and central banks of its member countries.
The UK played a central role in the founding of the IMF at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 and has been a committed and leading member throughout the organisation's history. We are the fourth largest shareholder and have a permanent seat on the Executive Board, the body responsible for the fund’s day to day running.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the only global organisation dealing with the rules of trade between nations. Established in 1995 and based in Geneva it replaced and strengthened the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).
As well as administering global trade agreements the organisation is a forum for trade negotiations and is currently facilitating the Doha round of world trade talks. The WTO provides an important arbitration service for international trade disputes. A key principle is non-discrimination. This ensures that similar products from different countries must be treated in the same way.
The organisation also monitors national trade policies and provides technical assistance and training to developing countries. Virtually all decisions in the WTO are taken by consensus among the 146 member countries and are ratified by members' parliaments.
The UK is a member of the WTO in its own right but for all practical purposes we work through our membership of the European Union (EU). This greatly benefits the UK, increasing our influence and bargaining power in both bilateral and world trade negotiations.
The United Nations was created in 1945 and since that time the number of Member States has increased from 50 to 191 countries. In recent years the UN has held several major summits that have considered sustainable development and the impact of globalisation: notably the Millennium Summit in 2000, the Monterrey Summit on Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.
The Millennium Declaration was adopted in September 2000 by the Member States of the UN. It sets out the key challenges for sustainable development, and establishes concrete measures for judging performance through a set of commitments on development, governance, peace, security and human rights. The development related goals are known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UK is committed to attaining the MDGs, including halving the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by 2015. Further information on the work of the UN can be found via the links below.
Un pages on FCO site: the UK and the UN area