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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and what is now known as the World Bank, were set up to manage the post-World War II global economy.

They were conceived in 1944 at a conference in Bretton Woods, in the US state of New Hampshire.

By fostering economic cooperation and helping countries with balance of payments problems the founders hoped to avoid a repeat of the 1930s Great Depression.

The IMF aims to preserve economic stability and to tackle - or ideally prevent - financial crises. Over time, its focus has switched to the developing world.

The World Bank's predecessor - the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - was set up to drive post-war recovery.

Now, it is the world's leading development organisation, working for growth and poverty reduction.

Owned by the governments of its 187 member states, the Bank channels loans and grants and advises low and middle-income countries.

The IMF is funded by a charge - known as a "quota" - paid by member nations. The quota is based on a country's wealth and it determines voting power within the organisation; those making higher contributions have greater voting rights.

The IMF acts as a lender of last resort, disbursing its foreign exchange reserves for short periods to any member in difficulties.

Since they were conceived, the IMF has been run by a European and the World Bank by a US national.

The IMF and the Bank have served as a rallying point for disparate causes - from environmentalists to anarchists - and meetings have occasionally been accompanied by violent street protests.

Protesters and critics cite the exploitation of the poor and the environment and argue that freer trade threatens the livelihoods of millions of people.

The IMF has admitted that forcing developing countries to open their markets to foreign investors can increase the risk of financial crises.

Its former managing director Horst Koehler said in 2002 that the benefits of globalisation had not been equally shared. But he added that "the objective should not be less globalisation but more and better globalisation."