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This Week in World Bank History: December 1 – 7

December 1, 2002 A presentation of historical events by the World Bank Group Archives, Information Solutions Group (ISG).

World Bank President Lewis Preston welcomes African National Congress President Nelson Mandela to Washington, 1991

December 6, 1946—Eugene Meyer, the Bank’s first president, submits his resignation to the Board of Executive Directors, after serving for six months. The reason given for the resignation was that his original agreement was to serve until the Bank was well established. Meyer was an investment banker and editor of the Washington Post when US President Truman asked him, in June 1946, to become the head of the new institution. Meyer had a contentious relationship with the Board, which included several formidable, strong-minded individuals who were anxious for the Bank to demonstrate – by quickly making loans - that the institution was functioning. Meyer wanted the Bank to proceed cautiously and refused to submit the first loan applications to the Board until certain minimum requirements were met. (The Bank’s first loan was not made until Meyer’s successor - John J. McCloy - was in office.)

December 2, 1947—Executive Director Eugene R. Black addresses the Thirty-Sixth Meeting of the Investment Bankers Association in Hollywood, Florida. He described the four loans the Bank had made to date, the Bank’s financial status, the marketing of Bank bonds, trips he had taken to member countries, and the Bank’s plans for future activities. (Mr. Black became the Bank’s third president in July, 1949.)

December 5, 1947—The Bank sends a survey mission to Chile, the first such mission to this country. The purpose of the mission was to make economic and technical studies to inform Chile’s loan application for hydro-electric development, forest industries, railway electrification, transportation facilities and port mechanization. (World Bank loan 0005 – Power and Irrigation Project and loan 0006 – Agricultural Machinery Project to Chile were both signed on March 25, 1948).

December 7, 1948—The Government of Canada approves the use of the equivalent of $US8,000,000 for IBRD lending purposes.

The first World Bank President, Eugene Meyer
December 5, 1949—J. Burke Knapp is appointed assistant director of Economic Department. Born in 1913, Knapp had worked in the US Federal Reserve and US State Department before joining the Bank. He took leave from the Bank (in 1950) to serve in London as the economic advisor to the US delegation in NATO and then as the US Chairman of the Joint Brazil – US Economic Development Commission). He returned to the Bank in 1952 to become Director of Operations for the Western Hemisphere. He served as Vice President of Operations and Chairman of the Loan Committee from 1956 – 1972, and Senior Vice President Operations and Chairman of the Loan Committee until his retirement in 1978.

December 5, 1949—Joseph Rucinski heads a two-month mission to the Philippines, Thailand, India and Pakistan. This was the first mission to Thailand and Pakistan. One of the topics of conversation during the Pakistan visit was the impending membership of Pakistan in the Bank. (Pakistan became a member of IBRD on July 11, 1950.)

December 7, 1951—The Bank announces its first funding for Paraguay: Loan 0055 – Agriculture project.

December 1, 1952—The report of an agricultural survey mission to Chile was released to the public. The report was the result of a four month survey mission in 1951, sponsored jointly by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

J. Burke Knapp, appointed Assistant Director to the Economic Department, 1949
December 5, 1955—"The United States today completed the action required for membership in the International Finance Corporation, the proposed new affiliate of the World Bank. Mr. George M. Humphrey, Secretary of the Treasury, signed the Articles of Agreement of the International Finance Corporation, and deposited with the Bank an Instrument of Acceptance signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on behalf of the United States Government. The United States is the third country to complete this process, the others being Canada and Iceland. The charter of the International Finance Corporation requires a minimum membership of thirty countries, together subscribing at least $75 million, before the Corporation can begin operations. " World Bank Press Release. (The IFC Charter came into force on July 20, 1956 when France and Germany became the 30th and 31st signatories.)

December 3, 1956—IFC Articles of Agreement are signed by Burma, which becomes the 36th member of IFC.

December 3, 1956—IFC Articles of Agreement are signed by Thailand, which becomes the 37th member of IFC.

December 7, 1956—An appeal is made to Bank staff for donations to aid Hungarian refugees.

December 7, 1956—"The custom of sending cards at Christmas time is indeed a friendly one. However, since the staff have the opportunity of exchanging greetings in person, particularly at the Christmas party, the managements of the Bank and Corporation suggest that cards not be exchanged between staff members. [signed] William F. Howell, Director of Administration" World Bank Administrative Circular no. 674

December 1, 1960—"The Government of the Dominican Republic has withdrawn from membership in the World Bank. The withdrawal took effect yesterday, December 1, when the Bank received written notification of the Government’s decision to withdraw. At the same time, the Dominican Republic automatically ceased to be a member of the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the Bank. Neither the Bank nor the Corporation has made any investments in the Dominican Republic. In accordance with the Articles of Agreement of the Bank and of the Corporation, arrangements will be made for the repurchase of the Republic’s shares of capital stock in both institutions," World Bank Press Release. The Dominican Republic re-joined the Bank on September 18, 1961, and re-joined IFC on October 31, 1961. (Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo was assassinated May 30, 1961.)

December 5, 1961—Geoffrey M. Wilson is appointed director of operations for South Asia and Middle East, replacing Joseph Rucinski, who resigned from the Bank effective December 31, 1961. Rucinski joined the staff of the Bank in November 1946, six months after the Bank began operations. In 1952 he was appointed Assistant Director of the Department of Operations for Asia and the Middle East and in May 1955 Director of that Department.

December 5, 1963—Announcement made to staff that due to President Kennedy’s recent assassination, the Christmas party will be postponed until a date early in 1964.

Joseph Rucinski
December 3, 1964—The Government of Australia releases The Economic Development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, a report of a mission organized by the World Bank. The mission reviewed the economic potentialities of the Territory and made recommendations to assist the Australian Government in planning an economic development program. The first Bank loan to Papua New Guinea was signed in June 1968 for a telecommunications project.

December 4, 1968—Guinea becomes the 44th member of ICSID.

December 5, 1969—Burundi becomes the 52nd member of ICSID.

 December 6, 1971—The newly founded International Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) pledges to make approximately $15 million available in 1972 for research programs designed to raise the quantity and quality of food production in developing countries. CGIAR was formally established May 19, 1971.

December 4, 1974—The Bank approves a $50 million loan for the rehabilitation of the Suez Canal. The project aimed to restore navigation to pre-1967 levels (when the Canal was closed). The project removed minor wrecks and made repairs made to the channel following the major clearance work carried out by the Egyptian, French, U.K., U.S., and U.S.S.R. navies during 1974. In addition, the project provide navigation, communications and safety systems, and repaired buildings and other infrastructure which had been damaged or destroyed. This was the Bank’s second loan for the Suez Canal – the first loan, in December 1959, financed major improvements which included widening and deepening the canal.

December 6, 1974—A Cooperation Agreement between the Bank and the Federal Republic of Germany is signed, pledging cooperation to enhance their aid to developing countries, and to seek more cofinancing opportunities. The agreement covered both joint financing (in which the Bank and Germany agreed to finance a single list of goods and services for a project with common disbursement and other procedures coordinated by the Bank), and parallel financing (whereby the Bank and Germany financed separate parts of a project under their own procedures.)

December 2, 1975—The second session of the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme in the Volta River Basin Area meets in Paris at the European Office of the World Bank. The meeting brought together representatives of the seven participating countries, donor nations, and sponsoring agencies. The meeting detailed progress which had been made since the signing of the Onchocerciasis Fund Agreement in February 1975, and heard recommendations from members for improvements and enhancements to the Programme.

Signing of the first loan to Paraguay, December 1951. President Eugene Black is on
the right
December 3, 1976—The first meeting of the Nepal Aid Group, convened by the World Bank, meets in Tokyo. The governments of Nepal, Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States were represented, as were the World Bank, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, and the UN Development Program.

December 7, 1978—Comoros becomes the 72nd member of ICSID.

December 1, 1983—Barbados becomes the 84th member of ICSID.

December, 1984—The Board of Directors agrees to allow the IFC to raise funds directly from international capital markets. The first issue succeeds through private placement.

December, 1984—Nicaragua becomes the first country to go into non-accrual status with the IBRD.

December 1, 1986—President Barber Conable reports to staff on progress made on the reorganization of the Bank, and announces the restructuring of top management into six Senior Vice Presidencies, and the creation of three task forces to examine the operational and administrative processes of the Bank.

December 4, 1987—Seventeen donor countries and a host of international organizations including the Bank agree to establish the Special Program of Assistance to Africa (SPA) to provide $6.4 billion in quick-disbursing aid to reforming low-income African countries with severe debt problems. Its main objective was to mobilize resources and coordinate support for economic reforms in Africa. The SPA agenda soon expanded to include the streamlining of donor procedures and the monitoring of adjustment programs for efficacy in poverty reduction and providing highly-concessional, quick-disbursing assistance in new money in the form of grants or concessional development loans. President Conable said "the development crisis confronting the most heavily indebted and poorest African nations will move closer to resolution as a result of today’s important agreement…The resources now being mobilized, combined with those that will be provided through the International Development Association, will make an important difference to the prospects for the hundreds of millions of desperately poor people of Sub-Saharan Africa."

A Paraguayan farmer and his wife with a Farmall Cub tractor, assisted by Bank loan 0055 to Paraguay
December 6, 1988—Warning of the "growing respectability" of protectionist policies which violated the spirit, if not the letter of GATT, President Conable addresses the trade negotiations in Montreal. "What is now at stake is nothing less than the open, multilaterally agreed trade environment promised by the founders of the Bretton Woods institutions and the signers of the GATT. A successful Round will advance both trade and development. An unsuccessful Round could threaten the sustained and efficient growth of both poor and rich nations….The United States is the largest trading country in the world; Japan is not far behind, and the EEC in 1992 will be larger than both. It was their leadership that encouraged the development of [an open, multilateral trading system]….But today that vision has changed."

December 1, 1989—IFC undergoes a reorganization: the Treasury and Financial Policy Department and the Controllers and Business Planning Department are established under Mr. Richard Frank.

December 1, 1989—As the Main Complex Rehabilitation Project begins, the B and C buildings are closed to all staff. Asbestos removal and demolition of the buildings starts.

December 7, 1989—President Conable announces a new initiative to strengthen the representation of women in senior management, following a Staff Association study on hiring patterns.

December 11, 1989—The Bank hosts a meeting in London to consider actions for flood control in Bangladesh. The meeting was attended by World Bank representatives, together with representatives from the Bangladesh government and prospective donors. The Bank served as coordinator of a five-year action plan based on flood alleviation studies undertaken by the French, Japanese and United States governments, and by the UNDP. The action plan included high priority and first-stage projects, agricultural development, and a program of "non-structural" measures such as flood forecasting, flood preparedness and disaster management.

December 1, 1991—The Bank establishes a resident mission in Moscow, Soviet Union, headed by Mr. Everardus Stoutjesdijk.

December 2, 1991—MIGA Articles of Agreement are signed by Peru, which becomes the 73rd member of MIGA.

December 5, 1991—In Washington, Bank President Lewis Preston meets with Nelson Mandela, President of the African National Congress, to discuss the Bank’s role in post-apartheid South Africa. Prior to this meeting, the last Bank loan to South Africa was signed in 1966. The first post-apartheid Bank Group funding was IFC Investment 4411, South Africa Franchise Equity Fund, signed in 1995.

Thailand becomes a member of the International Finance Corporation, December 1956. Robert L. Garner, President of IFC, is seated at the right
December 6, 1991—MIGA Articles of Agreement are signed by Malaysia, which becomes the 74th member of MIGA.

December 3, 1992—MIGA Articles of Agreement are signed by Belarus, which becomes the 97th member of MIGA.

December 1, 1994—Gautam Kaji is appointed Managing Director, replacing Attila Karaosmanoglu.

December 2, 1994—IFC Articles of Agreement are signed by Tajikistan, which becomes the 163rd member of IFC.

December, 1995—The Bank approves a Global Environment Trust fund grant of $3.2 billion to finance an energy project in the Russian Federation to explore further development of the natural gas sector to reduce gas emissions.

December 1, 1995—The Bank participates in World AIDS day. To this date, the Bank had invested about $700 million in HIV/AIDS/STD prevention and control in over 60 health projects, 49% of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa.

December 5, 1995—MIGA Articles of Agreement are signed by Armenia, which becomes the 132nd member of MIGA.

December 5, 1995—The African Programme for Onchocersiasis Control (APOC), a joint international partnership program of governments, non-governmental organizations, bilateral donors and international agencies, is launched at ceremonies in Washington. Modeled on the highly-successful Onchocersiasis Control Program, APOC began work in sixteen African countries, using a drug treatment donated by Merck & Co.

Geoffrey M. Wilson, appointed Director of Operations for South Asia and Middle East, replacing Joseph Rucinski

December 5, 1996—Bank President Jim Wolfensohn meets with Argentine President Carlos Menem in Washington. Discussions revolved around the Bank’s support to the Argentine economy following the Mexican peso devaluation, and support for Argentine job creation programs and labor reform in Argentina.

December 7, 1996—The Summit of the Americas meets in Bolivia to reaffirm and broaden commitments made in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Summit agenda focused on sustainable development, including equitable economic growth, poverty alleviation, and the participation of civil society in planning for a healthy environment. The Bank was represented by Maurice Strong.

December 1, 1997—Shengman Zhang is appointed Managing Director and Corporate Secretary.

December 4, 1997—A second meeting of donor countries and organizations is held in Brussels to discuss the reconstruction and development needs of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Preliminary discussions had taken place in Paris in September. The meeting was attended by the Democratic Republic of Congo and seventeen other countries. Nine international and multilateral organizations were also represented.

December 1, 1998—The Bank, in collaboration with MTV and UNAIDS, observes World AIDS Day with the launch of a jointly-produced documentary on AIDS called "Staying Alive". The documentary features the personal testimonies of six young people living with HIV/AIDS in six different countries. The World Bank co-hosted World AIDS Day events at the National Press Club.

December 1, 1998—The Administrative and Client Support group (ACS) is formally established as one of the Bank’s Networks. The launch of the network took place at a ceremony held in the Preston Auditorium.

December 2, 1998—The Clean Air Initiative in Latin American Cities was launched in Washington, composed of World Bank units and external partners. The Initiative was jointly developed by a Bank partnership between the Economic Development Institute and the LAC region. External partners, such as the Government of the Netherlands, Daimler Chrysler, Volvo, and TRW helped to fund the Initiative. The Clean Air Initiative had three core components: city-specific action plans and workshops; a clean air web site and distance learning courses on air quality management; and a regional program for the introduction of low pollution, low carbon technologies.

December 2, 1998Global Economic Prospects and the Developing Countries 1998/1999 (GEP) is published. The annual report indicated that developing countries would be hardest hit by the global economic slowdown. The slowdown was due in part to the East Asia financial crisis. The report focused on why the crisis had such a damaging effect, and what the international community could do to prevent future crises.

World Bank provided financing for the rehabilitation of the Suez Canal in 1959 and 1974

December 3, 1998—Following the previous day’s press launch of the GEP, President Wolfensohn issues a statement to the press denying reports that he and the Bank disagreed with the Fund’s management of the East Asian financial crisis. "There has never been any doubt on our part that the International Monetary Fund has carried out this most difficult task with strength and judgment. We support them and are grateful for the irreplaceable role that they play…We have a very strong relationship with the Fund which is evidenced in our work every day. My single purpose is to strengthen this most valuable of partnerships."

December 1, 1999—MIGA Articles of Agreement are signed by Cambodia, which becomes the 151st member of MIGA.

December 1, 1999—The Bank issues a press release warning the public to be aware of fraudulent investment schemes which falsely use the Bank’s name. In recent months, several fraudulent investment schemes had been circulated, falsely claiming to be backed by the World Bank: "Prime-Bank Notes" "Prime Bank Guarantees" or "Standby Letters of Credit". The Bank disavowed any connection with the schemes.

December 2, 1999—The Bank and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) release a study conducted for them by IUCN, the World Conservation Union. The study indicated that less than one quarter of declared national parks, wildlife refuges, and other protected areas in 10 key forested countries were well managed, and that many had no management at all. The study concluded that only one percent of these areas were secure from serious threats. The World Bank/WWF Alliance called for new targets which would protect highly threatened forest areas. (The World Bank and the WWF joined forces in April 1998 in an Alliance to protect the earth’s forests which called for forest conservation and sustainable use.)

December 3, 1999—Jean-Michel Severino, Vice President for the East Asia and Pacific Region since 1997, announces his retirement in March 2000 to return to France. Severino’s tenure witnessed the East Asian financial crisis, and he worked to put East Asia on the road to recovery, focusing on addressing the social crisis, restructuring the microeconomy, and strengthening institutions while minimizing corruption.

December 1, 2000—The Bank issues its plans for the development of East Timor in its Transitional Support Strategy of the World Bank Group for East Timor. The report outlined five key objectives in its strategy to assist East Timor to become an economically viable and self-sustaining nation: protection of the poor and assistance to vulnerable groups and ex-combatants, private sector recovery, and restitution of services in health and education; providing research and capacity building in key policy areas; building local ownership of the development process, fostering effective donor coordination; and sequencing interventions effectively in order to match program implementation with institutional capacity-building and political developments.

Widening the waterway of the Suez Canal

December 1, 2000—The Mail and Messenger Services implements a new system for internal mail delivery, utilizing MSN’s (Mail Stop Numbers) instead of room numbers for mail delivery.

December 4, 2000—The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor and the Bank co-host a donors conference in Brussels to review the reconstruction and development of the new nation. This meeting was a follow-up to previous donor meetings in Tokyo (December 1999) and Lisbon (June 2000) where donors pledged financial support for East Timor and embarked on an international coordinated effort for the reconstruction and development of the country in its transition to full independence. Two trust funds were the tools for that coordination.

December 5, 2000—The Strategic Partnership for Africa (SPA) meets in Paris to discuss the framework for financial support of economic reform in Africa. Fourteen governments and six aid organizations were represented.

December 6, 2000—The Bank announces that three staff members were fired and three Swedish firms debarred from contracts due to fraudulent or corrupt activities. The Bank said that it would reimburse the trust funds for all diverted monies, and would pursue the matter through all available means, including referral to criminal authorities in the United States and Sweden.

December 7, 2000—The International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Bank launches an environmental indicator toolkit for Central American countries, designed to reveal environmental vulnerabilities. The toolkit for Central America included indices to analyze development and environmental problems; indicators for determining the causes and effects of these problems; and indicators that help apply the analysis to decision making.

A convoy of ships moving through the Suez Canal

December 3, 2001—The Government of Norway awards the Bank a grant of NOK 3 million (about US$366,000) to set up a Norwegian Trust Fund for Disability and Development. The grant was designed to finance the first year of operations of a new World Bank-administered trust fund which would enable and encourage World Bank project officers to build a disability component into their projects. The grant was awarded on the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

December 4, 2001—The 56th Annual Meetings are held in Washington. The meetings were originally scheduled to be held in September, but were postponed due to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. According to the Articles of Agreement, the Board of Governors could postpone, but not cancel, an annual meeting. Abbreviated meetings were held to conduct the essential business portion of the Annual Meetings. No speeches or ancillary meeting and events were held.

December 5, 2001—The Bank releases a new report on globalization, Globalization, Growth and Poverty: Building an Inclusive World Economy. The report argued that globalization has helped reduce poverty in a large number of developing countries, but must be harnessed to better help the world’s poorest, most marginalized countries.

Without Records there is no History. Courtesy of ISG’s World Bank Group Archives.

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