Type of entity
Authorized form of name
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Other form(s) of name
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
The units responsible for World Bank operations have changed frequently in name and status since the beginning of Bank operations in 1946. A summary of organizational and functional changes relevant to Bank operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean since 1946 is provided in this description. Units responsible for operations in the region include:
1946-1952 Loan Department (LOD) Economic Department (ECD)
1952-1965 Department of Operations - Western Hemisphere (WHM) Technical Operations Department (TOD)
1965-1969 Western Hemisphere Department (WHM) Projects Department
1969-1972 Central America and Caribbean Department (CAC) South American Department (SAM) Projects Department
1972-1987 Latin America and the Caribbean Vice Presidency (LCN)
1987-1997 Latin America and Caribbean Vice Presidency (LAC)
1997-present Latin America and Caribbean Vice Presidency (LCR)
1946 - 1952
The operations function of the World Bank has, in one form or another, been organized according to geographic region throughout the history of the Bank. Upon the Bank's opening in 1946, operational lending was executed out of the Loan Department (LOD). Parallel to the LOD was the Economic Department (ECD) which conducted sector analysis and research work. Both Departments were organized along geographical lines.
The LOD was responsible for developing loan operation policy, receiving and investigating loan inquiries and presenting them to Bank management for consideration, and negotiating loans. The organizational structure of LOD fluctuated over its seven year history. It initially consisted of seven divisions of which the Eastern Latin American Division and the Western Latin American Division were two. In 1948, the seven divisions were briefly consolidated into two (the European and United Kingdom Division and the Latin American, Asiatic and African Division) and then, in November of 1948, divisions were abolished altogether, as loans were assigned to loan officers on an ad hoc basis. In 1950, LOD was again divided into three geographical areas, of which the Latin America Division was one.
Beginning in 1946, the ECD was responsible for both functional and geographic analyses, i.e. general economic studies and country specific studies. Their work supported the LOD and its loan administration and advised member countries on their economic and sector development plans. The ECD also liaised with international organizations on economic research and provided staff for Bank missions. The Department initially consisted of three area divisions (Latin America being located in its "Development Areas Division") and an Economic Technology Division responsible for specialized sector studies. In August 1948 a new organizational structure featuring two area divisions was installed. Area Division I was responsible for Europe and Area Division II was divided into four sections of which Central America and South America were two. In March 1950 another reorganization divided the Department into an advisory staff and an area staff, the latter consisting of three divisions of which Latin America was one.
The first loans to the region were to Chile: World Bank loan 0005 - Power and Irrigation Project (P006578) and loan 0006 - Agricultural Machinery Project to Chile (P006577) Both loans were signed on 25 March 1948 and related to hydro-electric development, forest industries, railway electrification, transportation facilities and port mechanization. These loans were also the Bank's first development loans, as the four previous loans were all to European countries and were for post-war reconstruction.
In July of 1951 the first Country Office in the region was opened in Managua, Nicaragua. Offices in Panama City, Panama (October 1953), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (May 1954), Guatemala City, Guatemala (February 1955) and Bogota, Colombia (July 1955) followed.
1952 - 1972
A sizable reorganization that took effect in September of 1952 created an operational structure that would endure for the next twenty years. LOD staff were combined with the country-related staff from the ECD to form three distinct geographical Area Departments: Western Hemisphere (WHM); Europe, Africa and Australasia (EAA); and Asia and Middle East (AME). These units were primarily responsible for World Bank-member country relations. Functions included: loan policy and plan development; country development program appraisal and review; preparation of proposed loans; and country economic monitoring.
As part of this 1952 reorganization, the sector-oriented staff of the former ECD formed the Technical Operations Department (TOD) and was placed in charge of project appraisal and supervision. Specifically, the TOD was responsible for: the appraisal of proposed projects; advising Area Departments on proposed projects and assisting in negotiations; supervising approved projects and assisting borrowers in procurement efforts; and monitoring and reporting on member countries' sector economies.
A significant reorganization of regional departments' country groupings occurred in 1965. This also included a name change for the Region to the Western Hemisphere Department (WHM). A subsequent reorganization in 1969 resulted in the division of WHM into two new departments: the Central America and Caribbean Department (CAC) and the South America Department (SAM). This development was solely an organizational change, as functional responsibilities from WHM remained the same. Primary responsibility for regional lending projects remained the responsibility of the sector-oriented Project Departments, which had succeeded the TOD in 1965.
1972 - 1987
A more significant reorganization of the operations complex took effect in October 1972. The seven departments that made up the Area Departments were elevated to five Regional Vice Presidencies (RVP). South and Central America and the Caribbean were reunited in the Latin America and the Caribbean Vice Presidency (LCN). The RVPs reported to the new Senior Vice President, Operations (SVPOP). In order to more effectively fuse country knowledge and sectoral skills, the reorganization removed most of the Bank's operational project work from the Project Departments to the RVPs. Regional units within RVPs were given "line authority" to analyze, decide and act on country development operations while the remaining staff was organized into sector-oriented departments within each RVP; these were known as Central Projects Staff and constituted each Region's Project Department.
Each RVP was responsible for planning and executing IBRD/IDA development assistance programs subject to the overall framework of Bank policies, priorities and operating procedures. The RVPs created regional plans and budgets, ensured the effective implementation of approved plans, created country economic and sector reports, and developed and implemented loan, credit, technical assistance, and other forms of development projects. The RVPs were also responsible for maintaining sound relations with governments of assigned countries and with aid organizations and donors involved in those countries.
Upon the completion of the 1972 reorganization, the organizational structure in LCN included two Country Programs Departments (with four divisions reporting to each) and a Projects Department containing five sector divisions (Agriculture; Development Finance Companies; Education; Public Utilities; and Transportation). The Country Program Departments were staffed by country economists and loan officers whose primary responsibilities were: conducting area reviews of Bank activities and countries' economic and political developments; formulating country lending and economic and sector work programs and implementing country programs; and reviewing loan applications, negotiating loans, and administering loans. The Projects Department provided technical assistance and advice to members and borrowers on sectoral issues, priorities, and project development from identification through operation. The Projects Department, consisting of economists, financial analysts, and sector specialists, was specifically responsible for: creating sector policies; assisting countries with the identification and preparation of projects; appraising potential projects and assisting the Country Programs Departments in loan negotiation and credit agreements; and helping borrowers manage consultants and procurement.
Note that not all operational responsibility was transferred from the Projects Departments to the RVPs. Staff in sectors too small to decentralize to the various regions continued to provide a complete "operational package" of technical services to the regions. These units, such as Population and Nutrition and Urban Projects, were known as Central Operating Projects Departments and were located in the newly formed Vice President, Central Projects (CPSVP) which, like the RVPs, reported to the SVPOP. In addition, those former Projects Department units which had their operational functions dispersed to the RVPs still maintained a core staff in the CPSVP with responsibility for policy and advisory work only.
1987 - 1997
While the make-up of the Country Programs Departments and Projects Department changed between 1972 and 1987 (most notably with a considerable increase in the number of Projects Department sector divisions), the organization and functions of the departments as well as the RVPs were consistent until 1987. In July of 1987, however, a Bank-wide reorganization under President Barber Conable altered the structures of the RVPs considerably. The changes were brought on by a desire to strengthen the Bank's country focus by making the Country Department the basic program and budget unit.
The new Country Departments which replaced the Country Program Departments in the 1987 reorganization combined the macro-economic work of the former Country Programs Departments and the sector work of the former Projects Department. Each Country Department would consist of a Country Operations Division (COD) as well as multiple Sectoral Operations Divisions (SOD) made up of staff from the former Projects Departments. The COD was composed of Lead, Country and Specialized economists as well as Country Officers and was responsible for: liaising with state governments and developing knowledge of issues in the country; preparing and supervising the country's aid strategy; and providing full responsibility for certain country-wide operations such as Structural Adjustment Loans and country economic work. SODs were responsible for overall sectoral strategy and for planning, programming and implementing development activities for the countries in their respective sectoral specialties; this would include the provision of full lending project management as well as lending and sector evaluation work.
Not all staff was moved from the former Project Departments into the Country Departments' SODs in the reorganization of 1987. Those remaining formed a new Technical Department within each RVP. It was responsible for higher level knowledge collection, assessment, and dissemination. The Technical Department, which was organized into sector-focused divisions, was to stimulate innovation in operational work and undertake strategic thinking by providing advice, operational support, regional studies, staff training and the dissemination of materials to Bank staff, donors, and other institutions outside the Bank. The Department would continue to offer operational help in the form of task management, task support, and advice. They would also work closely with Policy, Planning and Research (PPR) staff in conducting regional studies and reviews and advising on sector policy and research priorities.
During the 1987 reorganization the number of RVPs was decreased from six to four. However, the Latin America and Caribbean Vice Presidency remained constant in its name. It did, however, change its acronym to LAC. Beginning in 1987, LAC had four Country Departments.
A subsequent reorganization in 1993 strengthened the Country Departments' SODs through unit reorganization and a transfer of staff from the Regional Technical Departments to the SODs. The Technical Departments were greatly reduced in size and were restructured to reflect the emphasis on sectoral and thematic responsibilities of the SODs. The Technical Departments operational support function was consequently reduced.
1997 - present
A 1996-1997 reorganization modified the changes made in 1987 and 1993. The RVP continued to be responsible for all aspects of country development assistance for its member countries, including: country assistance strategy; lending operations; technical assistance operations; and economic and sector work. However, the primary objective of the reorganization was to deepen the country focus and responsiveness to client needs. This was accomplished in a number of ways. The most striking changes concerned the new Country Management Units (CMUs) which replaced the former Country Departments. The CMUs were smaller than their predecessor (that is, each was responsible for a smaller number of countries) while their number correspondingly increased. In the Latin American Region, the number of CMUs rose from four in 1996 to seven in 1998. In addition, there was an increasing decentralization of CMU staff and country directors from Bank headquarters in Washington to locations within client countries. Already by 2000, new CMUshad been established in Mexico City, Mexico (LCC1C), Brasilia, Brazil (LCC5C), Lima, Peru (LCC6C), and Buenos Aires, Argentina (LCC7C). At the same time, an increase in authority with regard to strategy and budget was given to the country directors. The CMUs continued to be responsible for overall preparation and supervision of the country's assistance strategy, full lending project management, and evaluation of lending and sector work.
During the reorganization, the former Technical Departments were changed into Sector or Technical Families. The role of the Technical Families, which consisted of sector and project economists and selected specialist staff, was to formulate knowledge on technical subjects and best practice and to suggest innovation through research and development. A group of Technical Families was placed alongside a number of CMUs within each Regional Vice Presidency.
As a result of the 1997 reorganization, the Latin America and the Caribbean Region retained its original name but again changed its acronym, this time to LCR.