- 1947 - 1995 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
The President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is selected by the Board of Executive Directors. Although there is no formal rule, the elections have generally followed the nomination of a candidate by the U.S. government. The initial term for the President is five years; succeeding terms can be five years or fewer. There is no mandatory retirement age. The President is supported by staff members in the Office of the President.
The mandate for the President of the World Bank is contained in Section 5 of Article V of the Articles of Agreement for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The President of the Bank is also the ex officio Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Finance Corporation (Article IV, Section 5, of the Articles of Agreement of the IFC), the ex officio President and chief of the operating staff of the International Development Association (Article VI, Section 5, of the Articles of Agreement of the IDA), the ex officio Chairman of the Board of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Chapter V, Section 32, MIGA Convention), and the ex officio Chairman of the Administrative Council of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (Article 5, Section 2, ICSID Convention). The Executive Vice Presidents of IFC and MIGA report to the President of the World Bank Group.
The specific activities of each President have varied with each incumbent, reflecting his vision of the Bank as a development institution, his management style and the senior management structure he chose.
From its establishment to 1956, the President managed the Bank with a single vice president to whom all department directors officially reported. In practice, the Bank was still a small enough institution for all senior managers to have regular, direct access to the President on an informal basis. This arrangement held through the presidencies of Eugene Meyer and John McCloy and the vice presidencies of Harold Smith and Robert Garner. In 1956 Eugene Black appointed three vice presidents, initiating the management structure of multiple vice presidencies that has continued to the present.
George Woods expanded the immediate Office of the President in 1963 by appointing two Special Advisers and, shortly thereafter, a Personal Assistant to the President. Today's office staff, including assistants, counselors, schedulers, and advisers, traces its development back to Woods' staffing changes.
As the Bank grew more complex, the need for coordination grew. Woods established the President's Council in 1964, consisting of the three vice presidents, the two special advisers, and the general counsel. A similar senior management structure, under varied names and with various functions and authorities, has existed since that time. On occasion the managing body has established subcommittees for areas such as finance or personnel.
The Bank reorganization of 1972 marked the beginning of a system of Senior Vice Presidents to whom vice presidents reported. The reorganization of 1987, while significantly changing the internal structure of the Bank, continued the organization of the president's office, the system of senior vice presidents and (under a new name) the senior management body. In September 1991 Lewis Preston established three managing directors, who in effect served as general vice presidents with authority to make any decisions that did not require a decision by the president himself. Since 1991 the number of managing directors has varied from one to five.
The term of an incoming president has usually begun on the day following the end of his predecessor's term of office. The first transition, between Eugene Meyer and John J. McCloy, was, however, difficult. Meyer resigned abruptly in December 1946, and Harold Smith, the vice president who became acting president, died in January 1947. John J. McCloy was elected by the Board of Directors in February 1947 and took office in March, marking the end of uncertain transitions. By contrast, during the illness of LewisPreston in 1995, the Bank immediately named an acting president, Ernest Stern, who served until James Wolfensohn took over as president.
The presidents and their tenures are:
Eugene Isaac Meyer 1946-06-06--1946-12-18
John Jay McCloy 1947-03-17--1949-06-30
Eugene Robert Black 1949-07-01--1962-12-31
George David Woods 1963-01-01-1968-03-31
Robert Strange McNamara 1968-04-01-1981-06-31
Alden Winship Clausen 1981-07-01-1986-06-30
Barber Benjamin Conable, Jr. 1986-07-01-1991-08-31
Lewis Thompson Preston 1991-09-01-1995-05-04
Ernest Stern (Acting) 1995-02-01-1995-05-31
James David Wolfensohn 1995-06-01-2005-05-31
Paul Dundes Wolfowitz 2005-06-01-2007-06-30
Robert Bruce Zoellick 2007-07-01-2012-06-30
Jim Yong Kim 2012-07-01-
Each of the first four presidents of the World Bank took his office records with him when he left the Bank. The World Bank Group Archives has no records of the Eugene Meyer presidency and very small quantities of records from the presidencies of John J. McCloy and Eugene R. Black. A larger body of records remains from the presidency of George D. Woods; in addition, the Bank has copies of relevant parts of the Woods papers now at Columbia University. President Robert S. McNamara left some records with the Bank and took others, many of which he subsequently returned to the Bank. Starting with the presidency of Barber B. Conable, all succeeding presidents have left the records of the presidency with the Bank.
During the early years of the Bank some of the presidential documents were filed in the Central File. Researchers interested in the presidencies of Meyer, McCloy and Black should review the Central Files for related records
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The records of cover the entire span of administrative and substantive activities of the Bank. Particularly useful is the documentation of public relations activities by the presidents and coordination efforts with outside partners. Briefing books for country visits and for meetings at the Bank's annual meeting often provide good overviews of issues as well as reports on the economic and political situation in a country. Unique materials on major Bank studies and commissions, such as the Pearson and Brandt Commissions and the Task Force on Portfolio Management (Wapenhans Report), are also found in the records of the president's office.
The McNamara, Conable and Preston records include both the records of the president and the records of his immediate staff. Some staff members had specific mandates and their files are key sources for those activities, while other presidential assistants played a more general role in handling topics for the president.