Corporate Responsibility: Quick guide to - Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank

Mathew Little

Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense in President Bush's cabinet, takes over as president of the World Bank in June. Wolfowitz's appointment has dismayed NGOs, which fear that efforts to improve the bank's record on poverty reduction and the environment will be stymied.

As a leading US neocon and an architect of the Iraq war, he has admitted he is a controversial choice to head the World Bank. Just how controversial was revealed by the Brussels-based NGO Eurodad, which compiled a list of 1,650 organisations worldwide "outraged" by the appointment. Even the World Bank's own staff are none too keen on him, according to a poll.

A veteran politician, Wolfowitz has served in three Republican administrations in the US. Under Ronald Reagan he became ambassador to Indonesia. Between 1989 and 1993, he was under-secretary for defense policy under George Bush Snr. Most recently, he was widely credited with planning the Iraq war in the latest Bush administration.

Wolfowitz inherits a 10,000-strong organisation with offices in more than 100 countries. More formally known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank provides loans and assistance to developing countries with the stated aim of reducing poverty. Total lending came to $19.5bn (£10.43bn)in 2002. But the bank has developed other functions since its creation. It encourages private sector investment in developing countries. One arm of the bank, the International Finance Corporation, mobilises capital on international financial markets and provides advice to businesses and governments in poorer countries.

Another, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, gives guarantees to foreign investors against loss caused by non-commercial risks in developing countries.

Wolfowitz has said that he will not pursue a political agenda in running the World Bank, but NGOs fear his tenure will mean a more entrenched commitment to liberalisation of developing country's economies. According to Save the Children, the World Bank needs to "significantly change its use of conditionality and other ways of working to ensure that its loans and grants support policy choices made by recipient countries". But expectations are not high.

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