Verena Kross

The North-South Conflict in the World Bank Understanding the Bank’s Turn to Structural Adjustment Lending

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This article aims to contribute to a better understanding of the origins of the Washington Consensus by analysing the birth of Structural Adjustment Lending (SAL) in the World Bank in 1980. Drawing on newly declassified records from the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, the article reinterprets the birth of SAL as a history that was closely entangled with the larger North-South conflict of the 1970s. In the World Bank the conflict was about the question of access to international financial resources and about the conditions that were attached to them. The article analyses the dispute in the Bank’s Board about program lending that transformed into the conception of SAL at the end of the 1970s. The analysis demonstrates that the history of the birth of SAL was one that involved contestations, economic struggles and political disputes.


  • North-South Conflict
  • World Bank
  • Washington Consensus
  • Structural Adjustment Lending
  • Robert McNamara


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