Human Rights and Multilateral Lending: The World Bank, Argentina, and the United States, 1976–1978

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Since its establishment at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the World Bank (WB) has been expected to follow a self-imposed and vaguely defined principle of ‘neutrality.’ According to this principle, the decisions made by the WB and its officers were expected to be based purely on economic criteria, with no input from political considerations. By focusing on the generous support that the WB provided to the dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983, especially during its formative period (1976–1978), the article examines the concrete aspects of this neutrality and the different ways in which each party involved interpreted and used it. Drawing on never previously consulted WB documents and additional primary sources, it maintains that at a time when the US, the strongest member-state in the WB, strove to make multilateral lending contingent on improvements in the human rights arena, the WB’s alleged ‘neutrality’ provided it with the means and justification to support a regime that egregiously violated those rights. Whatever the exact nature of this so-called neutrality, what is clear is that it was used to enable the WB and member states to ignore US instructions and support a right-wing regime determined to substantially liberalize Argentina’s economy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1256-1275
Number of pages20
JournalInternational History Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2019


  • Argentina
  • World Bank
  • economic neutrality
  • human rights
  • multilateral lending

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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