The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 186 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. It oversees the global financial systems of its member countries by monitoring policies that have an impact on exchange rates and the balance of payments. It also offers highly leveraged loans to underdeveloped countries.
The IMF was formed in July 1944 during the UN Monetary and Financial Conference when the delegates agreed on a framework for international economic cooperation. This took place after the infamous Great Depression when countries attempted to save their economies by raising barriers to foreign trade and devaluing their own currencies. As these measures proved to be self-defeating, it became necessary to form an institution that would ensure exchange rate stability and encourage member countries to eliminate trade restrictions. The IMF came into formal existence after its first 29 member countries signed the Articles of Agreement. From then on, the number of IMF member countries have more than quadrupled to 186 countries today.