A number of discussions took place in June and July on the World Bank’s proposed Global Development Gateway internet portal initiative (see Bretton Woods Update 17). Meetings hosted by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Department for International Development (DFID) and OneWorld Europe, plus an internet discussion hosted by Bellanet (www.bellanet.org), gave opportunities to raise questions and concerns.
The DFID meeting included senior UK and Bank officials as well as NGO and university staff. Many critical points were raised, including who will govern the design and implementation of the Gateway, whether the proposal is too big and ambitious, whether disadvantaged groups such as indigenous people would be able to get their messages across. The Bank team agreed that further discussion was needed on many of these and called for suggestions on how a comprehensive global consultations process can be organised.
In late June OneWorld International and IDS organised a joint draft statement of principles for civil society organisations considering how to respond to the Gateway. This proposed a set of conditions which the Bank’s GDG team must meet and discussed the establishment of a civil society steering group to guide feedback to the Bank. The Bellanet website contains links to this and other useful documents.
Roberto Bissio, executive director of the Third World Institute, Uruguay, and others are, however, questioning the GDG proposal’s fundamental logic. In a contribution to the Bellanet exchange he said the Internet can be an important tool, especially where locally run. “But the press is also essential for democracy and for the functioning of the economy. And nobody has argued in favour of the World Bank or the national governments (the main actors of the proposed GDG) starting to publish newspapers, even in countries which badly lack them. There would be a public outrage if someone proposed it, as the press is supposed to be free. Why isn’t there a similar concern about this proposal, portals being, as newspapers, essentially an editorial activity?”.
A major e-conference will be hosted by the World Bank’s Development Forum team in October to discuss the Gateway proposal.