On 27-29 November 2003 there was a major meeting in Brussels on global policy issues. It was called by the family of European labour/social democrat/socialist parties and had very senior political representation, including a number of former and current prime ministers, presidents and ministers such as Poul Rasmussen, Mary Robinson and Robin Cooke. The organisers also invited NGOs and officials to speak.
A session on the World Bank and IMF attracted over 100 people. It was chaired by Kemal Dervis, formerly World Bank Vice President and then Turkey’s Finance Minister. Speaking were the Dutch Executive Director to the Bank and the Italian Executive Director to the Fund, two Members of the European Parliament who chair key committees in Brussels and Antonio Tricarico and Alex Wilks from the European NGO campaign on the IFIs. Tricarico stressed the responsibility of EU governments, who have successfully developed a progressive multilateralism in their own region, to uphold and strengthen the principles of multilateralism worldwide. The issue of improving the coordination of European representation at the Bank and Fund came up a number of times – an issue where there has been incremental but not dramatic progress.
The meeting was partly to get reactions to a report produced for the Party of European Socialists by former Danish Prime Minister Poul Rasmussen: Europe and a New Global Order. This has a number of very useful recommendations and findings, on global environment, trade and finance issues and was welcomed by Wilks and others in their talks. The report recognises that international institutions are needed to regulate and/or provide finance to solve many environmental, social and economic issues, but argues that the Bretton Woods Institutions and World Trade Organisation should draw on advice from other agencies and should not expand their missions to take the lead on all issues. It calls, for example, for the creation of a World Environment Organisation. It also clearly states that the IMF should not continue trying to deal with poverty issues but should return to its core mission of genuine short-term stabilisation.
The Rasmussen report’s reform proposals seek to: “address IMF mission-creep; rebalance and improve IMF governance; open the way for regional arrangements and a variety of sources of advice; allow temporary restrictions on capital liberalisation in some circumstances; separate IMF tasks from those of the World Bank; [and] ensure proper private sector involvement [in debt resolution]”.
The conference organisers plan to make this an annual event, with working groups operating in the meantime to maintain the momentum of the discussions.