What is the Bretton Woods Project?

14 March 2017 | About us


The Bretton Woods Project envisions a global economic system that operates on the primary principles of justice, equity, gender equality, human rights and environmental sustainability, with international institutions that are democratic, inclusive, transparent, accountable, and responsive to citizens, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.


The Bretton Woods Project focuses on the World Bank and the IMF to challenge their power and open space for civil society and social movements to contribute to the development of policies that are gender transformative, equitable, environmentally sustainable and consistent with international human rights norms. We do this because the Bank and Fund remain global opinion formers, funders and influential proponents and enforcers of economic and development policies.

We act as a watchdog by monitoring the Bank and Fund, with a particular focus on the impact of Bank and Fund policies and activities on the environment, human rights and democratic governance. We build and maintain an information and evidence base and are a credible critical voice on the work of the Bank and Fund and on their role in the broader international finance landscape. We amplify the voices of marginalised communities, social movements and civil society partners and act as interlocutors amongst IFI and government officials and civil society partners.


In support of global network partners, social movements and communities negatively impacted by the policies and practices of the Bank and Fund, the Bretton Woods Project actively involves partners in the development and implementation of its activities. We work to amplify the voices of marginalised populations by providing them avenues for expression, access to decision-makers and opportunities explore prospects for cooperation with groups globally.

As part of our work monitoring the Bank and Fund, the Project provides a platform on its website of critical analysis, news, information and notes. In order to keep civil society and the public informed the Project provides a range of communications outputs. The Bretton Woods Observer is a quarterly critical review of developments at the World Bank and IMF, The Bretton Woods News Lens is a twice-monthly electronic roundup of news and critical viewpoints from the global media about the Bank and IMF. Alerts highlight the Projects’ analyses of communiqués, the World Bank and IMF Spring and Annual meetings, and information about new publications and events.

The Bretton Woods Project adjusts to changes in the global geopolitical context and the roles played the Bank and Fund by actively adapting the approaches it uses to achieve the changes it seeks. In order to ensure that its vision, mission and objectives appropriately respond to changes in its operational environment, the Project conducts a periodic strategic review that informs revisions to its strategic plan. The current plan instated in 2016 follows from the previous strategy developed in 2010.


Established in 1995 by the Development and Environment Group (DEG) to support civil society to monitor the negative developmental impacts of World Bank and IMF policies and activities, the Bretton Woods Project has throughout its history developed extensive knowledge about the Bank and Fund as institutions and an in-depth understanding of their role within the broader international development landscape. Through its rigorous approach to creating and disseminating knowledge and information, and engaging with officials and partners, the Project has established itself as an important and credible critical voice that is taken seriously by officials and trusted by partners. The Project coordinates and consults with the UK BWI network civil society organisations working in development, environment and human rights. The Project is funded by the NGOs in the UK BWI network, the CS Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.