In April, thousands of protesters gathered in Washington DC to close down the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings. Carrying banners with slogans such as “More World, Less Bank”, “Defund the Fund” and “Stop Washington’s War on the World’s Poor”, they voiced discontent with the pace of change of the global institutions, the continued financing of destructive projects and programmes and the dominance of the institutions by a small group of industrial countries.
Groups from across the world were represented, including affected peoples from South Africa, Guatemala, Haiti, the Philippines, Nigeria, Uganda, and Eastern Europe, and labour unions, church groups, NGOs and students.
Although unsuccessful at closing down the meetings the protests led to widespread debate in the media.
One developing country official remarked in the Development Committee meeting that he would join the demonstrators if progress had not been made on dismantling trade barriers in rich countries by the time of the Prague meetings. An IMF staff newsletter reported staff’s anger at the media portrayal of the IMF as a cause of poverty, and that staff were “listening [to the television] with clenched fists to the vilification of our jobs and the distortions of the facts we know first hand.” The staff suggested that better media outreach was needed to get their message across and educate the public about the IMF‘s role.
Parallel protests were also held in South Africa, these included seminars and workshops, street actions, a demonstration outside the United States consulate in Johannesburg against the role of the WB and IMF and the United States influence over the institutions, and religious services.
The next focus for demonstrators will be the Bank and Fund annual meetings in Prague in late September. Thousands are expected for demonstrations and teach-ins. Central and Eastern European NGOs are working with others to organise public events to highlight and debate concerns, with the aim of raising public awareness of the activities of the Bank and Fund amongst citizens of the Czech Republic.
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