IFI governance


Bank global net plan: concern grows

26 October 2000

In mid-September the Bretton Woods Project coordinated a joint letter of protest on the World Bank’s Global Development Gateway plans (see Bretton Woods Update 17 and 18). The $69 million Gateway aims to be “the premier web entry point for poverty and sustainable development” and to include a representative selection of material from diverse stakeholders worldwide.

The letter complained that the Gateway initiative was insufficiently independent of the Bank and private companies, had rejected alternative decentralized design options, was overambitious and would compete unfairly with other existing and planned web initiatives. It finally argued that many civil society groups were so disillusioned by the Gateway’s lack of responsiveness that they planed to continue with independent initiatives to improve electronic information coordination rather than join the Gateway.

The Bank’s lack of specific engagement with critical points was again shown by the refusal to answer the letter in detail, merely referring people to a new online discussion (www.worldbank.org/devforum). This was despite the letter being signed by a few hundred people from a very wide range of organizations as diverse as Oxford University, Techaid Nigeria, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Oneworld Trust and Third World Institute. The letter was also signed by a smaller number of private company staff and officials, including the Chief Executive of the Communication Unit of the Cameroonian Prime Minister. Many other officials indicated their private support for the points raised in the letter.

A number of organizations, led by Association for Progressive Communications (APC), are planning a parallel, independent consultation exercise to discuss how to enhance and take forward civil society work on the internet. A number of government and UN officials are indicating their reluctance to endorse the Gateway as it stands and their support for alternative plans.

The Bretton Woods Project will soon release a brief update on key concerns about the process and planned content of the Global Development Gateway. Order (free):





“No doubt, the Global Development Gateway (GDG) will be used by people in the South, but will it facilitate meaningful dialogue? From my perspective it cannot. It is likely to become, like One World, a useful repository of data with numerous links to people, organizations, and documents. It may produce better informed development workers. But, it will also:

  • De-contextualize the content it disseminates
  • Neutralize and de-politicize information
  • Create an illusory atmosphere of consensus and universality, while proclaiming ‘diversity’
  • draw funding away from local information gateway development initiatives”

Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director, APC

Global Co-operation and Global Dialogue in Development Research and Infomation

Paper presented at EADI Information Management Working Group meeting, 6 September 2000