World Bank anthropologists: code of conduct call

12 December 2000

World Bank operations often use anthropologists and other social experts for studies which precede their development programs. In addition to the small number of anthropologists who work in the Bank, many are hired as consultants.

A paper given by University of California Professor of Social Sciences Jonathan Fox at the American Anthropological Association in November suggested a new mode of operation for these social scientists which would do more to empower communities.

The paper ends with a “wake up call” from Manuel Fernandez de Villegas. Based on his work in Trasparencia, a Mexican NGO which monitors World Bank projects in rural Mexico he proposes “something like a code of ethics for social development professionals who work as consultants”. This includes proposals that communities and organizations should be informed who researchers are working for and should also receive copies of consultants’ reports to check what researchers have written about them. Consultants sometimes argue that the final reports are the property of the World Bank “but this means giving priority to their source of temporary employment, over and above the interests and rights of the communities and social organizations who are trying to defend their autonomy and their right to decide and to participate in the government programs that are carried out in their area of influence”.

Fernandez suggests that anthropologists reverse their focus and help communities and grass roots organizations “understand the traditions, customs and logic of the multilateral institutions”.

Transparencia Sociedad Civil