Critics respond to Bank demands

17 January 2002

The World Bank and anti-globalisation activists have now traded three rounds of demands and counter-demands since September this year. The Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ) has just issued a rebuttal to the World Bank’s response to their four-point demand of the Bank and IMF in September. In its statement, the MGJ also rejected the Bank’s two counter-demands that protest groups renounce violence and engage in ‘constructive’ debate with the Bank (and Fund).

MGJ believes the Bank’s demand that critics specifically reject violence “is a tactic designed to distract readers from its economic agenda” and “its failure to recognize the systemic violence of (its) policies”. The group reiterated that it has never advocated violence since its inception and noted that much of the violence at the April 2000 meetings of the Bank and Fund were committed “by those protecting the meetings and its delegates”.

The MGJ also believes that the Bank’s demand that critics refrain from demonstrating and engage in “constructive dialogue and partnerships” with the Bank and its member governments is an attempt to seal off legitimate avenues for dissent. “We feel that the urgency of fundamental change in the global economy is great enough to warrant hard work on many different levels by many different kinds of civil society organizations,” says the group. This includes engaging in grassroots public education and organizing demonstrations.

The rebuttal noted that many groups have found the Bank’s initiatives for civil society dialogue to be sorely disappointing. “These groups have found the Bank fundamentally unresponsive to citizen input – even when the Bank has requested it – and to the initiatives’ findings and recommendations,” said the statement.

As a result of the Bank’s manipulation of civil society participation for what the movement believes are attempts to turn such initiatives into public relations exercises, MGJ says critics have found protests more fruitful for holding the Bank accountable. “Protests shed light on the actions of the Bank and put pressure on governments, in the South and North, to be responsive, and to make the Bank responsive to local and global concerns,” said the MGJ.

The Bank had issued these two demands in their response to MGJ in late September. The MGJ had circulated their four demands in the run-up to the Bank and Fund annual meetings scheduled for Washington in September, although these were subsequently rescheduled to November in Ottawa.

The four MGJ demands were:

1. Open all World Bank and IMF meetings to the media and the public;

2. End all World Bank and IMF policies that hinder peoples’ access to food, clean water, shelter, health care, education and right to organize.

3. Stop all World Bank support for socially and environmentally destructive projects, such as oil, gas, and mining activities, and all support for projects, such as dams, that include forced relocation of people; and

4. Cancel all impoverished country debt to the World Bank and IMF, using the institutions’ own resources.

The MGJ says the Bank’s response to the above demands were flawed and distorted and raises questions about the logic employed by Bank decision makers in drafting and implementing Bank policies. This includes the Bank’s assertion that its structural adjustment lending does not promote user fees, austerity or privatization in social services when the Bank’s own documents reveal that privatization is a mainstay in such lending programmes.

The MGJ‘s demands and counter-rebuttal were supported by 17 other NGOs across North America, including the 50 Years is Enough Network, Jubilee USA, Africa Action, International Rivers Network, RESULTS Educational Fund and the Religious Working Group on the World Bank and IMF. The counter-rebuttal was issued in time for the rescheduled Bank and Fund meetings in Ottawa.

A Civil Society Rebuttal to the World Bank’s “Response to Four Demands from the Mobilisation for Global Justice”

World Bank’s “Response to Four Demands from the Mobilisation for Global Justice”

See also:

Keeping the Pressure – by Alex Wilks in The Observer Online