UK NGO meeting with executive director Tom Scholar: uncorrected highlights 4 April 2005

28 April 2005 | Minutes

In attendance: Tom Scholar, Justin Williams (IFID), James Leaton (WWF), Lucy Baker (BWP), Henry Northover (CAFOD), Anna Thomas (Christian Aid), Anna Taylor (SCF), Simon Counsell (Rainforest Foundation) James Leaton (WWF) Fern Leathers (ActionAid)

Opening remarks from BWP

Welcomed the opportunity for a meeting with UK ED, but were disappointed that meeting organised with only 2 days notice.

TS: Apologised for the lack of notice to NGOs, had found it very difficult to fit the meeting in with so many events before the spring meetings.

articles of agreement do not allow UK policy notes to be made public

EIR Follow up (JL)

What is the WB doing to develop a meaningful reporting mechanism on progress one year on from EIR recommendations? NGOs have continued to push on climate change, a UK government objective for the Spring Meetings, and a G8 priority and are still disappointed with the lack of movement on decarbonising the WB’s energy portfolio. Other key issues such as biodiversity, FPIC and transparency are also outstanding. These issues are significant in the context of the IFC safeguard review, where consistency with EIR commitments and climate change considerations are lacking. Not clear so far what has been done re EIR follow-up post-EIR.

TS: The board are expecting a meaningful output from the Bank to report back, which was particularly important in this first year to continue momentum. This is expected in August (?). Proposed it would be helpful for NGOs to suggest through him what should be covered/included in such a report.

Safeguard Policy Review (LB)

  • Concerns that indicative draft fell short of commitment to provide “redline draft”. A partial summary of comments only
  • Unclear as to how issues were addressed
  • Failure to integrate internationally recognised environmental, human rights and labour standards, as well as recommendations of EIR. Questioned whether they would be pushing for integration of this into Performance standards.
  • Concerns that much left to the discretion of client
  • TS: Pleased at response of IFC on the whole process. DfID are still studying the texts. He is looking at papers submitted to him by Andrea Durbin at meeting between EDs and NGOs in Brussels.
  • Framework question- responsibility for ensuring compliance on private sector. IFC haven’t been good at enforcing this.
  • Agreed the need for a clear understanding of what standards mean, certain comments leave room for doubt.
  • Received a guarantee from IFC that wouldn’t be watering down the standards.

Bank’s interventions in DRC’s forest (SC)

  • The Bank’s interventions were clearly articulated around industrial exploitation, posing a threat to the livelihoods of 35 million Congolese people (75% of the population) and for which there was no obvious developmental rationale. There had been a total lack of transparency and consultation and circumvention or non-application of the Safeguard Policies. Specifically the Indigenous Peoples policy, but also OP 7.60, the policy concerned with projects in disputed areas. Bank documentation acknowledges that much of the forest lies in rebel territory, but OP 7.60 had not been applied. Failure to learn from the disastrous mistakes of other countries, such as Cameroon and Gabon.
  • Rainforest Foundation has been trying to raise these issues with the World Bank for more than 18 months, but have received no response to their letter of December 2003.
  • TS: Couldn’t go into detail of the specific case but surely in a post-conflict situation, it was better to have Forest Code than not to have one?
  • DRC- a difficult place for Bank to operate in. Elections are due this year and political circumstances restrict the ability of government to carry out public consultations
  • UKDEL will help facilitate better dialogue, and will follow up in Washington Spring meetings with country director.

Glamis Goldmine(LB on behalf of FOE)

  • FOE understands that a request for a meeting with UK ED on behalf of Guatemalan activists regarding IFC funded Glamis goldmine had been rejected.
  • TS: His office is making arrangements to see if he could meet with them
  • Transparency issues (LB on behalf of Pete Hardstaff)

    • On release of UK policy notes that Benn/Brown/Scholar take into Board meetings
    • TS: Articles of agreement do not allow UK policy notes to be made public, as enshrined into British law. Forbids explicitly release of executive board statements. They have been arguing for the policy to be revised. As of 1 April, minutes of board meeting will be published, including which way individual directors vote. He sees this as an improvement, but not enough

    Parliamentary scrutiny (AT)

    • IPP will be launched at the Spring Meetings
    • Example of where conditions are undermining national parliaments: in Ghana in 2003 tariffs were raised on rice and poultry within WTO limits. This was approved by Parliament. No special dispensation was negotiated with the IMF, and following a meeting with the IMF the Ghanaian government reversed the policy. This was against the Ghanaian constitution.
    • Where the IFIs are engaging with parliaments, they sometimes appear to be persuading rather than listening e.g World Bank Toolkit on privatisation says that the message parliamentarians should receive from a communications strategy is ‘I will support privatisation with my vote’.
    • IFIs should respect parliamentary decisions on grants and loans – if a parliament rejects one, they should withdraw or renegotiate
    • agree minimum standards to ensure due diligence and impartiality of IFI staff in their dealings with parliaments.
    • TS:IFIs cannot interfere in national systems of accountability but do need to take account of these issues.
    • It’s never clear why something goes through a parliament or not. Parliaments sometimes pass things that they know will get vetoed. What parliaments say is not always in the interests of the country.
    • UK is trying to convince the Bank and Fund that engagement with the Bank and Fund is not just about influencing, its about improving IFI understanding of political context.
    • The UK will expect the IFIs to enter into proper discussion following the petition.

    Leadership Selection

    • All: Did not feel the need to go into this issue in great depth
    • TS: Keen to explain a number of points, inc that Wolfowitz is keen to engage with NGOs
    • Distribution of statement by EDs representing European countries on the selection of the President of the World Bank. Currently on world bank website (see link below)

    Conditionality, aid and debt

    • HN/F: What steps will the ED be taking to ensure that DfID’s conditionality policy and the CfA recommendations are used to influence the WB and IMF conditionality reviews to change their own positions?
    • TS: UK is pushing for aggregate conditionality position at the Bank and Fund. An issue that will go beyond the Spring meetings, WB is engaged in a series of consultations on this. Conclusions are likely to be in the summer in the time for the annual meetings. Review was being approached in a very similar way to that of the UK one.
    • HN/FL: What were they doing to make HIPC less conditional?
    • TS: On HIPC conditionality, they would use the results of the review to inform HIPC policy on a case by case basis.
    • HN/FL: What were they doing on pushing for a deal on 100% multilateral debt relief esp. gold sales?
    • TS: 100% multilateral debt relief was an ongoing debate. It was likely to be taken together at the Spring Meetings with broader financing for development issues such as the IFF. At the Feb G7, there was agreement to look at this case by case but no clear policy agreed. Any resolution was likely to come after the Spring Meetings.
    • AT: What strategies will the ED be using to take forward the abolition of user fees for health and education as referred to in the objectives note
    • TS: It was early stages and that he was going to see which other EDs were in support (mentioned possibly Norway, Germany, Dutch). User fees- ambiguity on what Bank’s policy is.