Parliamentarians from Ghana, Indonesia, Malawi and Mexico were in Washington in September for the WB-IMF annual meetings to press the demands of the International Parliamentarians’ Petition (IPP) for greater IFI accountability. MPs held meetings with executive directors from the Bank and Fund, civil society networks, the Progressive Caucus of American congresspeople and the G24.
Parliamentarians from Ghana and Indonesia, Hon Mohammed Jagri and Hon Dradjad Wibowo, were initially asked to leave the G24 meeting by the IMF’s parliamentary liaison officer. The MPs were able to contact the G24 secretariat from outside the meeting room, whereupon a representative of the G24 escorted the two back into the meeting. However, the MPs had missed their opportunity to present the petition to the heads of the Bank and Fund who had left the meeting by the time they were let back in. Hon Jagri said, “It should beggar belief for the IMF to throw MPs out of a poor country ministers’ meeting to stop them presenting a petition calling for democratic accountability of the IMF itself. In fact this is just one more demonstration of how the IMF actively undermines democracy in poor countries, by riding roughshod over governments, parliaments and the people they represent. How can the IMF preach transparency and accountability to poor countries when they behave like this?”
Signatures to the petition continue to flow in, and the secretariat is now making plans to move from its current host, the Bretton Woods Project, to one of the lead agencies on the steering committee from the global south. National launches of the IPP are planned to raise awareness and catalyze parliamentary interest in oversight of grants and loans and the implementation of IFI-funded reforms.
It should beggar belief for the IMF to throw MPs out of a poor country ministers' meeting
World Bank parliamentary network moves towards greater independence
The Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB), which claims nearly 1000 parliamentarians from 110 countries, has finally started to assert its independence from the World Bank. The organisation is now an independent NGO with its own staff, bank account and administrative system, with plans to move out of the Bank’s Paris office.
The network held its annual meeting, titled Beyond the year of development: What now?, in Helsinki 21-23 October. The meeting was attended by over 200 MPs from 96 countries, featuring workshops on debt relief, trade, climate change, aid effectiveness and IFI accountability, as well as sessions with the heads of the Bank, Fund and WTO.
Hetty Kovach, of Brussels-based network Eurodad, presented at the session on IFI accountability. Kovach reflected that, while leadership of the network appear willing to have space for critical voices, “more needs to happen to ensure more balanced views are aired in their sessions”. “The potential within the network is huge”, says Kovach, “and NGOs must do more to engage with the network and make it a strong, vibrant, independent voice on parliamentary concerns around the IFIs”. Foretelling a possible change in the critical nature of the network are plans to start a new working group specifically on IFI accountability.
Five new board members were elected at the annual meeting: Suresh Prabhu, India; Congresswoman Betty McCollum, US; Janette Garin, Philippines; Hideki Wakabayashi, Japan; and Santiago Castro, Columbia. They will join four members from the previous board (Bert Koenders, Netherlands; Kimmo Kiljunnen, Finland; Norbert Mao, Uganda; and Monica Frassoni, MEP, Italy).
PNoWB members visited Ghana in July, talking with government officials, World Bank country officers and CSOs. Support for the field visits comes from the Finnish government. Field visits to Rwanda, Kenya, Laos and the Chad-Cameroon pipeline have been scheduled for late 2005 and early 2006. Future plans for the network include the development of a resource guide on best practices for parliamentary involvement in WB activities, and negotiations to secure an observer position on the WB-IMF development committee.
At a meeting at the European parliament on the PNoWB in October, it was decided that the parliament should organise meetings after World Bank annual conferences to discuss their outcome with representatives of the Bank and Fund; and produce a synthesis of the reports by European national parliaments on the IFIs’ activities. NGOs indicated their interest in providing input into work being done at the European parliament level.
Latin American parliamentarians agree need for debt tribunal
At a seminar on 6-7 November in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after the Summit of the Americas, a group of parliamentarians met and launched a network to focus on expanding the role of legislators in negotiating trade and financial agreements. Parliamentarians from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama, Bolivia, Germany and the UK attended the meeting.
Representatives of labour unions and NGOs also attended the event, sponsored by Public Services International, INESC (Brazil), and the Institute for Policy Studies (Washington, D.C.). Parallel to the parliamentarians’ initiative, the unions and NGOs affirmed their own commitment to support the on-going activities of the parliamentarians’ network.
The new network agreed that an independent court or tribunal must address the debt issue for each Latin American country. A number of parliamentarians asserted that their countries’ debt problems began with the irresponsible borrowing of de facto governments, which misused and diverted funds for decades. Irresponsible lending and lack of monitoring by the IFIs contributed to this growing problem of ‘odious debt’. The network of parliamentarians and their allies see the democratisation of the IFIs as the best solution to this continuing financial crisis in Latin America and resolved to work toward this goal.