Press briefing with Danny Glover

16 April 2007 | Minutes

Danny Glover: Governance, corruption. The World Bank is under siege. European campaign is putting the World Bank on trial. There are issues of sovereignty, questions of environmental standards, human rights standards. Dirty energy and the cancellation of debt. The film Bamako puts the World Bank and IMF on trial. In Africa there are problems of poverty, conflict and corruption. Corrupt leaders do not become corrupt unless there are others helping to corrupt them.

Sameer Dossani, from US NGO 50 years is enough: On rumours of Wolfowitz’s impending resignation- as long as the World Bank presidential selection is a unilateral process we will always have this problem. It is an issue of transparency, democratisation of the institutions. There is a need for reparations and accountability.

Martin Gordon from UK NGO Christian Aid: We have had public statements from the World Bank on clean energy and poverty reduction. The reality is very different. The number of conditions is on the increase in the form of benchmarks. Privatisation is also on the rise. Bank policies are affecting utilities, banks, economic policy and fossil fuels. Oxfam’s research on Mali shows that Bank policies have prevented tarrifs on imported rice and cotton, flooding the local market. Norwegian and UK governments have announced that they will withhold the money that they channel through IDA. The European campaign is unique, 60 per cent of IDA is funded by Europe. A fundamental rethink of the World Bank’s activities is needed.

Delphine Djiraibe from the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights: The Chad-Cameroon pipeline is a reason why the World Bank should not invest in extractives. Chad is in the middle of a violent conflict at the moment. They have published a report that responds to the World Bank’s completion report. It lists what hasn’t been done.

Graham Saul from Oil Change International: The IFC’s figures in oil lending have increased by 75 per cent this financial year. This is unacceptable, especially given the ‘phase out’ recommendation of the EIR. Evidence shows that Bank financing for oil is more likely to increase poverty than reduce it just to satisfy over consumption in rich countries. The World Bank work is not about good governance and energy poverty, but oil access. The recent IPCC report gave an assessment of project impacts of climate change, these will be catastrophic if they are not tackled immediately.

Questions from David Brooks of La Jornada afterwards asked why are there not more people on the street protesting at such a pivotal moment. In response Graham Saul pointed out that the majority of those affected by World Bank/ IMF policies are not in Washington, it is not the centre of the universe.

Another member of the press asked Danny Glover how long he had been involved in this for. He responded that he has always been concerned with poverty in the global south, he has been part of this work for a long time, since the 70s, especially in relation to Africa. He has worked with UNDP, UNICEF and most recently in support of the film Bamako. He also pointed out that since 9/11 the activist movement has taken a hit. The climate is increasingly repressive and the space isn’t there any more to respond publicly.

Graham Saul responded that they are working with members of the house of representatives to end foreign assistance for oil. Danny Glover added that he has been working with members of Congress to tackle vulture funds and also deeper questions on debt, such as the relationship between capital flows, essential services, health care etc. For instance Ghana has a +A investment rating, yet who is this rating for, and who are the beneficiaries of the conditionalities imposed on the country?

A representative from Bloomberg asked if NGOs had been calling for Wolfowitz’s resignation beforehand. Sameer responded that the World Bank president has never been legitimate, given that he is always elected in a one horse race. A US citizen representing US interests. Martin Gordon added that 2000 NGOs opposed Wolfowitz’s appointment and that the World Bank is not the institution through which to channel aid.

On the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, Korinna Horta added that seven years after project approval, Chad is now a lot poorer. Even World Bank studies say as much as well as UNDP. Exxon has provided a paltry trust fund for the affected indigenous peoples who are being seriously and fatally affected by the project. Meanwhile Exxon, one of the key project implementers, gets richer everyday.