IFI governance


World Bank-IMF spring meetings 2011

15 April 2011

Ahead of the 2011 World Bank-IMF spring meetings, a meeting between UK NGOs, HM Treasury and the UK executive director to the IMF Alex Gibbs was held on 4 April. A meeting between UK NGOs, DFID and the UK executive director to the World Bank Susanna Moorehead took place on 6 April.

  1. Overview
  2. Background papers: Development Committee
    Background papers: IMFC
  3. Highlights of ministerial meetings and communiqués
  4. Highlights of civil society meetings

1. Overview

The 2011 spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF will take place from 15 to 17 April in Washington, DC. You will be able find links below to analysis of the communiqués as well as notes of some of the civil society and official meetings, as they become available.

Ongoing crises will continue to dominate the World Bank spring meetings. With food and commodity prices continuing to rise, the issue will be centre stage as it was in 2008. Some donors are pushing for increased contributions to the Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, but commitments are likely to remain way below those promised by the G8 in 2009 (see Update 74). Though the Bank’s approach to agriculture continues to draw sharp criticism, particularly thanks to the activities of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the Bank’s private sector arm), the focus of Ministers is likely to be funding, not policy.

The launch of the delayed World Development Report (WDR) on conflict, security and development has also pushed conflict-fuelled crises onto the agenda of the Bank’s Development Committee. Though the WDR will be styled as a roadmap for the whole system, including the United Nations, which has traditionally taken a leading role in this area, analysts predict that implementing its recommendations would require structural change to the Bank’s ways of working.

In the background, however, significant changes to the Banks systems, policies and procedures are already underway, with the launch of consultations on the Bank’s new Program for Results (P4R) lending instrument (see Update 75). However critics will point out the tokenistic nature of the consultations – begun after the instrument had already been designed – and warn that, coupled with the ongoing safeguards review (see Update 75), environmental and social standards could be watered down.

Meanwhile, familiar themes are likely to preoccupy Finance Ministers gathered for the IMF’s meetings. With Portugal joining the growing ranks of eurozone countries signing up to austerity measures (see Update 75)in return for IMF funding, and the twin shocks of the Japanese earthquake and revolutions and unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, concerns about the fragility of global recovery will set the tone.

However, it seems unlikely that the assembled politicians will make any real headway on the key underlying issues that surfaced at the Fund’s annual meetings last autumn, in particular the issue of currency misalignments, and continuing problems of huge global imbalances. In the background, developing countries will continue to argue for greater space to manage their own economies and protection from global instability, including by fighting any attempts to limit their ability to control financial flows through capital controls (see Update 75).

Meanwhile, campaigners will continue to ramp up the pressure to ensure that the windfall profits made by the IMF from sales of excess gold reserves go to debt cancellation for poor countries. However, IMF board members are also considering using the excess cash to boost the IMF’s administrative budget or increase its reserves.

Bretton Woods Project detailed analysis of the content of the communiqués is available.

2. Background papers: IMFC

The papers for the spring 2011 International Monetary and Finance Committee meeting, scheduled for Saturday 16 April, are now online on the IMF’s website. They include the following:

Background papers: Development Committee

The papers for the spring 2011 Development Committee meeting, scheduled for Saturday 16 April, are now online on the World Bank’s website. They include the following:

3. Highlights of ministerial meetings

Below we will bring the highlights from the communiqués at the spring meetings, including the G24, G20, IMFC and Development Committee. You will also be able to find detailed coverage of all communiqués in our dedicated article.

14 April

G24 meeting: (deeper analysis, original document).
Summary: The G24 grouping of developing countries at the IMF and World Bank focussed their communiqué on global economic issues. They said that “overly expansionary monetary policy” in the rich world has “contributed to a surge in capital flows, increased risks to financial stability, promoted speculative movements in commodity prices, and led to overheating and exchange rate pressures in many emerging markets.” They called for IMF reforms in a number of areas including international monetary reform, greater surveillance over rich country economic policies, regular allocations of special drawing rights (SDRs), and more consideration for the unique circumstances of developing countries. They also look issue with the IMF’s recently proposed framework for managing capital flows. On the World Bank side the G24 ministers welcomed proposed reforms that streamline Bank lending, but may remove some safeguards, and also called for scaled up resources for multilateral development finance.

15 April

G20 meeting: (deeper analysis, original document).
Summary: The G20 is a grouping of some of the largest countries in the world. Since 2009 it has met more frequently, and in 2011 the G20 finance ministers plan to meet four times, including this meeting in Washington. This meeting aimed to deliver agreement on “indicative guidelines” that would allow the G20 to assess whether countries were “maintain[ing] current account imbalances at sustainable levels”. The G20 agreed a bit of a fudge where-in the IMF will be tasked with an making an assessment using 4 different statistical and structural “reference values” across a number of indicators. On monetary reform the G20 agreed to proceed with a number of minor technical tweaks without pursuing fundamental structural reform of the monetary system. And while referencing the UN and principles previously agree about climate change finance, the G20 “tasked the World Bank, working with Regional Development Banks, and the IMF, in coordination with other relevant organizations, to conduct the analysis on mobilising sources of climate change financing.”

16 April

International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) meeting: (deeper analysis, original document).
Summary: The IMFC is the direction-setting body of finance ministers for the IMF. The communiqué of the IMFC usually sets out the consensus position about the direction of the Fund and reform. This meeting showed that governments from emerging market countries are gaining more weight in setting the IMFC agreements, particularly with an Asian for the first time sitting as the IMFC chair. While the usual statements were made to “welcome” IMF progress and efforts in many policy areas, notably the IMFC sent a strong message that the IMF work so far was not good enough on improving surveillance and analysing cross-border financial flows.

Development Committee meeting: (deeper analysis, original document).
Summary: The Development Committee is the direction setting body of ministers for the World Bank. Its statement had a few major themes: North Africa, rising food prices, and conflict-affected countries. On North Africa, while renewed IFI attention to Tunisia and Egypt is starting to raise controversy among civil society, the ministers “call on the Bank to strengthen its support to the Middle East and North Africa, working with governments and with relevant multilateral, regional and bilateral organizations.”. The lengthy section on food ignored any concerns about the Bank’s approach which were highlighted in 2008 when the Bank’s flagship report took a completely different, and more market-centric tact than another one written by a scientific body. Now the Bank is urged to do more, including a call for countries to contribute more to the Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a trust fund held by the Bank. Finally, the delayed release of the WDR on conflict led to a call to integrate its lessons into Bank Group policies.

Read the Bretton Woods Project’s detailed analysis of the content of the communiqués and the story behind the position.

4. Highlights of civil society and other meetings

For a complete listing of civil-society events, briefings, press releases, and a blog, see the Bank Information Center.

The World Bank’s schedule of civil society events is also available.

Click on the titles below for minutes of sessions attended by the Bretton Woods Project and other NGOs.

12 April:

13 April:

14 April:

15 April:

16 April:

Return here for highlights of meetings hosted by civil society organisations.