IMF consultation meeting on engagement with civil society: review and way forward

12 October 2012 | Minutes

Sponsor:  International Monetary Fund

This session sought to gather CSO views, suggestions, and concerns on how to improve the current guidelines, including IMF consultation processes on policies, strategies, and Article. IV consultations.

Panelists: Jo Marie Griesgraber (Executive Director, New Rules for Global Finance), Jan Aart Scholte (Professor, University of Warwick)

Chair: Karla Chaman (Head, Civil Society Team, IMF)


Karla Chaman:

  • At this moment the Fund is revising Jan’s 2003 guidelines. That guideline was a good start, but we haven’t changed it, and it needs to be updated and we need to push for something more ambitious. Ten years ago CSOs were different, so was the Fund.
  • The other issue is of consultation per se, so given how they have changed we want to include their voices – given that currently the Fund lacks a framework for engagement with CSOs it means that many processes occur simultaneously and that structured engagement with civil society suffers as a result in the absence of a process that would facilitate this.

Jan Aart Scholte

  • This is not a document written by Jan Aart, and it was altered editorially and hence it was what was achievavle in 2003. At the time I sought to act as a link for a conversation between CSOs and the Fund.
  • The document  was explicitly endorsed by the Executive Board – therefore it was sent by the MD.
  • The events with EDs invited showed a problematic situation where officials and the MD herself have far less engagement, do not turn up to events.
  • The lesson of the first approach was that it was positive that it was mandated from the top, that it was signed off by the MD, that it was translated.
  • However, it was little-used subsequently. There was no follow-up despite every member of staff receiving this guide, but it appears that it went into a drawer.
  • It was used a lot with CSOs, in terms of it being provided.
  • Follow-up Points:

    1. Management must lead this, policies do not change in the IMF without top-down endorsement and support

    2. Publicity for the guide – make it easily accessible and give it to Residnet Representatives, country teams

    3. Monitor the implementation – nobody has previously looked at it in a systematic way, the good points in the guide were simply not put into practice

    4. Staff training – this document could be used in civil society liaison – as yet there is no training on civil society engagemnt

    5. Further development of consultation mechanisms – discussions of a CSO advisory group occurred, in any case there are questions as to consultation mechanisms that could be developed

    6. Putting a civil society dimension into standard IMF paperwork which currently make no mention of who civil society is and who should be engaged with and on what basis, not just local ministries or central banks, private sector and so on.

    7. Incentives for staff – make it part of their annual performance review, currently staff are not rewarded for their engagement  with civil society and public outreach

  • Additionally, recommend that the statement on aims could and should be stronger, underlining the benefits to the Fund of engaging with civil society more strongly. Civil society is a source of advice, to get alternative views, can act as allies for goal attainment.
  • Some of the language could be improved, in terms of the cautions or upsetting the Government – which was put in by 2003 editorial revisions and is highly cautious. The guide also complains of many trade-offs and articulates the other tasks of the Fund as the ‘main business’, relegating CSO engagement.
  • More language about listening to and learning from civil society – language that is absent in the guide.
  • More positive language about critique and debate – the guide is nervous about even essentially democratic debate and contestation.
  • The guide underlines strongly that connections should go beyond the easy-to-contact, e.g. northern, urban, western-educated. That has not occurred, though the sponsorship process has been effective and positive. That should include attention to social movements.
  • Communications and media relating to CSOs is now very much part of the interaction and there is no guidance there at all.

Jo Marie Griesgraber  Language:

  • there are those who have a good understanding of the IMF – and those who are hostile and aggressive to the Fund provoke a hostile reaction, even having barred people in the past.  The staff responsibility is to deal with people who are prickly.
  • Governance of the IMF, in particular the Executive Board and whether a civil society council would be permitted, plus quota issues and other forms of governance reform – are not highly interesting but are very important.
  • The first evaluation was done by the IEO – they evaluated the review of the governments’ conversation with the IMF, which was very  hard-hitting.
  • An internal committee was set up and that report was ignored.
  • A final committee of experts named by the MD did not include a single civil society member – when challenged on this fact sought to set up a panel but the process was very slow.

Karla Chaman:

  • To be effective, does civil society have to understand how the institution works. Do we need to understand the nature of the institution, as has been noted it is highly top-down.
  • Of the issues raised, staff training is fundamental. The IMF conducted a 64% response rate internal survey – we were asking them specifically for their interaction fo the CSOs – it is not public yet but would be a part of the engagement with IMF.
  • There are large differences between DC staff and those on the ground who work often with civil society regularly.
  • Secondly the CSO dimension in country engagement lacks any institutional framework. In the same way there no language to engage with CSOs in policy review processes. Progress has occurred, for example on financial sector taxation and the engagement with northern and southern CSOs

Eurodad contribution

  • Transparency & accountibility
    • Though there have been improvements, mostly regarding release of documents. How it operates, how they interact and so on with governments and others shows that it is very hard for cs to engage.
  • The guide & selectivity
    • This is a problem for the Fund – when you tell the staff to be selective, it is an invitation to ignore.
    • For example the program to select civil society participants should not be conducted by the Fund, and it should allow cs to bring colleagues who work on the Fund in programme countries
  • Review of the document and review of implementation
    • Why is it that the Fund finds it difficult to convince staff to engage with civil society properly
    • It requires MD and management to demonstrate their interest in it, it should be incorporated into performance; how much
  • Attitudes & values
    • Most Fund staff may well be members of CSOs that they may regard highly,  but professionally they lack the ability to make the connection
  • Mechanisms and policies



Burma partner: How can new policies generate trust, in particular where as in our country private sector groups can be cronies of figures of government authority.

Malaysia partner: This entire summit feels like an opportunity to meet the CSO unit of the Fund, rather than the Fund itself.

There appears to be a lost opportunity, as CSOs are present and their governments are present in the same city and yet we are in one space, and they are in another. When approaching our officials they were shocked to see a member of their nation’s civil society. Shouldn’t the Fund facilitate a convening role to enable the interaction with government.

There is value in connecting groups of civil society over time – just as important is connections being maintained in country. It is important for civil society to understand.

Nigeria partner: When we in Nigeria engage the WB and IMF, and established an engagement plan, there is no commitment from the Fund, even in basic logistical terms and when our aim was to get the ministry of finance to engagement and we sought the Fund to provide commitment to pariticpate. The Fund just provided tea, and the willingness of CSOs dropped, and we cannot summon people with such little support.

Why can the Fund not support pilot countries to create a network of groups that can develop the expertise.

Jamaica partner: Holding the government accountable when negotiations between the government and Fund are very tightly controlled.

Kyrgyz partner: I would suggest that management ownership is very important. Regular and ad hoc consultation and engagement with civil society are absent. The engagement with CSOs must not be merely the responsibility of the CSO unit. In communications processes in particular there should be a key thematic priority, and each major department should have required and explicit involvement with civil society. This process should be transparent.

KC: A budget for a consultant has been approved to conduct the revision of the guidelines, which will be followed by a long consultation process next year.