What is the Bretton Woods Project?

14 January 2018 | Project news


The Bretton Woods Project envisions a global economic system that operates on the primary principles of justice, equity, human rights and environmental sustainability, with international institutions that are democratic, inclusive, transparent, accountable and responsive to citizens, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. The Project works to amplify the voices of marginalised populations, with a focus on the Global South, by providing avenues for expression, access to decision-makers and opportunities to explore prospects for cooperation with groups globally.


The Bretton Woods Project focuses on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to challenge their power and open space for civil society and social movements to contribute to the development of policies that are gender transformative, equitable, environmentally sustainable and consistent with international human rights norms. We do this because the Bank and Fund remain global opinion formers, funders and influential proponents and enforcers of economic and development policies.

Our history

Established in 1995 by the UK-based Bond Development and Environment Group (DEG) to support civil society to monitor the negative impacts of World Bank and IMF policies and activities, BWP has, throughout its history, developed extensive knowledge about the Bank and Fund as institutions and an in-depth understanding of their role within the broader international development landscape.

Our structure

The Bretton Woods Project is a civil society network hosted by ActionAid UK, based in London.

BWP’s current staff are Luiz Vieira (Coordinator), Isabel Alvarez (Communications Manager), Robert Bain (Financialisation and Human Rights Project Lead), Laure-Alizée Le Lannou (Environment Project Officer), Amy McShane (Gender Equality and Macroeconomics Project Officer), and Jon Sward (Environment Project Manager).

BWP’s Steering Group has a predominantly advisory nature, meeting regularly to review BWP’s activities and strategies. The Steering Group acts as a sounding board, giving strategic advice on policy direction and organisational matters such as staffing.

The Project is funded by NGOs in the UK BWI network, the CS Mott Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Forge Foundation, and the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. For an overview of BWP’s finances and funders see our latest annual report.

What we do

Since its establishment, the Bretton Woods Project has acted as a key World Bank and IMF watchdog by maintaining a critical information and evidence base that challenges their narrative of the developmental impact of their operations, policies and programmes on the countries they work in and globally.

Creating and disseminating knowledge and information, and actively engaging with officials, civil society, and academia, the Project has established itself as an important and credible critical voice, taken seriously by officials and trusted by partners.

From this foundation of experience and trust, the Project’s work is anchored to its contribution to three interrelated overarching frames: Environment, Human Rights and Democratic Governance. The Project continually assesses the extent to which its activities contribute to improvements in any of the three frames and adjusts its approaches to changes in the global geopolitical context and the role played by the IMF and the World Bank. The Bretton Woods Project has five strategic objectives:

  1. Enhance World Bank and IMF’s accountability, transparency and responsiveness.
  2. Better equip civil society to challenge the Bank and Fund as part of their overall strategies for change.
  3. Steer the World Bank and the IMF to adopt and implement policies and practices in line with the Project’s vision.
  4. Influence wider global financial architecture and development finance discourse.
  5. Contribute to partners’ awareness through thematic and issue-specific outcomes strengthened by actors’ attention to the role of the World Bank and the IMF.

The Project’s strategic bridging approach capitalises on the broad scope of its engagement by virtue of its focus on the World Bank and IMF at an institutional level to strengthen connections among groups operating in different contexts and with diverse perspectives and thematic focus.

The Bretton Woods Project’s communications are underpinned by its three flagship publications: The Observer, a quarterly critical review of developments at the World Bank and IMF; the Dispatch, a biannual analysis of the World Bank and IMF Spring and Annual Meetings; and the News Lens, a bi-weekly roundup of key news and critical viewpoints published about the World Bank and IMF.