What is the Bretton Woods Project?

14 January 2018 | Project news


The Bretton Woods Project (BWP) envisions a global economic system that operates on the primary principles of justice, equity, gender equality, 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 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 developmental 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.

BWP has developed a rigorous approach to monitoring the Bank and Fund and created a critical information and evidence base. BWP has established itself as an important and credible critical voice that is respected by officials and trusted by partners. It provides a platform for civil society concerns, disseminates critical knowledge and engages with officials and civil society partners.

Our structure

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

BWP’s current staff are Luiz Vieira (Coordinator), Jon Sward (Environment Project Manager), Chris Hope (Gender Project Manager), and Isabel Alvarez (Communications Manager). BWP also benefits from the invaluable contributions of volunteers.

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

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

What we do

As rooted in our mission, the Bretton Woods Project acts as a watchdog by monitoring the World Bank and IMF, with a particular focus on the impact of Bank and Fund policies and activities on the environment, human rights and democratic governance. We build and maintain an information and evidence base and are a credible critical voice on the Bank and Fund and on their role in the broader international finance landscape.

We work to amplify the voices of marginalised communities, social movements and civil society partners from the Global South by providing avenues for expression, access to decision-makers and opportunities to explore prospects for cooperation with groups globally.

As part of our work monitoring the Bank and Fund, BWP acts as a repository and a platform of critical news, evidence and analysis that it disseminates to civil society and official audiences.

BWP coordinates and consults with UK-based civil society organisations, including a BWI-UK email list, functioning as a ‘network hub’ and a ‘port of call’ for both UK officials and CSO partners working on Bank and Fund and related IFI issues, and acting as an interlocutor between IFIs and civil society partners.

In order to keep civil society and the public informed about the Bank and Fund, BWP produces a range of communications outputs. The Bretton Woods Observer is a quarterly critical review of developments at the World Bank and IMF, the News Lens is a twice-monthly electronic roundup of news and critical viewpoints from the global media and civil society about the Bank and IMF. Alerts highlight both BWP’s geopolitical analyses around the World Bank and IMF Spring and Annual meetings in the Dispatch and other information about new publications and events. Find out more about our subscriptions here.

Finally, BWP undertakes activities that have specific direct, time-bound and targeted objectives in terms of bringing about particular policy changes at the Bank or Fund. The current advocacy projects focus on Environment, Private Finance and Gender Equality and Macroeconomics.

The Bretton Woods Project adjusts to changes in the global geopolitical context and the changing roles of the Bank and Fund by actively adapting the approaches it uses to achieve the changes it seeks. In order to ensure that its vision, mission and objectives appropriately respond to changes in its operational environment, the Project conducts a periodic strategic review that informs revisions to its strategic plan. The current strategic plan initiated in 2017 follows the previous strategy developed in 2010.