Over the last generation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have facilitated the financialisation of the global economy and of international development, driving the restructuring of economies in the Global South to prioritise international financial interests over their own populations, with far reaching impacts on internationally-recognised human rights like the right to water, housing and the right to development itself.
While most people are unfamiliar with the term ‘financialisation’, it has become such an important process shaping the world economy, and people’s lives in the Global North and South, that according to many economists we now no longer live in the age of ‘industrialised capitalism’. We have now entered a new era of ‘financialised capitalism’. The economic, political, social and cultural impacts of financialisation have been so severe it has been recognised as a threat to human rights by 17 United Nations Special Rapporteurs, including on the right to development, safe drinking water, housing and a democratic and equitable international order.
Financialisation has had profound impacts on the global economy, resulting in the restructuring of economies in the Global North and South to the detriment of people living in both regions. Its effects in the Global South have been especially pernicious as it has directly or indirectly undermined the autonomy of states in the Global South to meet their international human rights obligations and respond to the current global polycrisis, from the climate emergency and the current economic crisis to the growing poverty and inequality that impact the daily lives of people in the Global South.
The Bretton Woods Project’s Financialisation and Human Rights project aims to highlight the role of the World Bank and IMF in driving the financialisation of the Global South, and explain why it should matter to civil society organisations working on issues related to economic justice, gender and human rights, and catalyse activism on financialisation and financialisation-related issues. The Project believes that financialisation is not inevitable and that coordinated cross-sector action is urgently required to mitigate its impact and overturn the dominance of financial sector interests.
- Financialisation and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, Bretton Woods Project, October 2023
- Civil Society calls for rethink of World Bank’s ‘evolution roadmap’ as part of wider reforms to highly unequal global financial architecture, CSO joint briefing, July 2023
- Financial liberalisation, capital controls and development in Africa: The case of Uganda, by Jane Nalunga (SEATINI Uganda), July 2023
- How IMF and World Bank support for financialisation undermines human rights, by Francisco Cantamutto (Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina), April 2023
- Monetary power and sovereign debt crises: The renewed case for a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism, by Dr Karina Patricio Ferreira Lima (University of Leeds), October 2022
- Recipe for disaster: The IMF and World Bank’s role in the financialisation of food and agriculture, by Flora Sonkin (Society for International Development), April 2020
- Civil society calls for World Bank to reroute ‘Evolution Roadmap’ away from Cascade, Summer 2023
- Word Bank promotes agricultural corporations at cost of food security in Africa, Summer 2023
- World Bank’s financial inclusion agenda blind to growing gendered over-indebtedness, Spring 2023
- Corporations are expanding control over Ukraine’s land with help from the IMF and the World Bank, Spring 2023
- IMF debt sustainability analysis in times of compounding crises: Still unfit for purpose, Autumn 2022
- IMF seeks to ‘unleash’ private climate finance, as experts question ‘de-risking state’ model, Autumn 2022
- G20 review calls for increased MDB lending as World Bank ignores urgent need for policy changes, Autumn 2022
- The human face of the World Bank’s private sector bias: The privatisation of Kenya’s healthcare, Summer 2022
- World Bank and IMF’s response to global food crisis misses mark, as financial speculation drives food prices to historic highs, Summer 2022
- Civil society hails IFC’s divestment from for-profit education provider Bridge International Academies, Spring 2022
- IMF capital control review: A missed opportunity to support a just recovery and stability, Spring 2022
- World Bank-backed water bill sparks anti-privatisation movement in Nigeria, Spring 2021
- COVID-19 crisis highlights urgency of reconsidering World Bank’s MFD approach, Spring 2020
- Financial flows, capital controls, and development impacts in the Global South, Civil Society Policy Forum panel, April 2023
- Implications of financial deepening for inequality and its impact on gender, poverty, and marginalization, Civil Society Policy Forum panel, October 2022
- Winds of change: the future of tax reforms in Latin America, Civil Society Policy Forum panel, October 2022
Financialisation & Human Rights Project Lead