World Bank-IMF annual meetings 2006 Civil society boycott, governments feud over corruption and votes
News||20 September 2006|
A comprehensive calendar of events, contact information for groups in Singapore and Batam, and links to documents released by civil society are available on IFIwatchnet.
The annual meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in Singapore faced a storm of controversy over the participation of civil society. As well as its usual ban on outdoor demonstrations, the government of Singapore refused entry clearance to 27 civil society representatives accredited by the World Bank. As the meetings got under way, it detained or deported at least a further two dozen, many of whom were on their way to the civil society conference on alternatives to the international financial insitutions on the nearby Indonesian island of Batam. There was also pressure on police authorities on this island to cancel the conference. This led more than 160 civil society organisations to declare a boycott of the World Bank and IMF's official agenda as a protest over the institutions' lack of commitment to full participation by civil society.
The boycott call was issued after civil society representatives were barred from entry to Singapore. As the meetings started, it became clear that Singapore was targeting more than just the 28 people initially believed to be on its "blacklist", as campaigners from Vietnam, India, Philippines, Brazil and other locations were detained at the airport, questioned and then deported. The statement says "The IMF and World Bank cannot escape responsibility for recent developments. Knowing full well the authoritarian character of the Singaporean Government, they appear to have picked Singapore as the site of their Annual Meetings because they wanted to avoid the legitimate and peaceful street protests that have been staged at earlier World Bank-IMF and World Trade Organization meetings." It goes on to declare, "In solidarity with those denied entry into Singapore and denied the exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association, we will stay away from all meetings and seminars in the official programme at the World Bank and IMF 2006 annual meetings in Singapore." The Bretton Woods Project has joined the boycott.
Citing security concerns and the threat to law and order, the Singaporean authorities contacted 20 indivduals from five organisations on 7 September to inform them that they would not be allowed to enter Singapore in advance of or during the meetings. The individuals from Europe and Asia were all issued accreditation by the World Bank to participate in the civil society seminars that occur alongside the official meetings of the Bank and Fund. Despite the individuals having been cleared by the Bank and their own governments' representatives to the Bank, the Singaporean authorities were steadfast in their refusal to allow them entry. The number of banned individuals was later increased to 28, though the full list was never released publicly.
The Bank and Fund issued a press release saying that they were taking up the cases of the banned individuals with the Singapore government. Despite reports that the memorandum of understanding between the institutions and the Singapore government indicated that the authorities would issue visas to all accredited delegates to the meetings, the Bank was not prepared to pursue legal redress for the violation of the agreement, or postpone the meetings. While many national governments, including Finland in its capcaity as the president of the European Union, made representations to the Singapore government, their efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
For more information please see the press releases issued by several civil society organisations:
Peoples Forum threatened
To coincide with the official meetings, dozens of convenors organised a parallel conference on the Indonesian island of Batam, just 45 minutes from Singapore by ferry, to discuss alternatives to the international financial institutions. The International Peoples Forum vs the World Bank and IMF also felt the security squeeze from Singapore, as it is reported that the authorities pressured the local police in Batam to cancel the conference, which expected more than 700 delegates from 45 countries.
At the beginning of September, the head of the local Indonesian police district announced that he would not allow the event to go forward. After a tense few days and much lobbying by the organisers of the conference, in particular the International Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), secured the approval of the national authorities and a permit for the event. The forum went ahead despite threats from local business interest groups in Batam to sideline the event. Workshop topics included: a day on issues specific to Indonesia, illegitimate debt, corruption, climate change, private banks and post-conflict reconstruction. The forum served as the venue for the official launch of the civil society boycott.
For more information please see the IPF web site
CSOs protest lack of voice
The Global Call to Action Against Poverty, a global coalition of development campaigners, made the first significant use of the confined space set aside for protest inside the convention centre in Singapore. Campaigners donned masks that read "No Voice" and stood in silence to protest against the lack of voice for developing countries and to launch the GCAP month of action. Meanwhile at the 'town hall' meeting with World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, civil society representatives staged a dramatic walk-out when they received inadequate answers to their questions about the Singaporean authorities' actions taken against civil society.
IMF: Shrink it or sink it!
Focus on the Global South hosted a conference on shrinking or replacing the IMF 17 September in Singapore. The conference went ahead despite the Singapore government initially refusing entry for all staff of hosts Focus on the Global South. The event opened with a press conference featuring two of the 'blacklisted' CSO participants who had returned to Singapore the night before. Antonio Tricarico of CRBM Italy and Jenina Joy Chavez of Focus on the Global South denounced both the Bank and Fund and the Singaporean government for what they said amounted to an "egregious violation of the rules of international diplomacy". Subsequent panels discussed the principles and institutions of an alternative international financial system.
For more information see Focus on the Global South
World Bank energy policy under scrutiny
A report published by international environment and development non-governmental organisations, including the Bretton Woods Project, concluded that the World Bank's promise to seriously support alternative energy sources remains unfulfilled. It coincides with the World Bank's own progress report of its clean energy investment framework which was up for discussion at the Development Committee meeting.
The World Bank's Investment framework is a response to a mandate from the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005. Its stated aims are to increase access to energy in developing countries, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector, and assist developing countries to adapt to climate change. NGOs counter that the World Bank's new investment framework on clean energy and development will not be effective at combating climate change and expanding energy access for the poor. The World Bank proposes raising $10 billion for conventional energy technologies, while selling renewable sources of energy short and promotes coal-fired power, nuclear power and large hydropower projects.
These organisations are calling on the World Bank, international financial institutions and governments to:
Pantoro Tri Kuswar, one of the reports co-authors from Friends of the Earth Indonesia/Walhi said "Poor communities in developing countries are already paying the highest prices of climate change, living with the impacts of heavy droughts and floods. The World Bank's focus on fossil fuel projects will not bring electricity to the poor, but rather lead to more pollution, conflict and corruption and do little to stop climate change".
For a copy of the report see How the World Bank's energy framework sells the climate and poor people short
Civil society organisations, including the Bretton Woods Project, released a briefing paper which details social and environmental problems at gold mines supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - the private financing arm of the World Bank. The report coincides with the 50th (or golden) anniversary of the IFC. It challenges the most common claims made by the IFC to prove that its mining projects are reducing poverty and improving people's lives, in light of the detrimental environmental and social impacts of case studies in Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Peru and Guatemala.
It calls on the IFC to report on development impacts on a project-by-project basis. Currently it only reports the poverty reduction and development impcats of the projects it finances on an aggregate, institution or sector-wide basis. Nikki Reisch, from the US NGO Bank Information Centre stated "unlike profits and losses in a financial portflio, poverty reduction, environmental damage, and impacts on individuals and communities can not be averaged across the IFC's portfolio. A farmer who loses his land near a mine in Peru does not benefit when a small business owner in central Europe gets a catering contract with a mining company."For a copy of the report see Tarnished gold: mining and the unmet promise of development
Civil society dialogues
The World Bank, the Fund and civil society organisations co-organised a set of seminars and dialogues alongside the annual meetings. Note that some events were cancelled in the wake of the Singaporean government's 'blacklisting' of nearly two dozen accredited civil society representatives and the ensuing boycott. As a result of our participation in the boycott, the Bretton Woods Project was unable to report from these meetings.
WB-IMF formal agenda
16 Sept: G24 ministers' meeting and G7 finance ministers' meeting
Highlights of the G24 communiqué
17 Sept: International Monetary and Financial Committee
Highlights of the IMFC communiqué
18 Sept: Development Committee
Highlights of the Development Committee communiqué
19 - 20 Sept: Plenary sessions
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Published: 20 September 2006 , last edited: 27 May 2010
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