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TWN Info on Finance and Development (Oct06/05)

3 October 2006


IFIS SUBVERTING RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT AND INCREASING POVERTY

Civil society groups have criticised the World Bank and IMF for subverting the right to development, violating human rights, undermining national sovereignty and intensifying poverty in a statement issued in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF annual meetings this year.

The statement issued by the organizers of the International People's Forum (IPF) and NGOs also criticised the Bretton Woods institutions for their failure to guarantee civil society access to their annual meetings held in Singapore from 19 -20 September.

In their statement, the IPF organizers called attention to the numerous obstacles they faced in preparing the Forum.

Below is a report summarising the IPF statement and giving background to the issue of access and participation of civil society groups at the Singapore meetings. It was published in the SUNS #6102 Wednesday 20 September.

With best wishes,
Martin Khor
Third World Network

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IFIs subverting right to development, increasing poverty
By Kanaga Raja (SUNS)

Published in SUNS 20 September 2006

''We find the World Bank and IMF responsible for policies and actions that lead to the intensification of poverty and deprivation, the violation of basic human rights, the curtailment of basic political and civil liberties, the undermining of national sovereignty and democratic governance, and the subversion of the right to development,'' the organizers of the International People's Forum on the World Bank-IMF charged on 18 September..

In a press statement issued following their meeting on 15-17 September in Batam, Indonesia, the organizers of the International People's Forum also set forth several demands with respect to the policies and practices of the World Bank and IMF, as well as restrictions that had been placed on the Forum.

The statement also celebrated the successful conclusion of the Forum's meeting on the World Bank and IMF, despite the many hindrances suffered by the convenors and participants in organizing and travelling to the Forum.

The 'International People's Forum versus the WB-IMF' was convened in Batam ahead of the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Singapore on 19-20 September.

The civil society gathering was forced to take place on the Indonesian island, a thirty-minute ferry ride from Singapore, after the host of the official WB-IMF meeting refused to allow the Forum to take place within its borders.

Media reports out of Singapore had also recounted several incidents where activists who flew into Singapore's international airport en route to Batam were detained and interrogated for several hours by the Singaporean immigration authorities before being deported.

In their press statement, the organizers of the International People's Forum (IPF) said that over 500 Indonesians participated in the Forum as did around 200 individuals from 25 countries representing at least 100 organizations.

The IPF, like other similar fora, has successfully demonstrated to the world that many diverse civil society organisations and social movements can meet in peace and unity, and have meaningful, in-depth and informed discussions on the policies and practices of International Financial Institutions (IFIs).

''Despite the many hindrances suffered by IPF convenors and participants in organising and travelling to the Forum, we met in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation to share information, insights and strategies on critical issues facing communities and peoples affected by World Bank and IMF operations,'' the statement said.

In their statement, the organizers called attention to the numerous obstacles they faced in preparing the Forum which, among other things, forced them to cancel outdoor events and caused at least 100 international individuals to forfeit their participation.

Reports indicated that at least 54 individuals from 17 organisations were either banned from entering Singapore, detained at the Singapore airport without explanation, subjected to custodial interrogation, and some were even deported.

''Furthermore, many continue to face problems entering Singapore as they travel home. We have yet to receive any explanation from either the Singapore government or the World Bank and IMF on why this has happened,'' the statement said.

The organizers took the World Bank and IMF to task on not meeting its promises to engage respectfully and openly with civil society organisations. The credibility of these promises has been seriously damaged ever since the World Bank and IMF were made aware of the restrictions that Singapore would place on the freedom of assembly for civil society during the Annual Meetings.

''After it became clear to us that Singapore would not allow the Forum to take place within its borders, we moved the IPF to Batam, Indonesia. We pledge solidarity with those committed to building a vibrant civil society in states that restrict essential rights such as the freedom of speech and we appreciate the Indonesian Government for allowing us to host the Forum in Batam,'' the organizers of the Forum said.

''In response to the banning and mistreatment of our colleagues, we launched a boycott of official engagement between the World Bank and IMF and civil society at the Annual Meetings. After individuals were 'un-banned,' we re-affirmed the boycott and labeled the actions of the Singapore Government as 'too little, too late','' they added.

''Each and every participating organisation will now and in the future critically re-examine its relationship vis-a-vis the World Bank and IMF and our future engagements, while not losing our focus on holding these institutions accountable for negative impacts associated with their operations.''

As a result of their analyses on the World Bank and IMF and drawing on their experiences in the last weeks, the organizers of the Forum made several demands.

Firstly, on the policies and practices of the World Bank and IMF, they re-invigorated 'The Global Call to Action Against the IFIs'.

In particular, they stressed the urgent need for: 100% cancellation of multilateral debt; open, transparent and participatory external audits of IFI lending and policies; stopping the imposition of policy conditions that undermine economic sovereignty and exacerbate crises in health and education; discontinuing the privatization of public services; and ending IFI involvement in environmentally destructive projects.

Secondly, in response to the restrictions placed on the IPF initiative:

* We demand from the World Bank and IMF an explanation as to why they proceeded with Singapore as the venue of the Annual Meetings when restrictions on civil society engagement were evident months in advance.

* We demand the full disclosure of all information pertaining to civil society participation including the Memorandum of Understanding between the World Bank and Government of Singapore and official and un-official lists of so-called 'banned individuals'.

Thirdly, to ensure that there is full accountability and transparency of the IFIs to peoples and communities that are affected by IFI operations:

* We call on the governments that are members of the World Bank and IMF Boards of Directors to keep these institutions fully accountable for their impacts on human rights, equity, and the sustainability of development.

 


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