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World Without World Bank Possible: Activists

Action Week on World Bank Brings Together Social & Political Activists, Probing their Past  and Demanding Accountability

Press Release |  October 16, 2020

New Delhi: A key message reverberating in the week long protest action was that a World Without World Bank is possible. Participated by people’s movements, civil society groups, senior political and social activists and concerned citizens, the week witnessed multiple actions, within the limitations imposed upon by the pandemic.

The Action Week from October 12-16, under aegis of Working Group on International Financial Institutions (WGonIFIs) was observed by online meetings, webinars and using social media to look into the past performance of the World Bank in critical sectors, which impacted the economy as a whole, and in particular, people, their livelihoods and environment. The purpose behind the protest week was to expose the Bank’s hidden agendas to push neo-liberalization and a lack of focus on either inclusive or sustainable support for the countries and people battling marginalisation. 

The week-long protest saw senior political and social activists and concerned citizens voice their concerns regarding the manner in which the World Bank has been pushing for a policy reform agenda changing the Indian economy and polity against the interests, rights and basic needs of the common citizens. In a video message eminent activist Medha Patkar stated World Bank is undemocratically influencing our policies, impacting our sovereignty and violating our constitution.” She further stated that “We can live without the World bank. The World without the World Bank can certainly be taking the alternative path, which we all are compelled to think about after COVID-19 and all calamities based on climate change.”

Many other activists, academicians and trade unionists voiced their concern over the manner in which the Bretton Woods Institutions have been pushing for privatisation in public services, dilution of environmental and labour laws, exploitation of natural resources in the name of Development , which have been detrimental to the interests of the marginalised. The other voices included Goldman Environmental Prize winner Prafulla Samantara, noted environmentalist Vandana Shiva, Afsar Jafri of GRAIN, CPI(M) Central Committee Member Vijoo Krishnan, Amulya Nidhi of Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan (JSA), Leo Saldanha of Environmental Support Group (ESG), Right Livelihood Award winner Sandeep Pandey, Former General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) Com. Thomas Franco; Madhuresh Kumar of National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM),  General Secretary of  Bank Employees Federation of India (Tamil Nadu) C.P. Krishnan, Joint Secretary of All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) Com. Devidas Tuljapurkar, Maju Varghese of Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), General Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) Com. Amarjeet Kaur, environmentalist Ashish Kothari,  President of Nagpur Municipal Corporation Employees Union Jammu Anand, Sreedhar Ramamurthi of Environics Trust, Vimal Bhai of Matu Jan Sangathan, Patron of All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) K. Ashok Rao, Rajkumar Sinha of Chutka Parmanu Virodhi Sagarsh Samiti, Ashok Shrimali of Mines Mineral & People (MMP), energy expert Soumya Dutta and others who spoke about the impact of World Bank investments and reform agenda on agriculture, energy, environment, banking, health care sectors and on labour rights.

As part of the week long action, two international webinars were organized “IMF-World Bank: Did the Reform Agenda Get A Booster? –  Experiences Globally” and “World Bank’s role in creating Smart Cities  and it’s Socio political Impacts in Developing Countries- Voices from the South and Covid- 19” on the 13th and 15th of October, 2020. These webinars brought together speakers from the Netherlands, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh and India. Researchers, civil society members from across the world participated in the webinars, which especially brought together the voices from the global south,  coming together to discuss the commonalities of experiences vis-a-vis World Bank investments and policy push. 

In the webinar on COVID-19 speakers Nezir Saini from Recourse based in Netherlands, Hasan Mehedi from Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), Bangladesh  and Anuradha Munshi from Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) agreed on the concerns regarding the increasing external debt situation as the support from these institutions are in form of loans. IMF and World Bank funding for COVID-19 in developing countries is attached to policy reforms which will affect the social and health sectors and  encourage private players. This would be disastrous when the need for good public health infrastructure and care is more than ever before. 

In the webinar on Smart Cities speakers Jelson Garcia, an Independent researcher from Philippines, Elisa Sutanudjaja from Rujak Center for Urban Studies, Indonesia, Prof. Kris Hartley from The Education University of Hong Kong, and Gaurav Dwivedi, Centre for Financial Accountability agreed that the World Bank’s push for large and smart infrastructure has disempowered the already marginalised communities and pushed them to peripheries, destroyed traditional livelihoods, undermined the local governance bodies like municipal corporations and is creating parallel governance structures and pushing for privatisation of public services through PPP model, etc.

The movements and CSOs vowed to intensify monitoring World Bank and other international financial institutions and their agenda, negatively impacting India and its economy.

Resources

Recording of Webinar :

  1. World Bank’s Role In Creating Smart Cities  And It’s Socio Political Impacts In Developing Countries – Voices from the South: https://www.facebook.com/wgonifis/videos/912890472453195/
  2. “Covid-19 and IMF-World Bank: Did the Reform Agenda Get A Booster? –  Experiences Globally”: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=255382015914969

The Video messages of Medha Patkar, Prafulla Samantara, Vandana Shiva and others can be accessed here:  https://wgonifis.net/videoswwwb/

Issued by Working Group on International Financial Institutions (WGonIFIs).

Contact:

Anuradha Munshi – anuradha@cenfa.org / 9792411555

Nishank – nishank@cenfa.org / 9910137929

Working Group on International Finance Institutions (WGonIFIs) is a collective of organisations and individuals in India to critically look at and evaluate the policies, programmes and investments of various International Finance Institutions (IFIs), and joining the celebration of the people and communities across the world in resisting them.


Indian Civil Society Groups Announce “World Without World Bank” Action Week

Highlight the Impacts on Key Sectors in India During IMF-WB 2020 Annual Meetings

Date: 12 October, 2020

New Delhi: People’s Movements, Civil Society Groups, and concerned citizens are coming together to protest the World Bank’s policies, interventions and impacts which negatively impacted the Indian economy as a whole, and in particular in some key sectors, in a week-long protest, “World Without World Bank – Action Week India” from October 12-16. The purpose behind the protest week is to expose the Bank’s hidden agendas to push neo-liberalization and a lack of focus on either inclusive or sustainable support for the countries and people battling marginalisation.

The IMF-Bank is having its 2020 Annual General Meetings (virtual) from October 12-18, 2020.  

The World Bank Group continues to be the lead Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) defining development and reshaping policies and economies to fit the neoliberal agenda. COVID-19 has provided the Bank a window to reinvent its relevance through support to countries in fighting the pandemic. This support is coming through development policy loans which are silently pushing for policy reforms. The Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, now tainted and halted for fudging of data, has played a devastating role in watering down environmental and labour laws in India and elsewhere. The Bank’s World Development Report for 2021, which sets forth the interest and direction of its investments, points towards commodification of data. 

India’s engagement with the World Bank dates back to several decades back with the first lending in ‘50s for the railway project. Later in 1968 a huge protest against the then World Bank President Robert McNamara for his role in the Vietnam war as the Defence Secretary of US, when he visited Kolkata led to his return from the airport itself, without being allowed to step out of it due to protests.

The late ‘80s and early ‘90s witnessed protests against World Bank lending to Narmada dam and later Singrauli power projects, directly resulting in World Bank’s withdrawal from Narmada dam and constitution of Inspection Panel, the first ever accountability mechanism in any MDB.

In late ‘90s, government tried to nominate WB staff to the Planning Commission of India, which the Left parties vehemently opposed and thwarted.

A number of protests happened during the decades of 90s and 2000s. Some of the significant ones are against Vishnugad Pipalkoti and Allain Duhangan hydro projects, Mumbai Urban Transport Project, struggles against the privatisation of health, water and power sectors.

The decade following that saw a valiant struggle against the power project in Kutch Gujarat – the Tata Mundra project. Filing a case in United States against the private sector arm of the World Bank – the International Finance Corporation – resulted in the Supreme Court of US ruling that World Bank does not enjoy absolute immunity from law suits, taking the efforts to hold MDBs accountable to a different level and giving an opportunity to communities around the globe to hold World Bank legally liable for the damages causing to them because of irresponsible lending.

The Bank continues to grow its influence in India through state partnerships impacting local governance structures. They pursue new and what seem to be more lucrative territories promoting privatisation and commodification of data, coastal regions, large renewables, large infrastructure, agriculture, health, etc. with little regard to impacts on communities, their rights over resources and to human rights. With the approach of maximising finance for development, there is a deeper connection of Development Finance Institutions with private financial entities making funding more complex and difficult to trace. These institutions despite claims of responsible funding and poverty alleviation continue to operate with lack of accountability and transparency.  

During the week-long protest Indian groups plan to organise a media campaign, online seminars and meetings to highlight the impacts of  the World Bank funding  in various sectors in India including health, agriculture, infrastructure, energy, labour, environment and on the Bank’s agenda of neoliberal policy reforms.

For more details: www.wgonifis.net

Issued by Working Group on International Financial Institutions.

Contact:

Anuradha Munshi – anuradha@cenfa.org / 9792411555

Nishank – nishank@cenfa.org / 9910137929

Working Group on International Finance Institutions (WGonIFIs) is a collective of organisations and individuals in India to critically look at and evaluate the policies, programmes and investments of various International Finance Institutions (IFIs), and joining the celebration of the people and communities across the world in resisting them.