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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.
Recording of Webinar :
- 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/
- “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).
Anuradha Munshi – firstname.lastname@example.org / 9792411555
Nishank – email@example.com / 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.
Action Week -India; 12th to 16th October, 2020
The World Bank Group (WBG) continues to be the lead Multilateral Development Bank defining development and reshaping policies and economies to fit the neo liberal 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 now tainted and halted for fudging of data, Ease of Doing Business report has played a devastating role in watering down environmental and labour laws in India. The Bank’s World development Report for 2021, which sets forth the interest and direction of its investments, points towards commodification of data.
The World Bank continues to grow its influence in India through state partnerships impacting local governance structures. They continue to venture into new and what seem to be more lucrative territories promoting privatisation and commodification of data, coastal regions, large renewables, large infrastructure, agriculture, health 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 DFIs with private financial entities making finance more complex and difficult to trace.
It is important as civil society, we respond and expose the Bank’s hidden agendas and lack of interest in inclusive and sustainable development for marginalised communities. The Bank organising its Annual general Meetings(virtual) from the 12th to 18th of October, 2020.
As a sign of protest to the Bank’s policies and interventions and impacts on economies Working Group on IFIs is organising a week of protest “World Without World Bank- Action Week- India” from 12th October to 16th October.
Program (12th -16th October, 2020)
12th October, 2020-
- World Bank Reform agenda (social media campaign)
- Agricultural Reforms (Social media campaign)
13th October, 2020-
- Health Sector, (Social media campaign)
- COVID-19 Response (Social media campaign)
- Webinar on “Covid-19 and IMF-World Bank: Did the Reform Agenda Get A Booster? – Experiences Globally”
14th October, 2020-
- Public Sector Banking Reforms – (Social media campaign)
15th October, 2020 –
- Ease of Doing Business, (Social media campaign)
- labour sector Reforms (Social media campaign)
- Webinar on “World Bank’s role in creating Smart Cities and it’s Socio political Impacts in Developing Countries- Voices from the South”
16th October, 2020-
- Energy Sector Reforms (Social media campaign)
More details will follow.
Recently, a piece of good news has appeared that World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) upholding the right to education in an official commitment and decided to freeze investments in private for-profit pre-primary, primary and secondary (k-12) schools. Currently, the whole world is facing the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and passing through very trying times, with a third of the global population under lockdown. School closures are impacting more than 1.5 billion children. In such a scenario, this is a big win for civil society and an encouraging decision in favour of billions of children, especially those who are at the margins and dependent on the public system.
This landmark decision by IFC has responded to the concerned voices about the effects on segregation and exclusion, inadequate education quality, avoidance of standards and regulations, poor labour conditions, and profit-seeking behaviour of commercial schools. Hundreds of civil society organisations including Right to Education Forum (RTE Forum) and individuals from different part of world urged earlier to the World Bank through an open letter to take a clear and principled position in support of free, publicly provided education and against the use of development aid to fund for-profit or commercial education. They raised the issue of increasing phenomenon of commercialization of education in lower-income countries because donors are actively using public aid money to drive privatization in these countries, including the World Bank group. They mentioned that while most of its funding goes to support public education provision, the World Bank is also funding some market-oriented public-private partnerships (PPPs) through its International Development Association (IDA). It is also actively advising countries to pursue PPPs and adopt reforms that reduce regulations and incentivizes the growth of private education markets. It has also increased its direct support to commercial private education providers through the International Finance Corporation (IFC)-including fee-charging, for-profit school chains, which clearly undermine state obligations as defined in international human rights law.
European Parliament and Global Partnership for Education (GPE),the biggest multilateral fund for education, had already taken strong positions against to support commercial or for-profit education provision. The UN Human Rights Council, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and various UN Treaty Bodies have also recognized the obligation to progressively secure free, public, not commercialized, education as a right.
In the year of 2015, The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education Mr. Kishore Singh has submitted his report to United Nation General Assembly wherein he had raised his concerns on the rapid expansion of privatization of education through deregulation and liberalization of education sectors. In this report, he has majorly highlighted the challenges of public-privatete partnership in education in safeguarding education as a public good. On similar lines, Education International, world’s largest teachers’ union held its 7th World Congress in Ottawa on July 2015, where it passed a resolution against privatization of education services.In its resolution, it said, “EI is concerned that privatization and commercialization policies have the effect of undermining the right to free quality public education and may create, exacerbate and entrench inequalities in access and participation as well as erode teaching and learning conditions in schools.”
These positions uphold the principle that education is a right, not a market commodity. Investing in free and inclusive education of good quality is the best way to ensure the fulfilment of SDG 4.
In India, there has been an incremental rise of privatization of education both in terms of increase in the number of private schools as well as in the numbers of students enrolled in them. The DISE data has provided trends of elementary education in India according to which there has almost 24.28 per cent increase in the number of private schools in between 2010-11 to 2014-15. In contrast, the growth of government schools is only 1.51 per cent. When it comes to the enrolment of students, during the same period, there is a steep rise of 24.42 per cent in private schools as against an 8.55 per cent decline in enrolment in Government schools. We need to keep in mind that it was in the year 2010 that the Right to Education Act 2009 came into force and in spite of this, there is a visible declining trend in public education both in terms of the number of schools as well as in enrolment of students in public schools. On the other hand, during the period private schools have not only been opened in large numbers and attracted students leaving the public school system. Inadequate spending on education by Govt of India proved one of the significant barriers for slow implementation of RTE Act within the stipulated timeline. It shows the apathy of state towards the strengthening of the public education system.
Private schools across rural and urban areas have been on the rise and a significant segment of education today, almost 30% of elementary education, 60% secondary education, and 75% higher education are privatized. There are different types of private unaided schools with varying fee structures: from low fee to elite, high fee demanding schools. Andhra Pradesh Government has signed an MOU with the private school chain, Bridge International Academy (BIA) for making the state their knowledge hub in the year of 2015. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has also invited the BIA to set up its India headquarter in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh. The entry of a big player like BIA with its deep pocket and highly influential investors like Facebook, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Bank etc, may lead to an even greater push for privatization of education in the country. Civil society in general and RTE Forum, in particular, have vehemently opposed the stance governments. Private schools are also trying to redefine the quality of education by their minimal standard of learning outcomes like reading, writing and numeracy. Five States of India –Manipur (73.3%), Kerala (62.2%), Haryana (54.2%), Uttar Pradesh (51.7%), and Meghalaya (51.7%) – have more than 50 per cent children in private schools (in the elementary school age group).
This trend of increase in private schools indicates the fact that education as ‘social public good’ is losing its base and privatization, commercialization and corporatization of public education are gaining momentum. There is an internationally known trend that reinforces the positive correlation between income and private schooling. In India, as household income increases, there is a greater tendency to send children to private schools, whereas children from the poorest households continue to access government schools. The data also clearly highlights gender bias in terms of more number of boys being sent to private schools as compared to girls. At a time when there is a fast growth of private schools in the country, thousands of government school are getting closed across India in the name rationalization/merger of schools.
According to a longitudinal study carried out by Azim Premji Foundation in Andhra Pradesh on school choice programme, “contrary to general perception, fee-charging private schools are not able to ensure better learning for children from disadvantaged rural sections as compared to government schools.” It also makes it clear that private schools do not add any value as compared to government schools when socio-economic factors are adjusted. It also says that several factors, both inside and outside of school, have a bearing upon the learning outcome of a child. This is a trend that is also highlighted in international literature: the DFID comprehensive review on the functioning of private schools (Day Ashley et al, 2014) also concludes that there is ambiguity about the size of the true private school effect.
The recently adopted Abidjan Principles on the right to education lays out the existing human rights obligations in this regard and guide how IFC can ensure its investments support the right to public education.
Civil society organizations welcome the IFC’s leadership in recognizing that its education investments must not undermine the right to education, including public education, and that there have been concerns with past investments in this regard.
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