Saturday, October 20, 2007

Global Call Against 'Harsh' World Bank Policies

The first day of a Global Week of Action on Debt and the World Bank Monday placed the World Bank, Sierra Leone's biggest lending financial institution, under serious pressure to change its 'harsh' lending policies.

A public hearing convened by World Bank Campaign Europe under the auspices of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT) at The Hague, The Netherlands reiterated the call by a broad platform of NGOs and social movements across the globe for a substantial change in the Bank's policies and practices; put an end to public financing of fossil fuel projects; an end to the imposition of strict conditionalities and a commitment by governments to launch public audits on foreign debt.

The hearing was an important opportunity to continue developing new approaches to the current area of activity, by deepening the analysis of the World Bank's role in various countries of the Global South.

The initiative was developed along two areas of work, namely the human, social and environmental consequences of the role of the Bank in imposing economic and policy conditionalities and its role in supporting fossil fuel extraction and use.

The PPT, in continuity with the Russell Tribunal supported by the Lelio Basso Foundation, has the stated goal of giving public profile and a juridical qualification to violations of fundamental rights that do not find a proper redress at the institutional level. It has based its actions on the Universal Declaration of Peoples' Rights of Algiers of 1976.

The expert panel heard testimonies by Gonzalo Salgado, of the National Consumer Defence Network (Nicaragua) on the liberalisation of electricity services; Collins Magalasi of Action Aid Malawi on the issue of food security; Temo Tamboura of CAD Mali on the liberalization of the cotton sector; Michael Karikpo of Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth Nigeria on the West African Gas Pipeline among many others.

The cases considered in the hearing show that the World Bank has been extremely influential in dealing with the state and the public sector in borrowing countries. Its interventions have gone much beyond its formal limited role of a lending agency and went into policy-making, prioritizing, budgeting and planning in every sector of governmental action.

"This has enabled the Bank to generate and force a development paradigm that is market-and-growth-oriented rather than aimed at meeting basic human needs while attaining social and environmental justice. As a matter of fact, its lending conditionalities lead to the conversion of life-supporting natural resources such as land, food, air, seeds and energy into merchandise," excerpt of the findings revealed.

The panel also made reference to the remarks made by the witnesses as to how the World Bank is imposing conditions on countries negotiating a loan, leaving little or no room for these countries to choose their own direction.

"In at least two cases, we noted that access to the HIPC debt reduction processes was conditioned to the implementation of structural adjustments and liberalization of economies, thereby producing a vicious circle of forced payment of increasing volumes of debt. Combined with an uneven distribution of resources and benefits, this has also resulted in a massive drain of national resources away from the imperatives that could ensure distributional and social equity and self-reliance." "In this process, the traditional, customary, cultural and territorial rights of local communities and indigenous peoples are compromised and sacrificed.

International conventions and UN covenants such as ILO 169 on the rights of indigenous populations have been ignored if not violated."

allAfrica.com: Sierra Leone: Global Call Against 'Harsh' World Bank Policies (Page 1 of 1)