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Civil Society and Multilateral Banking: after a decade of dialogue, what's next?

Civil Society and Multilateral Banking: after a decade of dialogue, what's next?


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By Miguel Pickard

Multilateral banking has been governing the economic destiny of the planet, to a greater or lesser degree, since the conclusion of the Second World War. The two leading banks are the World Bank and the IMF, both essentially controlled by the United States government.

Multilateral banking has been governing the economic destiny of the planet, to a greater or lesser degree, since the conclusion of the Second World War. We understand multilateral banking as the institutions that emerged from the Bretton Woods agreements in 1944, that is, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today there are also the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank, which together make up the World Bank Group. Then, apart, but very close in orientation, there are a series of regional development banks, such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. The two leading banks are the World Bank and the IMF, both essentially controlled by the United States government.

By the 1980s, there were decades of evidence of the environmental, social and economic destructiveness of projects financed by multilateral banks in the developing world. The '80s were also years in which multilateral banks demanded in a generalized way from developing countries the implementation of structural adjustment policies, measures tested under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, among other places, a decade earlier. The first symptoms of structural adjustment began to be felt even in the 1980s: growing unemployment, growing poverty, greater difference between rich and poor, meager rates of economic growth and loss of national autonomy in conducting the economy.

The deepening ravages of adjustment, plus the environmental and social disasters caused by ill-conceived loans, led organized civil society to react, creating civil society organizations (CSOs) that would fight against (or for reforms to) policies of multilateral banking. Many tactics were developed in an effort to influence multilateral banking. One of them was to demand dialogue with the banks for the review of their operational policies.

CSOs have always had a wide range of opinions in dialogue with multilateral banks. At one extreme are the CSOs that are not willing to even sit at the same table with the banks, explaining that beyond the dialogue, there are fundamental political-ideological differences that will prevent, sooner rather than later, reaching an agreement between the parties. The ideological gap is so great that it cannot be "bridged" through dialogue. In addition, these CSOs affirm that the banks' willingness to dialogue does not really exist. It is a public relations trick, to improve the image of the bank, but without substance or substance.

There are other CSOs that, without prejudice to the ideological gap, have decided to sit at the dialogue table. This in order to "test the waters", accept in good faith the (supposed or real) opening of multilateral banking, in order to provide research, data, analysis, evidence, testimonies, proposals and alternatives, and with all this try to reform some of its most harmful practices. Some CSOs that have dealt with banking for a decade or more in an effort to access information, reform their business, etc., say they have seen "sincere" attempts to institute reforms, especially from the World Bank and its current president James Wolfensohn.

There are still other CSOs that, like the previous ones, approached the multilateral banking system, perhaps with critical approaches and reformist wishes, but that ended up being co-opted. Expensive trips to meetings, forums, encounters, bonuses and fees offered in exchange for research, and other perks, undermined, most of the time, systemic and systematic criticism. In the words of a social fighter from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, these CSOs have no credibility, they are "a Trojan horse" and "they are working to slow down the real opposition."

But has it been worth being in this dialogue? Are there achievements to demonstrate? Are the economic costs for CSOs (in terms of the financial and human resources that have been devoted to the "battle with the banks") and also the political costs, are related to the benefits obtained?

If we refer to the global evidence, the reality is that disasters continue. Some examples in recent years have been the collapse of the Russian economy in the 1990s and the general misery of its population, the catastrophe of the Asian crisis and, more recently, the tragedy in Argentina, all attributable in part to the economic policies implemented. due to pressure from multilateral banks. As author David Korten says in an evaluation of the Bretton Woods institutions 50 years after their creation, the institutions have met their goals in terms of expanding trade and economic growth. But tragically they have failed in their purpose. There are more poor people in the world in absolute and relative numbers, the gap between rich and poor is widening and generalized violence is devastating the social fabric of communities and countries. Furthermore, the ecosystems of the planet are deteriorating rapidly.

At that level, it seems that CSOs have not had much influence on multilateral banking. But the funny thing is that multilateral banks seem to be restless. Troubled by CSOs? So it seems, at least this is demonstrated by their growing closure towards CSOs and their approaches.

If we are guided by the recent tests and statements, the faithful of the balance points towards an entrenchment of the hard positions within all the multilateral banking. CSOs have found that there is no will to implement minimum measures to even make the work of this bank transparent, let alone find a less disastrous formula in the social sphere than the current structural adjustment policies. Multilateral banking continues to affirm its willingness to recognize errors, be more responsible, more environmentally friendly in its decisions, to establish policies of citizen responsibility and environmental safeguard, to pay special attention to indigenous peoples, women, children, etc. ., but the words are remaining only for the image, without substance behind.

It is also the attitude, expressed in other ways, of other international organizations that are setting the economic "rules of the game" such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). An attitude of blockade, contempt, non-compliance, postponement, delay, co-option and neglect is spreading among them.

If civil society and its monitoring bodies seem to have had so little impact on the policies of multilateral banking, in the face of evidence of so much disaster around the world, how to explain the banking's growing concern towards it and its entrenchment? One working hypothesis is that multilateral banks seem to have radicalized their positions since the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, perhaps a little earlier.

Let's briefly see why. (one)

There is no less concern that has generated in the high circles of power, mainly in Washington, the ability to act of groups organized in networks. In English the term "netwar" is already in use, something like the war (or struggle) of the networks. For strategists, networks of groups or people with similar interests have become a real force with the capacity to effect changes in the established order. These networks can be made up of terrorists, drug traffickers, armed groups and their local and international supporters (as the EZLN is a paradigm) and, of course, also by CSOs. For strategists, all of these networked groups, from Al Qaeda to CSO human rights networks, are sides of the same coin ("dark forces" on one side and "benign" forces on the other). They are of the same currency because, for the strategists, these groups are exerting "netwar", that is, struggles as networks, and with new tactics. Therefore, every network has to be analyzed with the same lens, even if it has violent or peaceful methods, because the response to these struggles will be similar in both cases, although perhaps of different intensity.

The September 11 attacks unequivocally emphasized how the "netwar" can achieve spectacular achievements, based on new tactics, which include the use of new technologies, but also due to its new forms of organization, not very hierarchical, with units independent but jointly coordinated actions. Exemplifying why practitioners of "netwar" have to be answered using the same standard, strategists believe that both the protesters who managed to paralyze the WTO summit meeting in Seattle in December 1999 and the alleged members of Al Qaeda in the planes of the 11 In September, they used new and similar tactics typical of network structures. The ends can be different, even opposed, and the methods too, but at the tactical level they share similarities. Another important example of the networks' action was the setback that mobilized and "interconnected" civil society inflicted on the forces of globalization when the MAI (Multilateral Investment Agreement) was defeated in 1998. Analysts attribute the blow to the MAI to a great extent. part of the worldwide protests that could be armed, almost in sync, thanks to the Internet.

For some observers it is evident that civil society "entangled" (sorry for the term), that is, linked in networks, mobilized and informed, has the capacity to "sand the well-oiled cogs" of globalization. That is the heart of the matter. Organized civil society, organized in networks, is touching a very sensitive point, the world economic order. It constitutes a latent danger, which has already made its mark.

How to deal with this "tangled" civil society must be one of the concerns of some strategists in power circles. While a coherent strategy to deal with it is being proposed, tested and refined, it is not idle to think that, for the time being, the order is blunt: limit or eliminate concessions towards CSOs. Will we be in the wake of George Bush's slogan, "or are you with us or are you with the enemy?

The evidence for this greater closure is indirect. The officials of the multilateral banks continue to publicly profess their desire to dialogue and "review" the opinions and suggestions of organized civil society. In any case, the hypothesis of a new closure can be raised until the evidence proves otherwise. But the recent statements by CSOs on multilateral banking are eloquent. Let's read some:

In a November 2001 statement, the US CSOs Development Gap and the International Rivers Network stated:

"Despite its calls on protesters to get off the streets and engage in dialogue, the World Bank, six years after James Wolfensohn took office, is still not ready to work constructively with citizens in the South and South. in the North to address the Bank's policies and operations that affect them most directly… The Bank remains inflexible in imposing its economic agenda around the world and unwilling to use the valuable knowledge that civil society has been providing to in order to promote economic justice, progress and stability. "

Stephen Corry, CEO of Survival International, stated the following in a letter to the World Bank's Indian Peoples Policy Coordinator:

"As countless studies, evaluations and reports have so painfully demonstrated, the biggest problem in any discussion of World Bank policies toward indigenous peoples is that the policies are continually violated. You are undoubtedly aware of the many criticisms leveled at the projects. of the World Bank during the 1980s and 1990s, but Survival's experience suggests that many of the same problems still exist today. To take just one example: nineteen years after the World Bank loaned $ 900 million to Brazil and its CVRD mining company to develop the iron deposits, and although it was a condition of the project to recognize all indigenous territories within the area, the indigenous Awa in the state of Maranao are still waiting for their lands to be officially recognized and protected. This lack of protection has had fatal consequences for the Awa: their lands have been invaded by loggers, finquer you and settlers, and many of the Awa have died. "

In another testimony to the growing anger and frustration of indigenous groups towards multilateral banking, less than two months ago, in March 2002, indigenous leaders from around the world wrote to World Bank President James Wolfensohn expressing their "deep concern and frustration." regarding the revision of the World Bank policy on indigenous peoples. The policy, indigenous leaders said, "sets standards far below accepted and binding human rights standards for most of the Bank's member [countries]… This is especially evident, for example, from the fact that [ the policy] fails to guarantee indigenous rights to lands, territories and resources. […] Consultations on the policy [towards indigenous peoples] have been superficial and substantively inadequate. We are extremely disappointed by the process, implemented with ambiguous and misleading presentations On behalf of the Bank staff In addition, the Bank staff in charge of the review has refused a priori to address the issues that we consider to be the most important, while continuing to insist that the Bank is participating in good faith in consultations with us. These topics are: land rights, the right to free and informed consent and self-determination. "

A researcher from Focus on the Global South, Shalmali Guttal, published in March 2002 a revealing report on the information policies of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Comment the following:

"More important than the information they disclose is what they do not disclose. The World Bank's recently revised disclosure policy continues to focus on informing decisions already made, rather than the information necessary for the public to participate in making decisions. […] According to the Bank Information Center (BIC), a US-based policy research organization, which has closely followed the World Bank's information release policy, under the new policy , the Bank essentially renounced its responsibility to be transparent, by transferring decisions about the release of information to the borrowing governments. Clearly, the Bank chose to deny the public their right to access important documents related to structural adjustment loans. "

What Guttal says about the ADB below is also true of all multilateral banking:

"The BAD proudly promotes its website and offers the number of published reports available on the website, as evidence of its commitment to open information. However […] what is available on the website or in print does not it is relevant to the ADB's decision-making process. Too many decisions are made in closed, informal discussions that must be accessible to the public. "

Development Gap and the International Network of Rivers concluded that there are these constants in the initiatives that the World Bank has taken to reach out to civil society:

· "The WB's contempt for many of the agreements and commitments made with the citizen organizations with which it has worked.
· "The World Bank makes efforts to control and manipulate its work and to use consultations with civil society to validate and promote its own positions and objectives.
· "When it cannot control the initiatives, the WB moves away from its results and avoids the implementation of the recommendations."

The same common denominators that CSOs have found in their dealings with the World Bank for years are repeated in the case of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Some citizen organizations that have pressured the IDB to have more information on aspects of the Puebla-Panama Plan (PPP) have found the same thing: leaking of information, little advance notice of public meetings, manipulated "public" consultations to provoke the desired conclusions, etc. .

In a meeting in March 2002 in Washington with civil society organizations, IDB representatives were blunt in their perception of the role of citizen organizations in public consultations on the PPP: "... this process is controlled by us; you (organizations civil society) should not try to control the process. There is a perception that they are trying to control the process. Governments drive the consultative process. Governments do not always do their job. We will find an NGO / civil society group in each country to coordinate consultations ".

Despite persistent criticism of the public consultation process on the PPP, IDB officials were also adamant that the participation methodology "did not change."

At the aforementioned meeting, Marcelo Antinori, IDB coordinator for the PPP, said that the IDB "is not happy with the consultative process in the region. [IDB staff in the PPP countries] do not provide information because 1) does not know it; 2) is afraid to do so. [Staff] will share information when they perceive that there is a friendly environment. There must be a friendly environment. It is a high priority of the IDB to train our staff to deal with civil society. No It is an innate ability and especially if you have worked in an organization like this Bank for more than a decade. If the IDB does not have people who can talk about the PPP in all offices, it can be trained. There are countries where it is more difficult to have meetings, for example Mexico, due to the political issues of indigenous law that go beyond the PPP, so we don't try anything. "

Another example of the same? The Alianza Frente al BID and Rede Brasil networks concluded in December of last year that after four years of meetings with the IDB's executive vice president, "little substantive progress has been made on key issues of concern" and they resolved to suspend their participation until change the situation.

In other words, even when CSOs manage to have face-to-face meetings with senior officials of the multilateral banks, the concrete results are few, due to the enormous amount of what we will generously call "straw" that the officials generate. Atole with your finger, others will say.

The old question "What to do" prevails. Will CSOs follow the same tactics of seeking friendly dialogue with multilateral banks, knowing that the results will be meager or nil? Or is it time to shift priorities towards "netwar" (although we should not adopt this neologism, because of its association with war). Are they exclusive tactics?

It is obvious that the fight is on many fronts. The evolution of network tactics in recent years points to this. Each CSO in a network must have the independence to carry out the struggle it deems appropriate, but it must be interconnected, in formal and informal networks, in order to act in coordination as the situation requires. The advances in recent years in the fight for a fairer economic order point to the advantages of acting in networks.

(1) For a much more detailed analysis of networks and new tactics, see John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt's book "Networks and Netwars", RAND, 2001.

Sources consulted:

Inter-American Development Bank, discussion paper, "Citizen participation in the activities of the Inter-American Development Bank," October 27, 2000.
Corry, Stephen, Survival International, Letter to Navin Rai from the World Bank, July 27, 2001.
Development Gap and International Rivers Network, Press Release: "Critics attempts at constructive dialogue find World Bank less than engaging", November 9, 2001.
Fox, Jonathan, University of California, Santa Cruz, "Social Control and Supervision of Multilateral Development Banking," July 1996.
Guttal, Shalmali, "Openness or disappointment? Multilateral institutions and access to information", Focus on the Global South, March, 2002.
InterAction, Committee on Development Policy and Practice, E-bulletin: Inter-American Development Bank Civil Society Initiative, March, 2002.
Korten, David, "The failures of Bretton Woods", article in the book by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, "The case against the global economy and for a turn toward the local", Sierra Club, San Francisco, 1996.
Various indigenous leaders, letter to James Wolfensohn, President World Bank, March 15, 2002.
See also the pages of the Bank Information Center (www.bicusa.org) and Transparency (www.transparencia.org). * By Miguel Pickard
CIEPAC, A.C.
Center for Economic Research and Community Action Policies
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.ciepac.org


Video: The role of banks in the economy February 2013 (July 2022).


Comments:

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  2. Alarico

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  3. Adir

    does not agree at all

  4. Kinsella

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  5. Norvin

    Absurd situation resulted

  6. Keyser

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