Sunday, April 17, 2005

Washington Post on World Bank/IMF Protests

Protest of Meetings Of Finance Leaders Is Colorful, Subdued
D.C. Police Report No Arrests at Gathering
By Petula Dvorak Washington Post Sunday, April 17, 2005

In the warm spring sunshine, a couple of hundred protesters outnumbered police and took over parts of downtown Washington yesterday, using puppets and percussion to send their message to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund during the groups' spring meetings. The peaceful demonstration, which called for the cancellation of debt for poorer nations, came on the five-year anniversary of one of the anti-globalization movement's seminal rallies. Then, about 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Washington in a driving rain, interrupting the financial meetings and triggering a large police response that ended in hundreds of arrests. There were no arrests yesterday, and the meetings were not affected. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said there were no reported acts of vandalism or violence. Fewer than 200 demonstrators showed up, Ramsey said. There was so little activity that commanders sent officers assigned to protest duty back to their districts for crime patrols. "It was quiet," Ramsey said. "There was no comparison" to past protests.

Demonstrators were not entirely disappointed with the turnout."I was here during the last April 16, and for a lot of us, it seemed like the earth was moving under our feet and anything was possible," said Mark Andersen, a longtime D.C. activist, recalling the event in 2000." But today, a turnout like this is misleading," Andersen said. "A lot of people who work in the system have taken this energy, this pressure from the outside and have leverage to make changes from within."So there is some success even if the numbers aren't out here," he said. Others believe past clashes with police have scared away some people who otherwise might have joined in the demonstrations." Seeing all the arrests and the pepper spray in the past probably kept a lot of people away," said Jess, a 23-year-old from Richmond who would not provide her full name because she did not want her employer to know that she has clashed with police in past demonstrations."It's really sad that I don't even have to write the lawyer's number on my arm anymore because I've memorized it," said Jess, who had red-and-black pompoms and danced to anti-globalization cheers as part of the Radical Cheerleaders.

Alice Wallerstein came with no expectation that she would be arrested.The 75-year-old former English professor from Chevy Chase held a tiny anti-IMF flag between two fingers and stood looking at the World Bank building."This is my first time at one of these, but I just couldn't stand hearing about how the World Bank is not helping the people it should," Wallerstein said.

Damian Sean Milverton, acting media manager for the World Bank, said the demonstrators' numbers might be dwindling because of the outreach done by the organization and the IMF to activist groups from around the world, Milverton said. Although protesters often characterize the World Bank as "a bunch of suit-wearers here for hors d'oeuvres and cocktails," the bank tries to reach out to world groups and "respect the opinion of people on the street," Milverton said. At times, past demonstrations of the anti-globalization movement seemed like free-form expression festivals. Activists representing anti-fur, feminist, anti-capitalist and vegan factions danced, marched and sometimes drowned out the messages to the World Bank and IMF.Yesterday, there were puppets, stilt-walkers and drummers, but the group seemed to have a much more unified message: Cancel the debt of impoverished countries." We are very clear about our message, it's crystallized, and it's important this demand is met," said Lacy MacAuley, one of the organizers for Mobilization for Global Justice.

3 Comments:

Blogger badmatthew said...

Soren Ambrose from '50 Years is Enough' reported that there were more like 800 protestors in a very positive demonstration rather than the dismal 200 claimed by the police

17 April 2005 at 20:25  
Blogger badmatthew said...

Follow- up from Soren Ambrose:
Activist Events Shine; G7 & IMF Disappoint at April
Meetings in Washington

Soren Ambrose - 50 Years Is Enough Network - Washington, DC USA


The IMF and World Bank held their 2005 semi-annual
meetings last weekend (April 16-17). As usual, we are
rather late in getting you some news on them. Sorry about
that.

ACTIONS

It was a good weekend, from the standpoint of the
activities organized by civil society. On Friday we had a
crowd of 150 or so outside the Treasury Department at
lunchtime to urge the G7 Finance Ministers, meeting there
later that day, to come to agreement on a plan to
genuinely cancel 100% of the multilateral debt claimed of
countries in crisis, without conditions. The event
featured several speakers from the Global South and street
theatre. A very spirited event, co-sponsored by 50 Years,
Jubilee USA, American Friends Service Committee Africa
Program, Africa Action, and the Mobilization for Global
Justice (MGJ).

Friday evening, the MGJ, the DC activists' collective that
first came together for the April 2000 protests against
the IMF and World Bank, held a teach-in on local and
global issues. Speakers included Virginia Setshedi from
the Anti-Privatisation Forum (South Africa), Lidy Nacpil
from the Freedom from Debt Coalition (Philippines), Victor
Geronimo from the Colectivo Popular (Dominican Republic),
and Basav Sen (MGJ). After the speakers, that audience
split into 6 discussion groups on issues of local and
global concern like labor, prisons, healthcare, etc. The
event was very well-received, with many people happy to
see the links between DC issues and global ones so
effectively exhibited.

Saturday was the big day. MGJ hosted a rally in the park
across from the IMF/WB, which turned into a rally to
Dupont Circle, for a festival of resistance, including
lots of music. The crowd was probably about 1000 -
significantly more than the Washington Post's estimate of
200, tho certainly not as many as we would have liked.
What we lacked in size we made up for in energy; indeed,
this event probably had as positive and energetic a feel
as any I've attended in the last 9 years in Washington.

For a good selection of pictures from the events, see the
website of 50 Years Is Enough steering committee member,
the Global Justice Ecology Project:
http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/index.php?name=news.

On Sunday, MGJ sponsored community service projects to
emphasize its seriousness about the theme for the weekend
- "a better world is under construction," which is to say
that people are dealing with problems themselves and not
waiting for institutions to solve them. A surprisingly
large number of people from out of town participated in
those projects.

As usual, numerous meetings among civil society groups and
between some of those groups and IMF/WB and government
officials took place. The most unusual events involved a
group of parliamentarians from six different countries,
North and South, was in town presenting a petition with
over 1000 legislators' endorsements, calling for
fundamental reform at the Bank. They held a public event
on Sunday which was well-attended.

DEBT & IMF CONDITIONS

The official meetings, on the other hand, seem not to have
gone well for our side. The G7 Finance Ministers issued a
communiqué indicating that little progress was made on
negotiations for 100% debt cancellation. The major bone
of contention was between the U.S. and U.K. plans for IMF
debt relief: the Brits wanted to sell a substantial
portion of the IMF's gold stocks to finance the relief,
while the U.S. was against gold sales and wanted to
finance it through the resources in the IMF's structural
adjustment facility (the "Poverty Reduction and Growth
Facility"). We don't really feel that how the
institutions "finance" debt relief should be the concern
of debt advocates, but we supported going after the PRGF,
the most destructive element in the IMF. The U.S. seems
not to have won any other countries over to its side;
indeed, some of the European governments have responded by
wanting to *increase* the amount of money going into the
PRGF, which will serve mainly to enable the IMF to force
devastating conditions more effectively on more countries.

It is possible that there will not be any further attempts
to secure a deal on IMF debt before the G8 Summit in
Scotland in early July - bad news, given the progress that
seemed to have been made in the last year. A compromise
on World Bank/African Development Bank debt is likely to
be announced at the summit.

But wait there's more. Both the G7 Finance Ministers'
communique and the statement from the International
Monetary & Financial Committee (which sets IMF policy)
echoed earlier comments by Treasury Secretary John Snow
regarding the creation of a new IMF facility. It is this
facility which we have identified as the potential very
large "catch" in evaluating the US proposal for 100%
multilateral debt cancellation. It looks as if such a
thing might well be created soon, juding from the
statements' language, even in the absence of sweeping debt
cancellation. The IMFC, for example, said in its
statement that it "looks forward to further work on a
policy monitoring arrangement to enhance the IMF's
signaling role for countries that do not need or want IMF
financing."

The IMF already has programs that solely monitor policy
development in countries, without IMF funds going to the
government. It is our suspicion that going to the trouble
of creating a new "facility" would represent an effort to
formalize the IMF's "gatekeeper" (here called "signaling")
function. As things stand now, other multilateral and
bilateral donors and lenders follow the IMF's lead in
determining when a country is creditworthy. If the IMF
withholds a tranche (installment) of an agreed loan
program because of failure to adhere to policy conditions,
the World Bank, the regional development banks, and
bilateral agencies will follow suit. This function is
unofficial - no written rule guarantees this role for the
IMF. If the IMF creates this new facility, with the
attendant fanfare, it can position it to be the arbiter of
countries' creditworthiness even if the IMF stops making
loans altogether.

For us, such a move would negate a large part of the
benefit of 100% multilateral debt cancellation. Our
demand for cancellation is in large part motivated by a
recognition that such debt is used to keep governments
trapped in loan-and-repay cycle that ensures they will be
perpetually subject to external economic conditions that
work against their own interests. If the liberation from
debt no longer would imply liberation from the IMF, it
would be a great loss. The move would still be
worthwhile, since people are suffering inordinately from
the diversion of funds they need in order to pay off the
debts incurred against their own interests. But the
change would be merely ameliorative rather than a clear
contribution to systemic transformation.

We continue to argue that debt cancellation is the most
important pre-requisite for genuine people-centered
development in the Global South, and that therefore it
should be the top priority of development institutions
like the World Bank and for Southern countries' finance
ministries.

Two other tidbits from the official statements - actually
one is from the G24 group of countries - round out this
report.

ARGENTINA

Enormous pressure was put on the Argentinian government,
which recently stunned observers by winning over a crucial
supermajority of bondholders to its proposed payment of
about 31 cents on the dollar, to make arrangements to pay
off those who refused to go along. As the IMFC put it:
"The Committee welcomes Argentina's rapid recovery. The
recent debt exchange offer represents an important step
toward the long-term goal of sustainable growth. Argentina
will now need to formulate a forward-looking strategy to
resolve the remaining arrears outstanding to private
creditors consistent with the IMF's lending into arrears
policy, and to continue with necessary structural
reforms."

These are fighting words, given the IMF's contentious
relationship with Argentina since it played a major role
in creating the circumstances for its 2001 economic crash.
During the negotiations with bondholders, the IMF
frequently expressed concern, but resisted getting heavily
involved since it was not really in its purview. In the
end, the Argentinian government got about 76% of its
bondholders to agree to the new terms. It did so by
playing the game by the rules - it went to the market and
negotiated with those who wanted something from it. The
IMF initially welcomed the resolution of the crisis. It
has no grounds on which to tell Argentina that after using
recognized market mechanisms - the IMF's paramount value -
it should now change its negotiating terms and offer a
better deal to those who did not cooperate with it. The
response no doubt reflects the growing concern - even
panic -- among banks and governments that Argentina's
success may encourage other indebted governments (such as
the Philippines and Nigeria) to try to follow in its
footsteps. It is questionable whether the Kirchner
government could reverse itself at this stage even if it
wanted to without embroiling its country in fresh
political turmoil. This dispute could end up becoming a
key part of a turning point in North-South economic
relations.

THE G24

Meanwhile, the director of the Washington office of the
G24 (mostly large middle-income developing countries)
stated at a press conference that the skewed power
equations at the IMF board (where the wealthy countries
control all the levers of power) must be addressed soon,
or borrowing countries will begin to avoid the IMF as much
as possible. That would be a very good thing.

The official, Ariel Buira, said, "If you look at reserves,
the reserves of the developing nations are considerably
higher than the reserves of industrial countries.

"So the current system of governance is completely out of
line with economic realities, and what is happening as a
result of this is that people are moving away" from the
IMF and the World Bank.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Below are some selected articles from the press about the
weekend's events:


Protestors rally for financial relief

By Tarron Lively
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
April 16, 2005

Protestors yesterday rallied near the U.S. Treasury,
beginning a weekend of demonstrations in the District
calling for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund
to cancel debts to Third World countries.
"The politics of delay have to end right now, right
here, and the Treasury Department has power," said Adam
Taylor of Sojourners and Jubilee USA Network, a
co-organizer of the protests.
"We know that debt cancellation is not a magic
bullet, but it is a prerequisite for truly allowing
countries to lift themselves out of the quicksands of
poverty and a prerequisite for real justice to be
realized."

The gathering of about 100 protesters near the
Treasury, at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, was
small compared to previous years.
Police expect larger crowds for today's protest and
march -- from the banks' headquarters downtown to Dupont
Circle. But they do not anticipate the large numbers that
arrived in 2002, which resulted in widespread vandalism
and the arrest of about 400 in Pershing Park.
As a result, the District passed a law requiring city
police to wear identification badges, limit their use of
tear gas and follow new guidelines on investigating
protester activities.
Jonah Gokova, with the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and
Development, said Third World debt amounts to "money
stolen from the poor that is now in the hands of rich
people."
The protests coincide with the annual spring meetings
for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,
and with meetings for the Group of Seven -- the top
finance officials from Britain, Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, Japan and the United States.
"We are not here calling for peanuts, we are calling
for the whole peanut farm," said Mvuselelo Ngcoya, of
Africa Action, another co-organizer of the protests. "Not
tomorrow, but today."
The protestors also staged a bike rally yesterday
from downtown to Dupont Circle that caused only minor
traffic disruptions. No arrests were reported.
D.C. police plan to close several streets downtown
around the banks, including Pennsylvania Avenue and G
Street NW, from 18th to 20th streets; and 19th Street NW,
from G Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. Police also have
placed barricades around the banking headquarters.


SHOW: CNN LIVE SATURDAY 2:00 PM EST
April 16, 2005 Saturday

VERJEE: Finance ministers from the world's richest nations
vow to fix global economic imbalances. Ministers of the
group of seven economic powers are meeting in Washington
today. They're promising to fix global economic imbalance
with vigorous actions. However, the finance ministers
failed to reach a deal on how to help the world's poorest
nations.

Drop the debt, that's what protesters are calling for, as
the G-7 ministers meet. They're holding demonstrations in
downtown D.C. Protesters want the world's riches nations
to relieve the debts of developing nations.

CNN's Kathleen Hays is among those protesters and she
joins us now live from Washington -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN HAYS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Zain.

Well, as a matter of fact, it's a big quieter here in
Morrow Park. Behind me you see the International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank, where
representatives from around the world are meeting to
hammer out some of the big global economic problems. But
of course as you mentioned, they are drawing protesters.
Many from the D.C. area. But many from places, like,
Brazil, South Africa.

They came and they beat their drums, and they danced and
they chanted. They carried their paper-mache images. A
young crowd, an earnest crowd. In many ways it felt like a
party than a protest, but the message is serious. They say
that International Monetary Fund and the World Bank
policies help the rich and hurt the poor. And of course,
at the top of the agenda forgiving the debts of the
poorest nations.

The G-7 today in their statement said they're making
progress heard that goal. Here in Morrow Park earlier,
some protesters agreed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a perfect proposal. But the
fact that they're even considering that language, they
wouldn't have been five years ago. We are making progress
and we have to keep that going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYS: Now, just about an hour or so ago, these protesters
marched off to Dupont Circle, turning their back, they
said, on the World Bank and the IMF, as they walked away.
As they say those institutions turn their back on the
poor. Of course, within the walls behind me, those
delegates would disagree. They feel they are working out
hard to hammer out this question, of how to fund, for
example, cutting -- eliminating the debt of these third
world companies.

UK, Exchequer Chancellor Gordan Brown has suggested why
don't we sell-off some of the IMF's gold? And in fact,
Oxfame (ph), a well known group that helps the poor, helps
feed the poor make these facsimile gold bricks. They say
the IMF is sitting on the biggest cache of gold in the
world. And they say for example, if the IMF sold just 5
percent of its gold, it would pay for every child to
Africa to go to school. That's the kind of thing we are
hearing today, Zain.

VERJEE: Beyond the protesters, Kathleen, what kind of real
support, real
momentum exists for canceling the debt the world's poor
nations?

HAYS: Well, certainly there was one soul who signed onto
this in a big way, Pope John Paul in the year 2000, made
this part of the jubilee pledge, to cut poverty. He called
the level of global poverty in a world of so much wealth
scandalous. He was well behind, a big proponent of
eliminating the debt for the world's poorest nation. So
there's obviously been some very serious voices, in
addition to the ones here in the park, in the walls of the
buildings behind me. Many people trying to figure out how
to get this done.

VERJEE: CNN's Kathleen Hayes reporting from Washington.


Protests Of Debt Eclectic, Subdued
World Bank, IMF Meetings Go On
By Petula Dvorak
The Washington Post
Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page C01
In the warm spring sunshine, a couple of hundred
protesters outnumbered police and took over parts of
downtown Washington yesterday, using puppets and
percussion to send their message to the World Bank and
International Monetary Fund during the groups' spring
meetings.
The peaceful demonstration, which called for the
cancellation of debt for poorer nations, came on the
five-year anniversary of one of the anti-globalization
movement's seminal rallies. Then, about 20,000 protesters
took to the streets of Washington in a driving rain,
interrupting the financial meetings and triggering a large
police response that ended in hundreds of arrests.
No arrests were made yesterday, and the meetings were not
affected. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said no acts
of vandalism or violence were reported.
Fewer than 200 demonstrators showed up, Ramsey said. There
was so little activity that commanders sent officers
assigned to protest duty back to their districts for crime
patrols. "It was quiet," Ramsey said. "There was no
comparison" to past protests.
Demonstrators were not entirely disappointed with the
turnout.
"I was here during the last April 16, and for a lot of us,
it seemed like the earth was moving under our feet and
anything was possible," said Mark Andersen, a longtime
D.C. activist, recalling the event in 2000.
"But today, a turnout like this is misleading," Andersen
said. "A lot of people who work in the system have taken
this energy, this pressure from the outside, and have
leverage to make changes from within.
"So there is some success even if the numbers aren't out
here," he said.
Others said past clashes with police may have scared away
some people who otherwise might have joined in the
demonstrations.
"Seeing all the arrests and the pepper spray in the past
probably kept a lot of people away," said Jess, a
23-year-old from Richmond who would not provide her full
name because she did not want her employer to know that
she has clashed with police in past demonstrations.
"It's really sad that I don't even have to write the
lawyer's number on my arm anymore because I've memorized
it," said Jess, who had red-and-black pompoms and danced
to anti-globalization cheers as part of the Radical
Cheerleaders.
Alice Wallerstein came with no expectation that she would
be arrested.
The 75-year-old former English professor from Chevy Chase
held a tiny anti-IMF flag between two fingers and stood
looking at the World Bank building.
"This is my first time at one of these, but I just
couldn't stand hearing about how the World Bank is not
helping the people it should," Wallerstein said.
Damian Sean Milverton, acting media manager for the World
Bank, said the demonstrators' numbers might be dwindling
because of the outreach done by the organization and the
IMF to activist groups from around the world, Milverton
said.
Although protesters often characterize the World Bank as
"a bunch of suit-wearers here for hors d'oeuvres and
cocktails," the bank tries to reach out to world groups
and "respect the opinion of people on the street,"
Milverton said.
At times, past demonstrations by the anti-globalization
movement seemed like free-form expression festivals.
Activists representing anti-fur, feminist, anti-capitalist
and vegan factions danced, marched and sometimes drowned
out the messages to the World Bank and IMF.
At the event yesterday, there were puppets, stilt-walkers
and drummers.
But the group seemed to have a much more unified message:
Cancel the debt of impoverished countries.
"We are very clear about our message; it's crystallized,
and it's important this demand is met," said Lacy
MacAuley, an organizer for Mobilization for Global
Justice.
Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this
report.


Snow says close to debt deal for poor nations
Tue Apr 19, 2005 07:16 PM ET
By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) - The G7 is close to an
agreement to forgive debts that poor nations owe the World
Bank and African Development Bank, but is divided on the
IMF's portion, U.S Treasury Secretary John Snow said on
Tuesday.
In congressional testimony, Snow dismissed chances a
British proposal would succeed to sell International
Monetary Fund gold to finance the IMF's debt.
"We are building toward consensus for IDA and the African
Development Fund, but I don't see consensus on the other
side for the IMF yet," Snow said in answer to lawmaker
questions before the House of Representatives Financial
Services Committee, where he was testifying on the state
of the global financial system.
The World Bank's International Development Association
(IDA) and the African Development Bank's African
Development Fund are their lowest-cost lending arms for
poor nations.
But Snow said there was no concensus among the G7 and the
IMF's board -- which would require 85 percent majority
vote -- for the sale of IMF gold.
"I think that if you did a vote now -- I haven't ever
taken a vote count --
you'd have as many or more against than in favor of the
gold sales," he
said. "The U.S. position is clear on that. It is
inadvisable and not a course of action we could support."
The Treasury chief added: "I don't see how they will ever
be successful."
An IMF report on the gold sale proposal in March said a
small amount of
phased gold sales could be handled by the market and
suggested that about 13 million to 16 million ounces of
its overall 103 million ounces could be sold.
While the British proposal has the backing of some in
Europe, in the U.S.,
lawmakers have already raised their objections and
congressional approval isneeded for any IMF gold
transaction.
Finance leaders from the G7 wealthy nations failed to
emerge at the weekend in Washington, ahead of World bank
and IMF twice-yearly meetings, with an agreement on debt
relief.
But Snow said he was having more talks with his G7
counterparts in London in June.
Still, Snow said G7 members the United States, Britain,
France, Italy,
Canada, Germany and Japan were edging toward agreement on
the World Bank's and African fund's portions of
multilateral debt.
At least four G7 countries -- the U.S., Britian, France
and Japan -- have
all made proposals for debt relief that include writing
off 100 percent of
the debt, canceling debt servicing payments for several
years, increasing
grants, and adding a tax on air travel to finance more
aid.
Snow said the sides had agreed that 100 percent debt
relief was necessary, but there were differences over the
U.S. proposal to increase grant handouts.
"For a long period you don't make any more loans, you give
grants, and I
think there is a movement there," Snow said.
"We have narrowed our thoughts on additionality ... more
money going in ... (but) we keep saying 'Let's make sure
there is no net reduction in
resources,'" he added.
World Bank President James Wolfensohn has estimated that
debt relief could range from $2.5 billion to $40 billion,
depending on the approach that was adopted.

22 April 2005 at 09:11  
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