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Press Release | 21st April 2022

New Delhi: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) along with the Board of Governors of the World Bank (WB) Group is having its annual Spring meeting from April 18th– 24, 2022 in order to commemorate another year of so-called success in uplifting third-world economies. As a sign of protest, concerned civil society members under the aegis of the Working Group of IFIs and Financial Accountability Network held its seminar titled ‘World Without World Bank’ on 21st April 2022 at the India International Centre, New Delhi. These seminars are organized every year to address some of the key issues that are crucial to international developmental finance.

The seminar consisted of a keynote and three panels, each of which provided several nuances and points of discussion on various aspects of international finance and ongoing struggles in South and the South Asian contexts.

The keynote address, delivered by Medha Patkar highlighted concerns on the changing economic and cultural landscape, especially of India’s marginalized communities due to the unregulated flow of international finance and capital flows, which is driven by a profit motive and not concerned with improving lives of citizens. The World Bank, she argued, has caused irreversible damage to Third World countries. She notes how every sector in the country is affected by International Finance, which is curbing one of the core constitutional values of the country: sovereignty. Dialogue with relevant authorities, she expresses, is an essential part of the struggle and must never be refused. Simultaneously, she urges struggles to be rooted in simple living, self-reliance and transparency both at the individual level and the national one. 

Session I, titled Legacy of World Bank and MDB’s: Looking back at experiences from India was addressed by Gajendra Bhai (Sarpanch Navinal Gram Panchayat), Vimal Bhai (Matu Jansangathan), Ram Wangkheirakpam (Indigenous Perspectives), R Shreedhar (Environics Trust) and Anuradha Munshi (Center for Financial Accountability). Broadly, they addressed specific International Finance projects like the Tata Mundra project, Sasan Ultra Mega Project and the Trans Asian Highway project, which have significantly displaced indigenous populations, and destroyed aquatic life and fertile land. The projects lack any real grievance mechanisms and do not operate along the lines of transparency and accountability. The local people who are directly affected by these projects are paying a huge human cost as these projects continue unabated. While the ADB (Asian Development Bank) is in the process of establishing a new safeguard policy, however, practical implementation still remains an elusive task. The panellists also highlighted how protection measures on paper are practically impossible to claim on the ground. However, glimpses of victories linger in the form of successful court cases like the one filed against the International Finance Committee’s role in the Tata Mundra Project and the collectivization of the people in joint struggle. 

Session II, titled Legacy of World Bank and MDB’s: Looking back at global experiences was addressed by Kate Geary (Recourse, UK), Chiara Mariotti (Eurodad, Belgium), Andri Prasetiyo (Trend Asia, Indonesia) and Htet Aung Shine (IFI Watch, Myanmar). The international panel emphasized the mechanisms used by Development Finance Institutions (DFI) which includes World Bank and the ADB, like financial intermediaries and Development Policy Financing (DPF) in order to cleanse itself from any accountability. By using financial intermediaries or DPFs, DFI’s participate in projects that are in no way green, without having to confront any of the consequences of accountability. This opaque manner of lending convolutes processes of accountability and transparency. This hypocrisy, clearly outlined in Andri’s presentation, highlights the role of DFI’s in Java 9 and Java 10, one of the world’s largest coal projects. Using financial intermediaries, these institutions on the one hand campaign for climate-friendly projects while funding the very projects that are destroying the climate in the first place. 

The concluding session (session III), titled International finance in the current times: Looking forward was addressed by Leo Saldanha (Environment Support Group), Swathi Seshadri (Center for Financial Accountability),  Krishnakant (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti/NAPM), Gaurav Dwivedi (Center for Financial Accountability), Soumya Dutta (Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha/MAUSAM), and Sarath Cheloor (NAPM). The panel stressed the complexities of private financing and the difficulties in obtaining financial data. With case studies from the petrochemical industry, climate financing, bullet train projects in Kerala and Ahmedabad, highlighted the significant role of the private international finance and the role of national governments in sustaining projects that create and perpetuate precarious populations through displacement, lack of accountability and compensation and cause significant damage to natural resources. There is a dilution of regulatory policies by national governments to keep in line with international finance, which in turn gravely compromises the sovereignty of the people as well as of the nation-states. 

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