UK lets World Bank off the hook
Despite thousands of campaigners asking the UK Government to do more to end forced privatisations and liberalisations in poor countries, the UK today refused to make its funding of the World Bank contingent on progress in this area.
Over 10,000 campaigners from Jubilee Debt Campaign, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Action Aid and others had called on the UK to use its financial leverage in this way, alongside thousands of campaigners in other European countries. Over the past couple of years, pressure from Governments including the UK and Norway, has led to some progress in World Bank-imposed economic policy conditions, but campaigners believe not enough has been done.
There was better news from Norway, where the Government took the bold step of withholding some of the money it had intended to give to the World Bank, agreeing with civil society that the Bank has not done enough to reduce conditions. This is a historic decision and challenges the Bank to go further in reforming its policies in the future.
The decisions were made as part of the latest funding round of the World Bank’s lending arm to the poorest countries. Overall this round will provide $41.6 billion, an increase of $9.5 billion over the previous replenishment round. While it is good to see extra money going to the world’s poorest countries, in channelling more money through the World Bank, Governments must take more responsibility for challenging the Bank over its damaging policies.
The Bank still imposes hasty liberalisation conditions or pushes for further privatisation schemes in countries such as Mali or Burkina Faso. These sorts of policies should be up to countries themselves to decide, to determine their own course of economic development.
In 2008 we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Birmingham human chain, when the debt crisis finally began to be taken seriously by the rich countries. It’s time for the UK to follow through on its commitment to debt cancellation.
>> Journey to Justice: 18 May 2008
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