Another World Is Under Construction




O

n
April 16, 2000 protests at the spring meetings of the World Bank
and International Monetary Fund (IMF) began five years of major
demonstrations against these institutions in the United States.
Five years later, on April 16, 2005, protesters again gathered in
the seat of the world’s economic and military power to speak
truth to the power of these institutions. The protests in Washington
were the focal point of a weekend of action organized by the Mobilization
for Global Justice (MGJ), a Washington-based, non-hierarchical,
and nonviolent association of individuals and organizations that
works on issues of global economic and social justice and sustainability. 


Taking
place during the Global Week of Action, the mobilization in Washington
acted in solidarity with over 10 million people in 80 countries
around the world raising their voices against an unjust international
economic system. In addition to hundreds of actions in the U.S.,
protesters in Washington joined students in South Africa, unions
in Egypt, workers and schoolchildren in Bangladesh, women in Chile,
farmers in the Philippines, social workers in Kenya, fisherfolk
in India, and millions of others around the world in calling for
an end to the institutions that have, for the past half-century,
employed the mechanisms of oppression, debt slavery, and imperialism
in the service of corporate and elite power. 


Borrowing
from the World Social Forum, the theme of the weekend was “Another
World Is Under Construction,” highlighting community alternatives
and resistance to externally-imposed policies in DC and around the
world. Another primary focus of the protests was MGJ’s demands
of the World Bank and the IMF, demands that are informed and supported
by grassroots social movements around the world. 



The
Group of 7



 




R

eflecting
their coordination in the global economy, the finance ministers
of the Group of 7 (G7) countries (U.S., UK, Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, and Japan) met the day before the Spring meetings of the
World Bank and the IMF. On the agenda of the G7 was debt cancellation
for impoverished countries, which had undergone protracted debate.
Whereas last year’s G7 proposals for debt cancellation included
debt owed to both the World Bank and IMF, this Spring the U.S. Treasury
stopped talking about cancelling IMF debt, a critical component
of debt cancellation. 


To
reiterate the demand for 100 percent debt cancellation for all impoverished
countries with no harmful economic conditionalities and using the
World Bank and IMF’s own resources, MGJ—along with co-organizers
Jubilee USA Network, 50 Years Is Enough Network, Religious Working
Group on the World Bank and IMF, Africa Action, and American Friends
Service Committee—held a rally in advance of the G7 meeting,
urging the ministers to make the right choice. 


A
lively crowd of about 150 people gathered on the sidewalk in front
of the U.S. Treasury building in downtown Washington, while speakers
made the case for debt cancellation, citing the illegitimate origins
of these debts, the prior repayment of the principal, and the destructive
effects of debt servicing and loan conditions imposed by the World
Bank and IMF on indebted countries. MGJ staged street theater that
examined the foundation of the G7. 



Making
Connections 



M

GJ
also sponsored a teach-in for activists in the U.S. to share insights
and strategies with activists from the Global South. The teach-in
highlighted the similarities between economic policies in Washington,
DC and in the Global South, which are based on the same neo-liberal
philosophy that privileges the market and the economic interests
of the wealthy few over the lives of the majority of people in this
world.



The
teach-in featured a panel of organizers from the Global South, including
Virginia Setshedi of the Anti-Privatization Forum (South Africa),
Victor Geronimo of COMPA/Coordination of Popular, Union, and Drivers
Organizations (Dominican Republic), and Lidy Nacpil of the Freedom
from Debt Coalition/Jubilee South (Philippines). U.S. speakers included
Devin Walker from the DC Health Care Coalition, an organization
fighting for affordable health care for all residents of Washington,
DC, and Basav Sen from MGJ. 


The
over 70 participants at the teach-in shared stories of struggle,
experiences, and strategies on issues they had in common, despite
their diverse geographical origins. The group focused on the privatization
of essential services; gentrification and displacement; affordable
housing; forced immigration; worker’s rights; and the need
for increasing access to public health care and education. 


On
Saturday April 16, the first day of the World Bank and IMF meetings,
over 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the
two institutions in a spirited rally featuring Setshedi, Geronimo,
and Washington’s Reverend Graylan Hagler, a longtime leader
in the struggle for economic, social, and racial justice and the
peace movement in the U.S. Emceed by human rights activist and World
Bank critic Dr. Vineeta Gupta, the speakers presented damning evidence
against the two financial institutions, pointing to their dismal
records and their roles in exacerbating the poverty, health, education,
environmental, and economic crises in debtor countries. 


The
protesters then turned their backs on the World Bank and IMF—in
solidarity with millions around the world who are rejecting their
policies—and marched out of downtown Washington, led by colorful
puppets and the energetic music of the Rhythm Workers’ Union
and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. The march culminated at a rally
with more speakers, music, and spoken word performances. 


Emphasizing
resistance to the neo-liberal policies of the IMF and World Bank,
the speakers included  Nacpil and Jonah Gokova (Zimbabwe Coalition
on Debt and Development) who gave stirring accounts of the international
movements for debt cancellation. Mario Cafiero, a member of the
Argentine parliament, spoke of his country’s struggle against
IMF policies. Giving a local perspective were peace activist Katy
Nelson of the DC Anti- War Network and Vanessa Dixon of the DC Healthcare
Coalition. 





Construction
Continues



 




T

he
days of action concluded with an MGJ-sponsored community action
project, co-organized with a local senior group, We Are Family.
On Sunday, volunteers visited seniors in Washington residences,
building intergenerational solidarity and connecting the dots between
global struggles against neo-liberalism and corporate greed and
local struggles against the same destructive policies in our own
communities. 


MGJ
continues to build relationships and coalitions with groups in Washington
and internationally. In the past year, MGJ has supported Washington-area
movements working for fair labor practices, including the Georgetown
Students’ Living Wage Coalition, which recently won a living
wage for Georgetown University employees, and solidarity actions
with local parking lot workers.  


Looking
beyond the April mobilization, MGJ is committed to organizing around
a myriad of other social justice issues while maintaining a focus
on the World Bank and the IMF, including: 



  • A
    campaign to tax the World Bank and IMF, which own over $1.4 billion
    in property and who make $4 billion in profits, but which currently
    pay the cash-strapped city of Washington no taxes 


  • Free trade agreements,
    including rallies during the meetings of the Central American
    Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas
    (FTAA), the U.S.-Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), and the World
    Trade Organization (WTO) 

  • Participating
    in many events highlighting global processes and their effects
    locally, including Bio-democracy events protesting the annual
    meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Philadelphia,
    Pennsylvania 




Hope Chu has
worked with the Mobilization for Global Justice for the past two years
and is








on staff at the 50 Years








Is
Enough Network in Washington, DC