Amidst belly dancers, jugglers and heavily armed police, activists from around the world converged in
Yet unlike previous years, activists made no major attempts to block the transit of IMF and World Bank officials through direct action, and the low number of protesters in attendance was in sharp contrast to the enormous March for Womenâ€™s Lives the next day. Why did a million people show up at the March for Womenâ€™s Lives in DC on April 25 and only a few thousand at the IMF/World Bank march? The IMF and the World Bank are instituting policies that are destroying economies, ecosystems and the lives and rights of men and women around the world. Shouldnâ€™t this result in a huge outpouring of protesters as well?
Some would say that people are more likely to head to the streets when their basic rights are directly under fire. Citizens in Bolivia protest when their water is privatized, or in India when a dam is going to flood a village, or in the US when the Bush administration tries to control what choices women have about their own bodies, and what kinds of health care and birth control are available. When the going gets tough, the tough get angry, and maybe the IMF and World Bank policies arenâ€™t forcing millions of Americans to the streets because citizens donâ€™t feel directly affected by these policies.
But they are. The fact that countless jobs are being exported from the
Many activists at the April 24, IMF/World Bank march had stories about outsourcing affecting their jobs and towns. Henrietta Levine from
Besides outsourcing jobs in the
Globalization and its Discontents
In 1944, at the Bretton Woods Conference, the IMF and World Bank were created to alleviate poverty and shape a new global economic order at the end of World War II. Currently, the World Bank distributes loans to governments in need, but first requires that those governments win the IMF seal of approval. The IMF facilitates the structural adjustment programs and often, making sure the creditors get paid takes precedence over what would be beneficial for the country.
The IMFâ€™s prescription for job creation and economic success often entails eliminating government intervention in business, lowering trade barriers, privatizing public sector organizations and opening economies to transnational corporations. This forced liberalization usually takes place too fast and without proper trade and business safety nets in place. And though foreign investment and business might create jobs and open up the country to new markets, they also squash local competition and use the monopoly to raise prices and exploit workers.
As Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz points out in his book, Globalization and its Discontents, part of the problem with the IMF is that â€œit does not acknowledge that development requires a transformation of society.â€ He argues that instead of rapidly enforced free trade policies, the IMF should focus on programs in education, land reform and health care to generate social and economic improvements. In the end, as Stiglitz explains, â€œThe only safety net is provided by family and community, which is why it is so important, in the process of development, to do what one can to preserve these bonds.â€
Another criticism of these institutions is their notoriously undemocratic decision making processes. Unlike other international organizations, voting power at the IMF and the World Bank is based on financial clout. Within this framework, the
The demand at the April 24 march in DC to drop the debt of developing countries proposed a solution to these harmful policies. Many activists believed, for example, that nations in
But there are success stories within this cycle. It is no coincidence that Mobilization for Global Justice suggested bringing pots and pans to bang on at the march in DC in the style of the piqueteros in
Their president has as well. With support in the opinion polls at 85 percent, Nester Kirchner has taken on the neoliberal policies that led to the nationâ€™s economic crisis. He has put public funding back into social programs and is also hinting that his administration may refuse to pay back their IMF and World Bank loans entirely. These kinds of unconventional practices resulted in a rapid economic growth rate of 8.6 percent for last year, with 7.1 percent projected for 2004.
The Backlash of Globalization
As the march gathered in front of the World Bank building in Washington DC, the reflection of a raucous collection of angry activists was mirrored in the institutionâ€™s shiny windows, and Ricardo Navarro screamed from the back of a pickup truck, â€œLatin America is not for sale, Africa is not for sale, Asia is not for the sale, the earth is not for sale!â€ The crowd screamed back.
Though the numbers of protesters at the April 24, IMF/World Bank march were low, the event was a somber reminder that even after sixty years of infamy, these organizations are still operating under the influence of shady intentions and institutional amnesia. While people in numerous countries have wide-ranging complaints about the IMF and the World Bank, more
Benjamin Dangl is an activist, freelance writer and editor of The Upside Down World News at www.UpsideDownWorld.org