2008 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were held over the weekend of April 12-13. As in previous years, a program of dialogues undere the banner of the Civil Society Policy Forum was organized by the Bank, Fund, jontly with CSOs or by CSOs themselves. While the number of civil society representatives at the Spring Meetings continues to grow, 200 attended, perhaps the most innovative feature of this year’s Meetings were the civil society bloggers providing analysis of the many policy dialogue sessions occurring inside. These included sessions on climate change, anti-corruption, food prices, and extractive industries. Similar to the posts sent by journalists from within the meetings, the content of many of these blogs were often critical in nature. Yet their very presence exemplifies the increasingly open nature of the Meetings and serves as a virtual bridge to developing country CSOs unable to travel to Washington.
CSO bloggers covered some of the most important and contentious issues discussed in the Civil Society Policy Forum which featured 25 policy dialogue sessions.
The Bank Information Center (BIC) covered the global food crisis and featured speeches by both Zoellick and Strauss-Kahn. Although the blogger praised the “Bank’s promise of doubling is agricultural assistance to Africa, to about $800 million a year”, it argued that former agricultural and trade liberalization policies were partly responsible for food shortages in some countries.
While welcoming the focus on the impact of climate change on the poorest countries, the blogger from the Institute for Policy Studies described a spirited meeting in which the Bank Group was criticized for “dealing from both ends of the climate change deck” by continuing to finance fossil fuel projects.
Bretton Woods Project staff sardonically described the "Zoellick mania" which seems to have taken hold at the Bank, with repeated mentions of his name by Bank staff in numerous sessions. They acknowledge that Zoellick’s leadership "seems to be changing" the Bank, although they don’t agree with all his policy priorities.
Another sign of growing civil society involvement in the Meetings, were the numerous sessions organized by CSOs themselves or in conjunction with the Bank. Here is a sampling:
Transparency International organized sessions on the India DIR and on GAC Strategy implementation.
BIC held a session on the use of country systems to address environmental and social safeguards, and co-sponsored with the Bank a session on the Strategic Framework for Climate Change and Development (SFCCD).
The German Heinrich Boell and Friedrich Ebert Foundations each hosted their own sessions on climate change underscoring the spotlight this issue is receiving.
The European Network on Debt and Development (EURODAD) co-sponsored with the Bank a day-long roundtable on "odious debt" and responsible lending.
Oxfam GB co-sponsored a session with the Bank on the International Health Partnership (IHP+) and how CSOs can be involved in this global coordinating mechanism.
Senior Bank staff were invited to speak in these sessions and engaged in substantive and thoughtful discussions. While these discussions did not generally result in consensus, they allowed Bank staff to clarify issues and hear the views of civil society. It also demonstrates that Bank - CSO policy dialogue has become more specific and technical over time, and that CSOs will continue to effectively influence policy-making at the Bank.
For more information on these sessions please visit the 2008 Spring Meetings Civil Society Policy Forumpage. Summary notes of some of the sessions, participants lists, photos, as well as background documents and presentations will be uploaded to the Forum's website in the coming weeks.
2008 Spring Meetings Civil Society Policy Forum dialogues
General Information about 2008 Spring Meetings
Survey of CSO Participants in the 2008 Spring Meetings
Annual and Spring Meetings - general information