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2008 Annual Meetings - Civil Society Town Hall

October 9, 2008

7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.                                               

This session was sponsored by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group and held at the IMF.    It was chaired by Ingrid Srinath (Secretary General of CIVICUS), and featured a panel with Dominique Strauss-Kahn (IMF Managing Director) and Robert Zoellick (World Bank President).  Ms. Srinath began by introducing herself and asking each panelist to make introductory remarks.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn thanked those in attendance and spoke about the current global financial crisis and the negative impact it was expected to have on economic growth trends worldwide, particularly on the advanced economies.  He also noted the ‘paradox’ that if there is any economic growth it will most likely come from emerging countries. He then cited the other two global crises – high fuel prices and food shortages – and how this would not only contribute to restrain growth, but directly impact the poor.  One of the immediate consequences of the crises will be to emphasize the need for governance reform at the international financial institutions, such as the IMF, and of the overall financial architecture.  After explaining the various steps needed to reform governance structures, he invited the participation of civil society in the governance review process.  He ended his remarks by announcing a large conference in Tanzania in March 2009 to discuss ways to spur growth in Africa.

Mr. Zoellick started his comments by thanking Mr. Strauss-Kahn for hosting the event and Ms. Srinath for chairing the session.   He talked about the many opportunities he has had to engage with CSOs during his first year in office. This has included while on his trips, such as to Afghanistan and during the roundtables he has convened on the food crisis issue.  The Bank estimates that due to the ‘food and fuel crises’ an estimated 100 million people will be driven into poverty, and 44 million people will feel the effects of malnutrition.  For this reason, he reiterated that while the financial rescue is necessary, we can't lose sight of the need for ‘human rescues’ of vulnerable populations.   He talked about the steps the Bank is taking to encourage the European Commission to channel the one billion euro initially intended for the common agricultural program, to fighting the food crisis.    He mentioned the need for developed countries to follow up on their Gleneagles development aid commitments, and the need for donors to better harmonize their actions as discussed at the recent conference on aid effectiveness held in Accra, Ghana.

These comments were followed by a questions and answer period in which the estimated 100 participants asked a wide range of issues which included:

  • Steps the two institutions are taking to improve transparency and democratize governance structures;
  • How can the Fund be strengthened to address the looming financial crisis, including the quality of its advice and staff;
  • How much the is the Bank prepared to invest in youth, particularly on programs which can generate jobs;
  • Do the Bank and Fund understand the plight of small farmers and what steps can you take to provide them with resources to face the food crisis; and
  • What lessons is the Bank incorporating from the demise of the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline Project. 

A petition signed by 42,000 youth in Cameroon, requesting that the Bank support efforts to conserve the rainforests of the Congo Basin, was presented to Mr. Zoellick (see original letter and Bank response).

Ms. Srinath closed the session by thanking everyone for their participation and reiterating how these windows of opportunity to dialogue are invaluable in terms of being able to build further trust between both institutions and civil society.  She then invited everyone to a reception.  For a complete version of the townhall see the Video, Transcript and Photos.


Last updated: 2008-12-02

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