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CSO Townhall With Robert Zoellick and Christine Lagarde

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CSO Townhall_1

The Civil Society Townhall was attended by some 250 CSO representatives accredited to the Annual Meetings.  It featured Christine Lagarde (Managing Director, IMF) and Robert Zoellick (President, WBG).   The session was chaired Ingrid Srinath (Secretary General, CIVICUS), and two CSO leaders made opening comments in order to frame the discussion:  Laila Iskandar (Managing Director, Community and Institutional Development Group, Egypt) and Milwida M. Guevara  (President, Synergia Foundation, Philippines).

Ms. Lagarde made opening remarks since the Townhall was being held at the IMF and this was the first time she was meeting with CSOs as IMF Managing Director.  She welcomed CSOs and noted the important role they can play in development.  She cited the example of Latvia where the government consulted widely with CSOs while implementing its successful economic recovery plan.  Ms. Lagarde expressed her commitment to increasing the transparency of the IMF and to continuing the dialogue with CSOs.  In closing, she told the CSO representatives that “you are at home here”.

CSO Townhall _2Speaking to WBG policies, Ms. Iskandar began her remarks by noting that growth with inequality, as practiced in Egypt, does not lead to sustainable or stable societies and also pointed out that it was time to explore new paradigms that include distributional features and prosperity for all.  In addition, she raised the issue of fossil fuel investments which CSOs generally oppose, and said that CSOs can support the Bank on energy if it can finance renewable energy sources and ensure that it provides direct benefits to the poor.  With respect to the Bank’s safeguard policies, Ms. Iskandar urged that the safeguards include issues of disability, and raised concerns that the proposed Program for Results may lead to weakening of the safeguard policies.

Speaking to IMF polices, Ms. Guevara congratulated the Fund for having broken a culture of secrecy.  Home-grown reforms are needed to promote inclusive growth models, which require a trusting relationship between the Fund and CSOs.  In order to improve IMF – CSO relations three aspects need to be addressed: expectations, limitations, and frustrations.  She also noted a number of frustrations, including when the Fund is dealing with and negotiating with corrupt and/or incompetent governments. The Fund should use its influence to make governments more transparent and participatory, and CSOs should commit to doing the same where it can.

Ms. Lagarde expressed her agreement with most of the points made about IMF policies. She noted that IMF program design is changing – to ensure a greater social dimension in analyses – and that she will make sure this continues.

Mr. Zoellick noted that both the WBG and the Fund have 187 governments as shareholders and this framework means the two institutions have to work with and through governments.  While this makes it challenging it does not exclude working with CSOs. Indeed, a recent study of the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) found that the Bank has been able to provide $60 million directly to CSOs through 26 different mechanisms.

CSO Townhall_3Mr. Zoellick told the audience of his plan to provide seed money toward creating a CSO support facility and efforts to bring other donors (including private foundations) on board.  He noted that the Bank Group established the IFC in 1956 to work with the private sector, and that it was perhaps time to establish a mechanism which could support civil society.  Consultations with CSOs are planned to help think through the facility’s governance structure, eligibility criteria, goals and objectives, and operating policies. These consultations will begin shortly after the Annual Meetings.
Finally, Mr. Zoellick also spoke about the broader context of all the initiatives the Bank is undertaking to “democratize development” – including the open data initiative, the new Access to Information Policy, and geo-mapping of all IDA and IBRD projects as a tool to support closer CSO scrutiny of projects for better development results.

CSO Townhall_4A number of issues were raised by CSO participants during the discussion phase.  This included the: financial transaction taxes; the need to get civil society voices in to macro assessment and social analysis; Bank’s gender policies and percentage of women holding senior positions in the Fund and Bank; proposed Kosovo coal project and the question of the Bank’s engagement in fossil fuel projects; Bank’s policy on the disabled; and the need for the Bank to avoid supporting jobless growth policies. 

For a complete record of the discussion see the transcript and see video recording.

This summary note was prepared by John Garrison and Nneka Okereke of the Civil Society Team (CST) of the World Bank.  If you have any comments or questions on the note please send an email to

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