History and Key Achievements

The Halifax Initiative Coalition was formed in the context of an international movement of non-governmental organizations focused on evaluating the role and record of the Bretton Woods Institutions at the time of their 50th Anniversary. Canadian NGOs formed the Halifax Initiative in December 1994 to ensure that demands for fundamental reform of the international financial institutions (IFIs) were high on the agenda of the Group of 7's 1995 Halifax Summit.

Today, the Halifax Initiative is a coalition of 19 development, environment, faith-based, human rights and labour groups, and has established itself as the Canadian presence for public interest advocacy and education on international financial institutional (IFI) reform. Since our beginnings in 1994, we have worked through research, education, advocacy and alliance-building to fundamentally transform the international financial system and its institutions to achieve poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and an equitable re-distribution of wealth.

The coalition's work is focused on issues of:

  • debt cancellation and conditionality;
  • the reform of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and export credit agencies’ social, environmental and human rights policies and practice, with an emphasis on the mining and resource extraction sectors;
  • halting structural adjustment programmes, with a focus on forced privatization; and
  • mechanisms designed to control international currency speculation.

Over the past fifteen years, the support of our members has proven essential to the success of meeting the Coalition's objectives.

Key Achievements
Over the past fifteen years the Halifax Initiative has built public and policy-maker support for reform of the IFIs. Some results from our efforts include the following:

  • DEBT - Canada was the first among the G7 to cancel the debt of some of the poorest and most indebted countries, and played a key role in deepening debt relief offered by the World Bank and the IMF. 
  • WORLD BANK ACCOUNTABILITY - Canada was instrumental in the revival of the Inspection Panel in 1999 and in the creation of the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF in 2000, two key mechanisms for increasing public accountability in the Institutions.
  • GLOBAL FINANCIAL ARCHITECTURE - Canada’s played a leadership role internationally in fostering debate over the reform of the global financial system, in recognition of the severe limitations of the IMF's ability to provide global economic stability.  For example, Canada’s promoted emergency stand-still clauses, the creation of the G-20, and gave its support for the Tobin tax, a form of capital control. 
  • TOBIN TAX - Thanks to our work with MPs, all five parties passed a private member motion on the Tobin tax. As a result, discussions of the Tobin Tax reemerged in national referenda around the world and in United Nations' studies, and lent growing support for global taxes.
  • EXPORT CREDIT AGENCIES - In recent years, the Canadian government adopted legislation that requires Canada’s export credit agency (ECA), Export Development Canada, to take into account the environment and to disclose information to the public on the projects it supports. These changes came after over 130,000 Canadians demanded change in a letter-writing campaign facilitated by the Coalition. During 2006/7, the Halifax Initiative participated in the multi-stakeholder Advisory Group to the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries. The participation of HI staff in the Advisory Group facilitated the inclusion of recommendations regarding EDC in the final, consensus-based report. Those recommendations concern the adoption of enhanced transparency, human rights and environmental policies by EDC. The Halifax Initiative has been actively engaged in the mandate of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on business and human rights. In 2008, HI submitted an analysis on the human rights obligations of export credit agencies to the Special Representative, John Ruggie. Mr. Ruggie acknowledged HI's work in this area and has called for enhanced human rights due diligence by export credit agencies.
  • BAD PROJECTS - Thanks to advocacy and media work around the Western China Poverty Reduction Project, and the Alumysa Aluminum smelter in Patagonia, these projects were cancelled or suspended.
  • GOVERNMENT RELATIONS - Among other things, we institutionalized bi-annual civil society consultations with the Finance Minister on IFI issues.
  • PUBLIC DEBATE IN CANADA - We have informed thousands of Canadians through our Teach-Ins, film-screenings,  conferences, tours and press releases about issues related to and including the World Bank, IMF, G20, G8, privatization, human rights and debt.