Every month, the Halifax Initiative produces a four page monthly newsletter that provides updates on various issues related to international finance, international development, the World Bank Group, and export credit agencies. The Issue Updates provide links to other sources of information, highlight upcoming key dates, and outline any actions that the Coalition has taken on the issue. Each month we also provide a short summary outlining "Just the Facts..." on an issue area.
Ruggie guidelines stir debate
In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council extended Special Representative John Ruggie’s mandate on business and human rights. Among other things, the Council asked Mr. Ruggie to identify “concrete and practical recommendations on ways to strengthen the fulfilment of the duty of the State to protect all human rights from abuses by or involving transnational corporations.”
Victims of Kilwa Massacre Seek Justice in Canada
Congolese nationals have launched a class action law suit in a Montreal court against Canadian mining company, Anvil Mining. At least 73 civilians were killed in 2004 when the Congolese Armed Forces attacked residents in the town of Kilwa. A UN investigation revealed that planes, vehicles, personnel and food controlled by Anvil Mining were used by the army during the attack (see IU Oct. 31, 2008).
Financial Transaction Tax feasible, says report
The Leading Group for Innovative Financing for Development, an inter-governmental organization gathering 55 member states, released a report on 16 July announcing the feasibility of taxing financial transactions. The report, commissioned by 12 of the group’s member states, was conducted by a team of international financial experts and focuses on foreign exchange transactions. The report finds that as currency transactions between banks are processed via high–security international systems, which collect a per transaction fee on interbank exchange, it would be relatively easy to implement a foreign exchange tax into the system. The report calculates that introducing a small tax of 0.005% would generate USD$33 billion per year, which could be used to finance development activities such as poverty reduction and sustainable development.
G8-G20 summits fall flat, ignore call for sustainable future
This month “Fortress Toronto”, with its 18,000 strong security forces and four kilometer chain link fence, bore witness to a Peoples’ Summit ripe with ideas and alternatives, petitions signed by 1.75 million asking leaders to invest in the future now, a 25,000 strong peaceful protest, media stunts galore, some regrettable violence, and two deeply disappointing summits.
IMF, European Union look to bail out Greece
Greece’s debt crisis is finally coming to a head, with International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to deal with the country’s deficit and heavy debt load being hammered out in Athens. The European Union and the IMF are negotiating the terms of a bailout as fears mount that Greece’s crisis could soon spread to other countries in Europe and beyond. Other nations carrying significant debt loads, including the United States, are concerned that the Greek crisis is a harbinger of things to come, closer to home.
The corporate responsibilty to respect human rights
Detractors of Private Member’s Bill C-300 (IU February 2009) draw attention to the bill’s treatment of human rights. The bill establishes guidelines for Canadian extractive companies that operate overseas. These guidelines must be met by companies that receive support from Export Development Canada, the Canadian Pension Plan and Canadian embassies. The guidelines are to include provisions based on Canada's international human rights obligations.
Government accountability bill returns to the House
On March 3, the Governor General will open a new session of Parliament, ending the recess created when the Harper government prorogued the previous session in December. All legislation that was under consideration at that time was extinguished, with the exception of private members’ bills, which return to the House, unscathed. These bills begin anew at whichever stage of the legislative process they had reached before the plug was pulled on Parliament.
CSOs push for Common Approaches revamp
Members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are currently reviewing a 2007 Council Recommendation regarding export credit agency (ECA) operations. The Recommendation on Common Approaches on the Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits (Common Approaches) is a “gentlemen’s agreement” that seeks to establish a level playing field regarding ECA environmental practice. CSOs argue that the Recommendation’s impact is undermined by the lack of effective accountability mechanisms to ensure consistent and effective application by member governments.
Corporate Accountability Hearings Heat Up
Things were hopping this month in Parliamentary hearings on Bill-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries (see IU February 2009). The Bill was presented before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development by MP John McKay on May 25. This month Committee members heard riveting testimony from diverse witnesses (see JUST THE FACTS). Speakers included: Romina Picolotti, former Secretary of the Environment for Argentina and winner of the prestigious Sophie Prize for environment and sustainable development; Stephen Hunt, former mine worker and current Director at the United Steelworkers union; Marketa Evans, the federal government’s new Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor; and mining companies Barrick Gold, Goldcorp and Kinross.
Experts address missing pieces of crisis response ahead of Canadian 2010 G8/G20 meeting
On October 19th and 20th the Halifax Initiative co-hosted a conference with The North-South Institute and the University of Ottawa on “What’s missing in the response to the global financial crisis?” The conference sought to engage the Canadian government in discussions with national and international academics, activists and policy-makers ahead of next year’s G8/G20. The conference touched upon a range of issues related to the causes of the crisis, policy and regulatory remedies, governance of the international financial institutions, tax havens and unfettered private capital flows, an emerging debt crisis, alternatives to the renewal of the Doha trade round, and the respective roles of the United Nations and G20. A policy brief with clear recommendations for the government is forthcoming.
G8 down, but not out, as G20 makes pledges on crisis
If the big headline for April’s G20 Summit (See IU April 2009) was the $1.2 trillion pledged to tackle the financial crisis, this month’s showcase was the G20 itself, as the 20 countries crowned themselves the premier fora on global finance. Next year’s G8 in Canada will in fact be preceded by a G20 meeting, which Ottawa will co-host with 2010 G20 chair Seoul. Earlier this month, Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff went one step further, suggesting that the G8 not bother meeting any more, and calling for a permanent G20 secretariat in Canada.
New loans for LICs: IMF “with a human face” or “a mask”?
At the end of July, the IMF announced “unprecedented” increases of concessional (grant/low-interest) lending for low-income countries (LICs) ($8 billion in the next two years; up to $17 billion by 2014), zero interest on new and existing loans through 2011, greater loan flexibility, and a set of new instruments to channel the increased support (Extended Credit Facility for flexible medium-term support; Standby Credit Facility for short-term and precautionary needs; and Rapid Credit Facility for emergency support with limited conditionality). The shift also came with assurances from Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Khan that new programs would focus on poverty reduction, economic growth, and safeguards on social protection. In addition to the anticipated new resources, IMF membership also greed this month to a new general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (see “Agreement…” in this issue).
Italian G8 serves primi piatti for 2010 G "?" in Canada
Key among the issues addressed at the recent G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, were food security, global warming, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and accountability. One of the key outcomes was a three year US$20 billion pledge made by the G8 countries and international institutions, including the World Bank, to boost agricultural production in developing countries. This is seen as one of the biggest aid shifts in decades, to an issue that has been neglected for far too long. But a history of broken promises still has NGOs and civil society on their guard - the G8 pledge at Gleneagles in 2005 of $50bn in development aid by 2010, with half to Africa, is still short by $15bn. G8 leaders also agreed, as developed countries, to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 per cent as of 2050, although the Canadian government indicated after the Summit that it would not be budging from its commitment to reduce emissions by 60 to 70 percent by 2050! On poverty, with many of the MDGs - such as reducing the number of women dying in childbirth - already way off track, the summit agreed to a proposal by Gordon Brown to provide an assessment at the 2010 Canadian G8 summit on how the MDGs could be attained in time. Finally, on accountability, the G8 leaders agreed to develop a comprehensive framework to monitor progress on G8 promises, strengthen the effectiveness of their actions, and publish a full report in time for 2010.
Rich countries block real change at UN meeting on crisis
In June the United Nations was the site of a battle being waged between the G77, a group of over 130 developing countries, and the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Union. The fight was over how to address the financial and economic crisis and efforts to transform and democratize the global financial system and its institutions. The final outcome document of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development is positive in that it represents a truly global response and has opened up space for countries to express their views on crisis. But the document falls short because rich countries blocked it from including more substantive solutions (see JUST THE FACTS). This is particularly distressing given the wealth of ideas generated in the Stiglitz Commission (IU May 2009), one of the key inputs for the meeting.
Tensions build as UN conference on crisis postponed
June 24-26 now mark the new dates for the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impacts on Development, postponed from the beginning of the month as many European heads of state had said they could not participate because of European Parliamentary elections. The postponement is welcome relief to a process that began last October and has been tense ever since, exposing clear lines between those who favour a truly global response to the current crisis with a real rethink of how the global economy is governed vs. the newly crowned G-20 and their proposal for a status quo plus approach.
G-20 response to financial crisis - money, money, money
All eyes were on the Group of 20 (G-20) this month as they met in London and announced a whopping $1.1 trillion to stimulate the global economy. The impressive figure and various commitments on tax havens, regulation, and boosting the IMF’s lending capacity (See “Just the Facts”) grabbed the headlines and saw stock markets respond positively the next day.
Government response on CSR and extractives: Fool’s Gold
For two years, parliamentarians, civil society, industry and the Canadian public have waited for the Government of Canada to issue a response to the ground-breaking consensus report from the National Roundtables on Extractive Industries (see IU March 2007). Against great odds, that process produced a consensus document, endorsed by industry and civil society, on a program of policy reform regarding the overseas operations of Canadian extractive companies that would make Canada a leader on the world stage.
New bill on CSR puts government house in order This month Liberal MP John McKay introduced a private members’ bill (see Just the Facts) that imposes tighter controls on the provision of government support to Canadian extractive companies. Numerous studies have highlighted the significant environmental and human rights impacts of oil, gas and mining operations overseas. In 2005, a report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) drew attention to the fact that some Canadian extractive companies, which are responsible for adverse impacts, receive financial and political support from the Canadian government.
Europe looking to lead on response to financial crisis
A warning against US (and Canadian?) opposition to a new international architecture of institutions and tighter regulations to manage a more “moral” form of global capitalism, a flexible Economic Council within the United Nations, and an economic sustainability charter that establishes the rules for global financial governance, were three of the key themes raised by German Chancellor Angela Merckel and French President Sarkozy at a high-level symposium hosted by Sarkozy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Paris this month.
Financial crisis a boon for ECAs
While hefty public bailouts of the financial and auto industries have stimulated debate on the role of governments in commercial markets, one form of government subsidy has flown beneath the proverbial radar: export credit. Confronted by an increasingly dire financial crisis, Western governments are using their export credit agencies (ECAs) to boost liquidity and rescue faltering industries. At an extraordinary World Trade Organization meeting last month, participating governments reported a 30% increase in ECA business over the previous 12 months. The WTO called for even greater reliance on public credit to lessen the burden on commercial banks. Shortly afterwards, the OECD announced an agreement with non-members, including Russia and Brazil, to provide markets with publicly-sourced export credit.
G-20 Summit – financial response to a development crisis
With the global economy continuing its downward spiral, ambitions for the first Group of 20 (G-20) “Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy” in Washington were sky high. In contrast, expectations in terms of concrete outcomes, with diverging opinions on key issues going into the meeting and a pretender at the throne in DC, couldn’t have been lower.
IMF back in business, but still politically bankrupt
Even before US President George Bush announced plans for next month’s G-20 Summit on the financial crisis (see “Just the Facts”), International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Strauss Khan has been pushing for the IMF to be front and center in addressing the crisis. In a complete about-face from one year ago, Strauss Khan now sees the IMF not just fighting fires through new flexible emergency loan arrangements to address food, fuel and finance crises, but as a “global regulatory coordinator” or world central bank.
Bank pulls out of disastrous Chad-Cameroon pipeline
In early September, in a rare move, the World Bank pulled out of the $4.2 billion Chad-Cameroon pipeline due to ongoing tensions with Chad over oil profits the government had promised to spend on social programs. The exit was finalized when Chad prepaid the outstanding $65.7 m balance of its $140 m loan.
Déja vu on preferred options for Bank governance reform
Despite internal and external criticism about the superficial nature of governance reforms recently concluded at the IMF (see IU April and June 2008), the World Bank looks set to follow suit at the October Annual meetings with a series of disappointing proposals for increasing the voice of developing and transition countries (DTC) at the Bank.
Business and human rights - protect, respect and remedy
Last month, members of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the policy framework identified in April by John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on human rights and transnational corporations. The Council also extended Mr. Ruggie’s mandate for three years.
EDC in the spotlight – beyond responsible to accountable
A statutorily-mandated review of the Export Development Act, the legislation that governs operations at Export Development Canada (EDC), is currently being conducted by the Minister of International Trade (see Just the Facts).
NGOs applaud adoption of “better aid bill”
Two and a half years after it was first introduced, and after a tense year sitting in the Senate for its final reading, Bill C-293 or the “better aid bill” was finally unanimously approved in Parliament on May 9 to loud NGO approval. It received royal assent yesterday, May 29, which now makes it law.
Global food crisis, Bank and IMF respond
While discussions of the World Bank’s new role in the “business” of climate change (see New Publications), the IMF’s new deal on quota reform (see JUST THE FACTS) and financial market turmoil looked set to top the agenda at the Bank and IMF’s Spring Meetings, it was mounting concern over the global food crisis that dominated discussions.
Innovative financing for development gets boost
As the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization are set to discuss innovative financing at their bi-annual High-Level meeting at the UN next month, and UN representatives address the issue in their review of Chapter IV of the Monterrey Consensus days later (see IU January 2008), innovative finance has gotten a series of unexpected boosts from various sides.
The changing face of global development finance
In 2007 Brazil’s Development Bank issued loans worth more than double the entire World Bank portfolio. More than half of the increase in aid since 2002 comes from debt relief, rather than new funding commitments. What’s more, from 1995-2005, Africa saw no net increase in its development aid despite a 35% increase in commitments to global aid over that period. In 2007, China financed more infrastructure projects in Africa than all multilateral and bilateral donors combined. The Gates Foundation provides more funding for neglected developing country diseases than all of the Group of Seven. These were some of the facts that emerged at an HI conference on “The Changing Face of Global Development Finance - Impacts and implications for aid, development, the South and the Bretton Woods Institutions.”
Corruption back on the Bank’s agenda?
Evidence of serious fraud and corruption has emerged in five Bank-funded health projects in Orissa, India. The $570 million for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS control was implemented from 1997 to 2003. The charges emerged from a Detailed Implementation Review (DIR) of projects in India begun in 2006, a process itself triggered by evidence of corrupt practices by two pharmaceutical companies involved in another Bank health scheme. The Indian government has pledged to take “exemplary punishment” of the parties involved.
Increased donor funding boosts Bank, ignores bad policies
A record US$25.1 billion was pledged by donors to the World Bank’s low-interest loan and grant facility, the International Development Association (IDA), as discussions on IDA’s 15th replenishment drew to a close in Berlin. With $16.5 billion pledged by the Bank itself, the full replenishment stands at $41.6 billion, up 30 per cent from the $31 billion in the previous round. The latest replenishment covers July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011.
MPs, CSOs demand government response to Consensus Report on Extractives
Earlier editions of this publication reported on the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries (See IU Vol. I No 10; Vol. II Nos 6, 9, 11; Vol. III, Nos 3 and 6). The cross-country consultation process was a constructive, multi-stakeholder dialogue on the overseas operations of Canadian oil, gas and mining companies. Remarkably, it culminated with the release of a consensus-based action plan for the Canadian government to improve the accountability of Canadian extractive companies overseas. The plan, which is outlined in the Advisory Group Final Report, was endorsed by participating representatives from industry, civil society and academia. That was in March. Eight months later, there is still no response from the federal government.
World Bank’s long term strategy – business as usual?
100 days into his term, World Bank President Bob Zoellick has outlined his vision for an inclusive and sustainable globalization that seeks to “overcome poverty [and] enhance growth with care for the environment”. Importantly, it also seeks to better integrate the activities of the World Bank Group (WBG) and build a more financially robust and flexible institution. And it occurs at a time when the Bank is desperate to recapture new borrowers and build new markets in an environment that has a wealth of new sources of development finance.
People’s Tribunal Examines World Bank Influence in India
Over sixty social movements, unions, academics, and local NGOs gathered for four days in New Delhi to examine how decades of World Bank policies and projects have affected the country’s economic and social landscape. Testimony, evidence, and research were heard by a 15 member jury of prominent activists, community leaders, retired justices, and academics in an effort to comprehensively assess the costs and benefits of World Bank assistance.
Wolfowitz Swept “Climate Change” Under the Rug at Bank Documents released by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) reveal that Paul Wolfowitz, then World Bank President, personally intervened to remove the emphasis on climate change from a 2006 Bank report requested by the G8. The original report, entitled “Climate Change, Energy and Sustainable Development: Towards an Investment Framework” and endorsed by Bank vice-presidents, was later changed to “Clean Energy and Development: Towards an Investment Framework”.
Selecting a New IMF Director: Another One-Man Race?
Following the recent, controversial appointment of World Bank President Robert Zoellick - who was hand-picked by the US, despite calls for a more democratic selection process - all eyes are on the International Monetary Fund as it prepares to select a new Managing Director in September. At this early stage, US and EU support for the candidacy of former French Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn reveals their intent to preserve a selection process that all but guarantees the appointment of a European to the top post.
The Bank of the South: An Alternative to the IFIs?
In early June, the Bank of the South moved a step closer to becoming a reality as the Ministers of Finance of Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia met in Buenos Aires to discuss its founding constitution. In addition to functioning as a development bank and a source of stabilization funds, the Bank is seen as a precursor to a regional monetary system. Just as significant is the Bank of the South’s role as an alternative to the World Bank and IMF, whose policies in Latin America have faced substantial regional criticism. In this respect, the Bank is seen as a valuable mechanism for re-asserting Latin America’s economic independence and political sovereignty.
Wolfowitz & World Bank in the spotlight over scandal
While the World Bank's executive directors have yet to make a decision on the future of president Paul Wolfowitz, calls for the former U.S. deputy defence secretary’s resignation are gaining momentum. The Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), which assesses the degree to which the Bank's work meets its stated objectives, issued a formal statement described by the Financial Times as a “searing indictment of Paul Wolfowitz's leadership.”
Civil society/Industry make unprecedented joint recommendations on mining, oil and gas
Canada could become a world leader on Corporate Social Responsibility if the federal government and other stakeholders accept and act on the recommendations of a groundbreaking report released on Parliament Hill on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries. The Report outlines a set of consensus-based recommendations for the Government of Canada, core among which is the implementation of a Canadian CSR Framework (see “Just the Facts” below). If implemented, these recommendations would establish Canada as a global leader in CSR. The Report also calls for important reforms at Export Development Canada and the World Bank.
UN Special Representative explores human rights obligations of financial institutions There is growing consensus that human rights rank high among the pressing challenges that face both the private sector and its financiers. On February 16, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations, John Ruggie, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights convened a consultation on human rights and the financial sector in Geneva. The meeting included representatives from a number of export credit agencies (ECAs), the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, several Equator Principle banks, academia and civil society.
This month over 140 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) warned the UK government of the “irreparable harm” the move may cause to the country’s reputation as an anti-corruption champion. British NGOs Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and Corner House have signaled their intention to initiate a judicial review of the SFO decision to drop the inquiry.
Norway “seeks the truth” on Bank conditionality
The Norwegian government, whose aid money cannot be spent on programs that require trade liberalization and privatization, hosted an inter-governmental meeting in November to assess the extent to which the World Bank and IMF still require developing countries to pursue privatization and liberalization as a condition of support. An independent study commissioned for the meeting, determined that while the World Bank and IMF are still pushing privatization and trade liberalization in their development policy lending, it is less pervasive than in the past. It also concluded that governance conditions are increasingly taking the place of economic policy prescriptions, and that developing government “ownership” over Bank and Fund policies is still weak.
Groundswell of Interest in Canadian Overseas Extractive Operations
This month the Government of Canada’s final roundtable on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries was held in Montreal (see April 2006, Issue update). In order to accommodate public demand, more time was dedicated to public sessions in the November roundtable than in any of the previous consultations. Roundtable participants heard diverse perspectives from an impressive range of stakeholders. An Indonesian speaker described how her community is affected by the operations of a Canadian mining company. John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on business and human rights also addressed roundtable participants.
Norway cancels illegitimate debt
On October 2, in an unprecedented move, Norway's International Development Minister, Erik Solheim, announced that the Norwegian government would unilaterally and unconditionally cancel US$80 million (NOK520 million) of illegitimate bilateral debt held by Ecuador, Egypt, Jamaica, Peru and Sierra Leone. Acknowledging that these debts stemmed from a “development policy failure”, Oslo also accepted that as a creditor country it had a shared responsibility for the debts. Furthermore, the cancellation will not form part of Norway’s Overseas Development Assistance, meaning that it will be additional to current aid spending.
Fallout at Bank and Fund meetings in Singapore
The Work Bank and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) fall meeting in Singapore from September 19-20, were mired in controversy this year. In the days prior to the meeting, it became clear that Singapore intended to ban numerous accredited organizations from entering the country. In response, groups unilaterally boycotted the official program. Organizers of the parallel International Peoples Forum in Batam, Indonesia, reported that 54 individuals from 17 groups were detained at the Singapore airport without explanation, and subjected to custodial interrogation and deportation. Many groups felt that, with IMF reform and good governance and corruption on the agenda, the choice of Singapore as the venue for the meetings underscored the superficial nature of the Bank and Fund reform agenda.
Singapore Meetings Emphasize “Civil” over “Society”
On September 19th and 20th, the World’s Finance Ministers will gather in Singapore for the traditional fall meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Although the Bank and IMF will host their own Civil Society Forum, Singapore has banned the traditional outdoor protests that accompany the meetings – providing a designated protest lobby area instead. They have also been tightening border controls and stepping up border security.
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Adopted
On June 29, the Human Rights Council – the new United Nations Human Rights Commission – finally adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, twenty-two years after it was first drafted by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples.
Is Wolfowitz Gathering his Forces?
On June 16, 2006, former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio was appointed Senior Vice President and World Bank Group General Counsel. Ms. Palacio’s appointment is perhaps not surprising given her support for the US-led invasion of Iraq. Her role under Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s government in fact was essential to establishing good ties with the US. But at the same time, her appointment is controversial because she continues a legacy of appointments made by President Paul Wolfowitz of a few close, like-minded allies that are forming an inner cabinet, and ostracizing other long-time and upper-level staff members from Bank decision-making (See Issue Update Vol 2, No. 1, 2006). The appointment has sparked public debate on how senior management posts are filled.
IFI War on Corruption Falls Short
Over the past two months, both the World Bank and Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) have been focusing on tackling corruption issues. Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has attempted to demonstrate his "zero tolerance" for bribery by freezing new loans to many countries including India, Yemen, Argentina, Uzbekistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and getting the Inter-American and African Development Banks to commit verbally to fighting corruption. While this focus is welcome, civil society and the media have both found Wolfowitz's new interest to be both arbitrary and lacking due process. A $100 million loan for new schools in Iraq, for example, was not scrutinized, nor any of the new large infrastructure projects in India. In response to the criticisms, Wolfowitz's office is developing an anti-corruption framework.
► Spring Meetings at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund – Some Highlights
Reform of The International Monetary Fund (IMF) – As the IMF staggers through a budgetary and identity crisis (Issue Update 2, 2006), the IMF’s financial committee agreed to a number of changes to both IMF governance and its role. On governance, the Committee proposed reapportioning great voting power to fast-growing economies, such as South Korea, China, Mexico and Turkey, to reflect its place in the global economy. In terms of its role, it proposed the Fund look at how to be more effective in tackling spillover effects from individual country’s economic policies, by monitoring the impacts on the global economy of such issues as the US trade deficit, trade surpluses in Asia, and China’s pegging its currency to the dollar.
► Small Victory on World Bank Debt Deal On March 28, 2006, the World Bank’s Board of Directors adopted the modalities for implementing its share of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), an outcome of last summer’s G-8 meeting and endorsed by the Bank and IMF at its fall meetings. The Bank deal provides for 100% cancellation of International Development Association (IDA) debt for 17 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).
World Bank Fund Suspension in Chad: Local Implications for AIDS Work
The Chadian government recently amended their Petroleum Revenue Management Law for the Chad-Cameroon pipeline by removing the 'future generations fund' (10% of direct oil revenues are placed in an account for future use) to be able to access more oil revenues. This was due to a recent change in national priorities in favour national security and territorial administration, away from such issues as health care. The World Bank perceived this change as unacceptable and in January 2006 suspended their $124 million loan for eight active projects in Chad (See Issue Update Vol. II, No. 1). Three days of talks between the Chadian government and the Bank ensued. The discussions covered Chad's social spending and its critical budget shortfall, as well as the increases in border security to tackle the influx of refugees coming from the Darfur region of Sudan. Despite the changes made by the Chadian government, the Bank has maintained its suspension, and plans 'to safeguard the oil revenues intended for poverty reduction programs included in its original agreement with Chad.' A way forward is not clear.
World Bank Suspends Loans to Chad for Oil Pipeline On January 12, in a rarely seen move, the World Bank cut off funding to the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project pipeline. The $4.2 billion project entailed the development of the southern Chadian oil fields at Doba and the construction of a 1,070 km pipeline that begins in Chad, crosses through Cameroon, and leads to an offshore oil-loading facility on Cameroon's Atlantic coast. To address concerns about weak governance, poor budget-management experience, and setting up a major project in a recently war-torn country, the Bank had attached strict conditions to the loan. Hailed by the Bank as a pioneering breakthrough, Chad was obliged to account for its estimated $1.8 billion in oil royalties through a transparent revenue management system. As a result, in 1998 the Chadian government adopted the Oil Revenues Management Act requiring more than 80 percent of the accrued revenues to be allocated to education, health, rural development, infrastructure, environment and water, with a 10 percent long-term savings account fund to benefit future generations. But since that time, the Chadian government made fundamental changes to the law to allow for greater spending flexibility, and failed to include the Bank in the revisions. The Bank saw this change as unacceptable, and elected to suspend the $124 million loan.
Every month, the Halifax Initiative produces a two-page monthly update on various issues related to international finance. This month:
IMF Board of Directors approve debt cancellation for 19 countries
Guatemalans meet with World Bank President Wolfowitz about mining
World Bank gets creative in accounting for its renewable energy investments
New discussion papers
JUST THE FACTS - What are the IFC Safeguard Policies?
SELECTED ISSUES on INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
►IMF Board of Directors approve debt cancellation for 19 countries The IMF announced on December 21st that it would cancel the debts owed to it by nineteen highly indebted countries, early in 2006. The G8 last June had promised full debt cancellation for countries that had reached the completion point of the World Bank/IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Country Debt Initiative. (See Issue Updates 7,8 and 9, July, August and September 2005, respectively, for more info). Over the past two weeks, the IMF had threatened to delay implementation of the debt write-off for six countries on the pretext that their economic policies are "off-track" in relation to IMF conditions. Only Mauritania will have its debt cancellation delayed. It thus appears that the IMF has backed down from its threat to delay debt relief to the other countries in the face of a last-minute but intensive international campaign led by campaigners in favour of full and unconditional debt cancellation. The 19 countries that qualify as a result of today's assessment include: Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The IMF added non-HIPC countries, Cambodia and Tajikistan, because of their low per capita income.
►Guatemalans meet with World Bank President Wolfowitz about mining
Two delegates from Guatemala traveled to Washington D.C. to voice their concerns and demands regarding the Marlin mine directly to World Bank President Wolfowitz on December 9th. Glamis Gold, a US-based, Canadian registered mining company owns Marlin mine, which was built with the help of a World Bank loan. Mario Tema, an indigenous leader from Sipacapa, and Magali Rey Rosa, a representative of the Guatemalan environmental NGO, Colectivo Madre Selva formed the delegation. Mr. Tema presented Mr. Wolfowitz with a statement from numerous Sipakapense leaders, outlining their demands regarding operation of the Marlin mine. Mr. Tema also presented President Wolfowitz with a statement from the community of San Miguel Ixtahuacán. The delegate from San Miguel was unable to participate in the meeting as he was denied a US visa. Both Sipacapa and San Miguel are affected by the Marlin mine.
►World Bank gets creative in accounting for its renewable energy investments
The World Bank revised its own figures upwards in regards to investments in renewables and energy efficiency (RE & EE), in time for the inter-governmental meetings on climate change in Montreal that ended early this month. The Bank’s latest report shows that 60 per cent of its support for renewable energy and energy efficiency (RE & EE) is in fact for big hydro projects.
The World Bank claims in a November 30 press release that it more than doubled its investment in RE & EE from fiscal year 2004 to FY 2005. The press release compares 2005 lending with its commitment to increase RE & EE support by an average of 20 per cent per year from 2005 to 2009. The Bank made this commitment at the June 2004 international conference on renewable energy held in Bonn, Germany.
The Bonn target excluded large hydro (greater than 10MW) and loans and guarantees from the Bank’s private sector and insurance arms (IFC and MIGA).
World Social Forum, end of January 2006 in Bamako, Mali, Caracas, Venezuela and Karachi, Pakistan.
JUST THE FACTS – Safeguard Policies
The policies were developed at the World Bank Group, largely due to donor and NGO pressure to reduce the social and environmental consequences of World Bank lending. The objective of these policies is to prevent and mitigate undue harm to people and their environment. These policies provide guidelines for bank and borrower staffs in the identification, preparation, and implementation of programs and projects. World Bank Group Safeguard Policies include policies on environmental assessment, indigenous peoples, cultural property, forests, pest management and involuntary resettlement. The government lending arms of the World Bank Group and the private sector lending arm have different standards and different accountability mechanisms.
US Congress passes new law aimed at increasing World Bank accountability Legislation to encourage greater transparency and accountability at the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) was signed into law by President Bush, November 14, 2005. The reforms were contained in an amendment to the 2006 foreign operations appropriation bill proposed by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as part of the FY06 Foreign Operations appropriations bill.
Stale Government Response to SCFAIT Mining and Human Rights Recommendations
"Balderdash!" summed up New Democratic Party MP Ed Broadbent's thoughts on the government's response to a set of recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) on the issue of Mining and Human Rights. Although the Government's response, released October 18th, acknowledged a need for action to address the often devastating impacts of the mining sector, it dismissed the majority of the Committee's recommendations. Citing a number of challenges that prevent more concrete action, the government focused on purely voluntary measures.
G8 Debt Proposal gains support at World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have advanced a plan for cancelling debts owed by 18 low-income countries, at their September 23-25, 2005 annual meetings. The plan, first proposed by the Group of 7 (G7) Finance Ministers last June and then ratified by G8 (G7 plus Russia) heads of government at their July Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, applies only to those countries that have graduated from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative (See Issue Updates July and August 2005, respectively, for more). It would cover 100 % of their debts owed to the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), the IMF and the African Development Bank's African Development Fund (AfDF).
A leaked internal audit assessing the World Bank's involvement in a controversial Canadian gold mine in Guatemala has exposed glaring deficiencies in the due diligence undertaken by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's private sector lending arm, prior to approving a $45 million loan for the mine.
Glamis Gold's Marlin mine in the Western Highlands of Guatemala has been plagued with controversy since the outset (See Issue Update 1 Jan 05). In March, the internal auditor, the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO), began an investigation after receiving complaints from Guatemalan citizens.
G8 Leaders Fail to Make Much Progress at Gleneagles Summit, World Bank given leading role.
Several announcements were made by Group of 8 (G8) Leaders on Africa and Climate Change in Gleneagles Scotland this month (July 6-8) though very few of these were new. The leaders confirmed the G8 Finance Ministers debt proposal that had been announced earlier in June, but failed to make needed improvements to expand the list of countries immediately eligible for cancellation or to remove onerous conditions attached to qualifying for cancellation (see "Issue Update 6"). Leaders pledged to double aid to Africa, a commitment Canada made in its 2004 budget, but fell short on the call to meet the international target of 0.7% of gross national income.
G8 Finance Ministers' finalize debt proposal.
On June 11, Finance Ministers from the G8 countries announced a debt proposal that would cancel multilateral debts owed to the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank's African Development Fund (AfDF) by 18 low-income countries. While the deal is a major step forward in terms of debt cancellation, the deal also has a number of significant limitations (highlighted in an analysis done by the Halifax Initiative and Kairos, summarized below in 'Just the Facts'')
Just two days prior, the Halifax Initiative Coalition and the MakePovertyHistory campaign held a 'White Band Event' at Finance Canada. Wearing white shirts, hundreds of people formed a white band around the Finance building, and called on Minister Goodale to call for 100% Unconditional Cancellation of the Debts of the Poorest Countries.
Halifax Initiative Analysis of Finance Canada Report to Parliament on Bretton Woods institutions
On the eve of the annual spring meetings of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC, the Halifax Initiative Coalition (HI) released a new report critical of how the federal government publicly reports to Canadians about its relations with the WB and IMF. The federal government is required, by an act of Parliament, to report to Parliament on the operations of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWI) annually. The government report for 2004 was released on March 22, 2005.
Wolfowitz Nomination - Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
On March 31, the World Bank's Board unanimously appointed Paul Wolfowitz as the next President of the Bank. Mr. Wolfowitz is the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, and is often cited as the key architect and advocate behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Citing his role as Ambassador to the US Embassy in Indonesia, the State Department, and the Pentagon, US President George Bush said Wolfowitz would bring experience to the position of President both as a "skilled diplomat" and experienced manager.
2005 Federal Budget
On February 23 Finance Minister Ralph Goodale released the government's Federal Budget. The budget contained several pieces of information relating to the International Financial Institutions and international development assistance. In general, the budget locked in the government's commitment from the 2002 UN Conference on Financing for Development to increase Canada's aid budget by 8% per year up to 2010. The budget confirmed a number of initiatives that were announced in advance of the budget release relating to the IFIs, including a 40% increase in Canada's contribution to the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) and a multilateral debt-servicing package.
Chirac Proposes International Taxes to Fight Poverty
French President Jacques Chirac, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, called on all developed countries to substantially increase aid budgets to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Taxes designed to skim some of the wealth generated by globalization include levies on crossborder financial transactions, taxing aviation and shipping fuel, environmental taxes and air travel charges.
International Finance Corporation Review
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank, is in the process of revising its social, environmental, and disclosure policies. These policies are currently the de facto international standards for export credit agencies, the Equator Principle banks, and the IFC - touching upon nearly three quarters of all international public and private project finance. The new Performance Standards are better integrated than the IFC's predecessor, the safeguards, but groups have individually challenged them on a number of fronts.