Published on Wednesday, August 29, 2001 by Agence France Presse
Protesters Lash IMF, World Bank
WASHINGTON - Activists planning mass protests against the IMF and World Bank next month accused the two institutions Tuesday of secretly plotting policies that hurt the poor.
They called for World Bank and IMF meetings to be opened up to the public, for developing countries' debt to be written off and for there to be an end both to belt-tightening conditions that harm impoverished people and investments that damage the environment.
"Most of the decisions happen behind a wall of secrecy. We are looking for an end to that," Liz Butler, an activist with the umbrella group Mobilization for Global Justice, told a news conference.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank announced this month they would truncate their next meeting from one week to just two days, September 29-30, to avoid violence.
The decision followed demonstrations at a Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, last month in which one protester
But at the news conference here, the activists refused to answer reporters' questions about eight days of action, including protests, planned for the September IMF-World Bank meetings.
Robert Weissman, co-director of Essential Action, said the protesters wanted to concentrate on the core issues rather than being deflected by questions about violence.
"We are going to ask for your cooperation on that; in fact, we are going to insist on it," he said, earning jeers from reporters.
Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey said this month that he expected some 50,000 protesters to converge on the US capital for the meeting, and he promised to keep order.
Members of Mobilization for Global Justice said it was impossible to be sure of the exact numbers, although they expected tens of thousands of people to attend.
Speaking to AFP after the news conference, Butler sought to focus attention on the policies of the IMF and the World Bank: "We are seeing thousands if not millions of people die because of their policies," Butler said.
"The agents that are acting to protect the wall of secrecy that they are making their decisions behind is unfortunately the police on the streets, so that is where the violence is coming from," she added.
Asked whether there was ever an excuse for violence on either side, Butler replied: "We are not responsible for how people have felt about these concerns."
At the last IMF-World Bank meetings in April, she said, 1,200 people had been arrested with no subsequent convictions.
Third World debt campaigner Tim Atwater, the interim national coordinator for Jubilee USA Network, said poor countries were struggling to pay off their debt at the expense of the young.
"Children literally are paying the price of debt to the richest and most powerful institutions in the world -- the IMF, World Bank and G7," Atwater told the news conference.
Atwater, who is also a minister, said the poorest 23 countries being helped by the IMF and World Bank's debt reduction strategy had only had their debt cut by 27 percent on average.
Blaming the problem on a thirst for power, he urged World Bank President James Wolfensohn and IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler to concentrate on creating a community.
"We would challenge brothers Wolfensohn and Koehler and others to come together and have a discussion about how we can ... give up the authority addiction and come together to talk about restoration of community," Atwater said.
Copyright © 2001 AFP