Join The Call-In Targeting The World Bank

We’re staging a call-in on Thursday, October 9, in support of an international day of action against the World Bank.

From 2–4pm call in to the World Bank press office and keep them talking for as long as possible.

We will effectively grind their operations to a halt during the lead up to their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday October 10th.

When to call: Thursday October 9th, between 2–4pm (Eastern Time)

Press Office Phone Numbers:

  • General Inquiries, (202) 473-1000
  • Hotline for Journalists, (202) 473-7660
  • News Bureau, (202) 473-7660
  • David Theis, Chief of Media, (202) 458-8626
  • Frederick Lawrence Jones, Senior Communications Officer, (202) 473-9336
  • Yoko Kobayashi, Communications Officer, (202) 458-2624
  • Huma Imtiaz , (Print/Wires/Online), (202) 473-2409
  • Spring Binsted, (Print/Wires/Online), (202) 458-2267

We need your help!

The World Bank is a ‘development’ organization that distributes money it makes from Wall Street investments and grants from wealthy nations to less-wealthy nations. In order to get these loans, nations have to score well on the Bank’s Doing Business rankings. Scoring well usually means making their legal and economic environments as friendly as possible to multinational corporations (i.e., loosening regulations). These loans end up incentivizing unethical/environmentally-destructive policies and undermine the ability of smaller, local producers to survive.

Call in to the numbers above tomorrow and demand answers from the World Bank’s representatives. Together, we will expose the Doing Business ratings system as the threat to families, farms, communities.

Need help thinking of stuff to say? Below is a helpful script.

The idea is to keep them talking as long as possible. Voice your concerns in a polite and professional manner but try to pose as many questions as you can.

You can say: “Hi, my name is _____________. I’m with   Identify a group you are with if any   and I have a few questions about recent developments with the World Bank.”

Background Info and Talking Points

Doing Business rankings benefit multinational corporations at the expense of the people of less-wealthy nations, resulting in more economic inequality.

They do immediate damage by creating a race to the bottom, where countries are forced to create a corporate friendly environment, or risk losing vital support from not just the World Bank but donors and investors of all kinds. The result of this business friendly environment is one where foreign corporations are allowed to buy up huge tracts of land for monoculture agribusiness, dispossessing and impoverishing the farmers who have lived and farmed on these lands. This breaches the sovereign rights of countries and locks everyone into the World Bank’s idea of what development is. And we know from the disastrous Structural Adjustment Policies of the 1980s and 90s that the Bank has a history of getting things wrong on a massive scale.

The ratings also represent and promote a “one size fits all” neoliberal ideology. This ideology says that what’s good for corporations is good for everyone; that privatization, low environmental and social standards, and low corporate taxation are essential components of development. In short, they create systems that make it easy for large corporations to extract wealth from poor countries and communities.

Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture opens the door to socially and environmentally destructive policies.

Whereas the Doing Business ranking has been in place for over 10 years, Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (BBA) is a new initiative that most people haven’t heard of yet. It is being developed by the World Bank following the G8 demand to create a new index specifically addressing the question of doing business in agriculture. Endorsement and financing by the Gates Foundation, the US, UK, Dutch, and Danish government gave birth to the BBA project in 2013.

The BBA is dangerous because it builds on the Doing Business’ flawed methodology, and carries the same neoliberal pillars as its foundation. With this new instrument, the World Bank advocates for the opening of countries’ agricultural sector to investments through land reforms, free circulation of commercial seeds, chemical fertilizers and pushes further an unsustainable model of industrial agriculture.

What is the problem with the World Bank’s vision for development?

Land is so much more than a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Yet that is the way the World Bank is leading people to see it. Land has deep cultural significance. It is the source of shelter, food; livelihoods, the very ingredients of life itself. It should be valued as such, and not just fed to the market with a $ value attached.

Development means different things to different people. To the World Bank, it mostly means economic growth based on a corporate capitalist model. This model is based on the mistaken assumption that such growth will “trickle down” to benefit the poorest. This assumption leads them to promote policies that ensure that multinational corporations are given every incentive to go into developing countries; things like low taxes, special exemptions from environmental and labor standards, and preferential access to natural and human resources. We believe not only that this is a deeply flawed understanding of what constitutes human development; it prioritizes the need of a tiny elite over the majority; that it is an example of the World Bank using its financial and political might to bully and cajole countries, thereby trampling on the sovereign rights to determine their own path; and that, crucially, most people are unaware that important global organizations like the World Bank are pushing this extreme, ideologically driven model. So we want to put forward a better story of development, starting with the fact that right now we have a single, extreme, model of corporate capitalism going largely unchallenged.

 Here are questions you can ask:

  • What are the objectives of this year’s Annual Meetings?

The meetings officially start on the 10th. Lots of Finance and Development Ministers will be in town for it. It’s the biggest formal meeting of the year for the Bank. They want to make it look good and will have taking points.  Possible follow-up questions:

  • Can we expect any major news from these meetings? If so when?
  • What are President Kim’s top priorities for these meetings?
  • Are there any discussions planned about the new initiative from the BRIC countries to set up their own equivalent of the World Bank?
  • How are the voices of the world’s poorest people being represented?
  • Cutting Costs

There is a big ‘efficiency’ review going in the Bank right now to cut $400 million. They are even talking about possibly moving out of their DC headquarters. There has been some handy controversy around it, including the fact that the guy charged with leading it got a big bonus to do so, on top of his $375K a year tax free salary. Possible questions:

  • What is the latest on the review?
  • When will it be completed?
  • We hear there is a lot of staff disquiet (Note: like any good journalist you can’t reveal your sources).  Is this true? Exactly how are staff being able to feed into it?
  • Is the Bank moving out of its DC headquarters?
  • Will the money be used to make more loans to developing countries?
  • Will developing country governments be able to feed into the review?
  • Youth Summit

There has been a pre-Annual Meeting “Youth Summit” at the Bank this week . It’s a window dressing exercise. The official blurb is “The World Bank Group is hosting its second annual Youth Summit, in partnership with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. This year’s event will focus on increased youth engagement in issues relating to government transparency, accountability, and collaborative governance”. There are lots of questions you could ask about how it went, and what will happen next.

  • What were the major outcomes of the summit. Is it considered a success? Why?
  • Will this feed into World Bank Annual Meeting agenda, and if so, how?
  • What will happen to all the views expressed?
  • What do you say to the criticism that this was just “window dressing”?
  • When is the next one?
  • How many young people took part? From which countries?
  • What was the gender breakdown?
  • How were the voices of the poorest represented?