|My daughters and I with World Bank president Dr. Jim Kim|
I'm attending with my friend Jennifer Burden who is a fellow Shot@Life champion and the founder of World Moms Blog. As bloggers, Jen and I will represent everyday moms who want to create a better world for our children. Our assigned mission is to 1) Live tweet the sessions to help spread word in real time about World Bank activities 2) Blog about the content of the meetings and 3) Consider how everyday people like us might constructively be involved with the World Bank moving forward.
The World Bank Group really does have a confusing alphabet soup of programs, organizations, and committees. It's not just me. The IBRD, IDA, IFC, MIGA, and ICSID? Here's my favorite committee name I found in the Guide: "Joint Ministerial Committee of the Boards of the Bank and Fund on the Transfer of Real Resources to Developing Countries." What? Couldn't get one more prepositional phrase in that title? Wow.
The Millennium Development Goals are a centerpiece of World Bank strategy. Whew! This is a relief because I have been lobbying about these goals for years now. Knowing that they set the Bank Group's priorities and provide targets for measuring results gives me reassurance that I know where they are headed and that I'm on board with it.
It's not just WHAT the World Bank says it's going to do. HOW they do it is at least - if not more-important. The World Bank was formed in 1944 after World War II to help with the recovery of Europe. It's had a mission to combat poverty for many, many years. However, with the sheer amount of money they have to disperse as loans, the projects can be massive in scope. This is great when projects have the best interests of impoverished people at heart and terrible if they are misguided. Spiderman knows that "with great power comes great responsibility." Well...with great sums of money comes great responsibility as well and it is the civil society groups that make sure the World Bank Group is fulfilling their responsibility.
Past criticisms of the World Bank were a lot harsher than I realized. Here are a few gems from the essays in the "50 Years is Enough" book. "When the Banks projects go wrong, they go wrong on a disastrous scale, causing massive social and environmental ruin." "...at least 6 million children under 5 years of age have died each year since 1982 in Africa, Asia, and Latin America because of the anti-people, even genocidal, focus of the World Bank SAPs." Yikes!
I am a part of this whole picture as well. Within the five areas of reform, I found the goal of "increasing transparency, accountability, and access to information." The World Bank Group seeks to share its global knowledge and experience with a wide audience and to enhance the quality of its operations by providing more information about projects and programs than ever before. Making information and projects more comprehensible to a wider audience...that sounds like something I might be able to help with from my own kitchen table.
- Fifteen years ago, the civil society organizations I know and respect were criticizing the World Bank and calling for its elimination. What happened that has reversed the protests? Has real reform happened?
- What do various civil society groups think about World Bank programs now?
- Do developing countries feel they have adequate say in World Bank policies and procedures?
- What is the mood of the World Bank and civil society groups as the Millennium Development Goal deadlines looms closer?
- How can regular, everyday activists like me connect with the World Bank in a way that is comprehensible to us? Do we have a role we can play?