The Annual General Meetings (AGM)* of the World Bank and IMF do not just serve as an opportunity for central bankers, finance ministers, and private sector executives to discuss the global economy and tout their accomplishments over the last year. The Bank and Fund host dozens of events to discuss global development issues with development experts, journalists, and academics in the lead up to the plenary session with its Boards of Governors. Hundreds of civil society representatives from around the world will also descend upon Washington D.C. next week to take part in the Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF), a side event that offers opportunities for civil society organizations (CSOs) to steer the conversation toward issues and perspectives that are not usually covered in the Bank/Fund events. The following are sure to be among the most interesting and provocative subjects raised over the course of the week:
- Re-Appointment of President Jim Yong Kim
This year’s AGM takes place amidst a storm of controversy surrounding the re-appointment of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. President Kim will likely use the AGM as an opportunity to assert his leadership over an institution that is not only experiencing an identity crisis against the backdrop of a changing development landscape but also a crisis of faith within its own ranks that stems from reforms Kim himself put into place during his first term. The announcement of his re-appointment was met with skepticism from many CSOs disappointed by the lack of transparency in the process as well as his leadership around issues they see as crucial to a well-functioning development finance institution, including strong social and environmental standards for its projects—which many believe were undermined in the Bank’s most recent update of its safeguards. Expect to see these issues raised at the Civil Society Town Hall on Wednesday, October 5 where both Jim Kim and Christine Lagarde will field questions directly from CSOs.
- IDA Replenishment
Negotiations around the 18th Replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA) will also take place around the AGM this year, which the World Bank is hoping to result in record numbers for its concessional lending window. The triennial replenishment has historically served as a forum for donor governments to advance foreign policy objectives by leveraging the monetary pledges on which IDA depends. However, IDA was just awarded a AAA credit rating, which will allow it to borrow money on capital markets for the first time—a shift away from its traditional source of funding that could have implications for the effectiveness of replenishment negotiations as a platform for development reform. Nevertheless, civil society organizations continue to push the institution to adopt clear targets for its lending over the next three years through the negotiation process, including commitments around forest conservation, tenure rights, and nature-based solutions for addressing the climate change crisis. The IDA Forum on Thursday October 6 will include a discussion of these issues with government representatives, CSOs, Bank staff, foundations and think tanks. The official third negotiation meeting for IDA18 will take place October 10 – 11.
- Continued Support for Coal through FIs and DPLs
New research from a group of CSOs indicates the World Bank continues to finance coal projects through its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), despite an official moratorium and warnings from President Kim of the disastrous impact such projects will have on climate change. Funds transferred to commercial banks, private equity funds, and other financial intermediaries (FIs) through IFC’s financial sector lending are notoriously difficult to track, leaving those harmed by the opaque investments without recourse— often not even knowing the “development” projects causing the harm are financed by the IFC with public funds. Similar impacts associated with lending through direct budget support, also known as development policy loans (DPLs) that are subject to much weaker standards than the Bank’s traditional investment products, will also be discussed. The research on FIs will be featured at a CSPF panel on Wednesday, October 5 as well as a roundtable hosted by Oxfam on Tuesday October 4. DPLs will be discussed at a CSPF panel on Thursday October 6.
- Civil Society Engagement
CSOs have increasingly voiced concerns in recent years over the World Bank’s engagement with civil society. Not only has the CSPF itself become more difficult to participate in for individuals living under repressive governments, it has also been increasingly marginalized as a side event to the very periphery of the events surrounding the AGM. It is almost impossible to find a schedule of events for the CSPF on the main website for the AGM, and in recent years the Bank has taken on a much more active role in determining the topics of discussion and in selecting the organizations that are invited to present their views. In the broader context of shrinking space for civic engagement around the world, these developments have led to serious concerns about the willingness of the Bank to hear alternate views or engage meaningfully with people impacted by its projects and programs. The Roundtable with World Bank Executive Directors on Tuesday October 4 will likely include a discussion of these issues, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Alexia Latortue will appear on a CSPF panel with CSOs and Bank staff to discuss citizen engagement on Wednesday October 5.
- Gender-Based Violence
The World Bank recently announced the creation of a Global Gender-Based Violence Task Force in response to an Inspection Panel investigation into allegations of sexual violence and abuse by contractors working on a Bank- financed road project in Uganda. In December of 2015, the Bank canceled the problematic road project and just weeks ago suspended all new lending to Uganda while it works to resolve “outstanding performance issues” with the Ugandan government. Joy for Children Uganda, which works closely with those impacted by the road project in Uganda, will lead a CSPF roundtable discussion on the new Task Force on Thursday October 6.
- World Bank Safeguards