This CAFOD report shows how the World Bank is failing in its duty to tackle poverty by promoting a model of agricultural development that benefits large-scale agribusiness at the expense of some of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers.
As governments converge on Washington for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank spring meeting, they are confronted with the daunting prospect that 2023 might be the year that the world will be hit by a developing country debt crisis much like that which took place in the early 1980’s that led to the infamous lost decade in Latin America and Africa. A number of defaults on debt repayments over the last three years have served as the alarm bells for a possibly even bigger implosion.
The World Bank Group (WBG) is one of the largest multilateral development banks in the world. Its professed mission: to end poverty and promote shared prosperity in developing countries.
But social movements and civil society, especially in the global South, have questioned the WBG’s economic role for decades. They have been criticising the United States’ (US) domination of the institution. The WBG has been opposed for sinking countries in debt, for imposing conditions on said loans, for shaping economies to the benefit of big business instead of people, and even for backing military dictatorships. Seventy-nine years since its establishment, a reckoning is necessary on the WBG’s performance as a supposed development bank.
The World Bank is bringing back its flagship annual report on the ease of doing business worldwide after a data manipulation scandal marred the last version, prompting the bank to scrap the project in 2021. There’s a new brand, a revised methodology, and a reformed mission focused on capturing a more honest snapshot of conditions for the private sector.
Drawing on the specific case of IMF and World Bank’s response to the multiple crisis triggered by the pandemic, a journal article shows that there is a discourse-practice disjuncture in the Bretton Woods institutions approach to public services as they continue to favour austerity and market-oriented solutions for the delivery of public services. The article therefore seeks to demystify the institutions rhetoric and demand the adoption of a different way of understanding public services, and social policy more broadly.
What Global Social Justice already questioned in January 2019 is now becoming mainstream in the NGO world:
From the Bretton Woods Project:
“The Covid-19 pandemic and its related shocks have revealed the value of public services and social protection floors. Institutions tasked with ending poverty like the World Bank are increasingly under pressure to support vital public services and play a key role in wider universal social protection (USP) discussions. The World Bank recently released its latest commitment to social protection: A Social Protection and Jobs Compass to “chart a course towards USP,” which provides guidance to Bank staff on jobs and social protection issues.
Following a limited consultation process, civil society were eager to respond to the Compass. Lena Simet of Human Rights Watchconcluded that the Compass guidance note, “makes a strong commitment to USP. However, its guidance on how countries can get there is problematic.”
The Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) have long been challenged on their claims of being pro-poor in their approach to social protection. A wealth of evidence has highlighted the flaws of the targeted approaches to social protection preferred by the BWIs, such as Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), which have been shown to be ineffective at reaching the poorest – as the Bank itself acknowledged – prone to corruption, and less likely to protect human rights than universal schemes.
Instead of simply dismissing public social insurance and potentially creating costly parallel structures, we call on the World Bank to support countries in adapting their social security systems to be more inclusive. DR LAURA ALFERS, WIEGO
The World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project, launched in 2013, has sought agricultural reforms favouring the corporate sector. EBA was initially established to support the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, initiated by the G8 to promote private agricultural development in Africa.
The New Alliance has been touted as “a new model of partnership” for agricultural transformation in Africa. The Bank has used the EBA to address the land issue in developing countries, particularly in Africa. The effort is strongly supported by the US and UK governments as well as the Gates Foundation, all strong proponents of corporate agriculture.