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World Bank and Civil Society Review Anti-Poverty Efforts

Over the next two days, the World Bank will be meeting with private aid groups in Washington for what it calls a Civil Society Global Policy Forum. Delegates will discuss the Bank’s recommendations to low income countries about how to reduce poverty – what works and what doesn’t. They’ll also talk about ways to improve interactions between the Bank and civil society groups.

But a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are boycotting the meeting and encouraging others to do the same. Among them is the group called “50 years is Enough” -- a coalition of grassroots NGOs in the united states. It says it’s committed to transforming the World Bank policies and practices, and – in its words – “ending the outside imposition of neo-liberal economic programs.”

Soren Ambrose is a senior policy analyst with group. He told English to Africa reporter William Eagle one of the problems with the meeting is that its agenda has, in his opinion, mostly been shaped by the Bank. As an example, he says the first day of the two-day meeting will focus on what more the institution’s poverty reduction process can do – and not whether it is working well. He also says the Bank has not invited a number of NGOs that came out against the institution’s policies on structural adjustment programs, the construction of large dams in the developing world, and issues of oil, mining and gas exploitation. Mr. Ambrose says these groups were invited by the Bank to help evaluate its policies in these areas, but their recommendations have been ignored.

World Bank critic Soren Ambrose says some NGOs are also concerned about the Bank’s new incoming president, current Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. The activist says he thinks Mr. Wolfowitz will make the Bank more biased toward the northern interests that fund it, including the United States. President Bush says he backs Mr. Wolfowitz because he is “committed to development” and is “a compassionate, decent man.” The President says Mr. Wolfowitz has demonstrated his skill managing a large institution.