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Major Protests Expected at IMF/World Bank Meeting - 2001-08-16

Police in Washington say they believe next month's World Bank/IMF meeting could attract more than 20,000 anti-globalization protesters. Protest organizers have a long list of demands.

Thousands of demonstrators converged on an IMF meeting in Washington 18 months ago, when the anti-globalization movement was smaller and less media savvy than it is today.

In the past two months, protesters disrupted a European Union meeting in Sweden and an economic summit in Italy.

Fearful of mass demonstrations and violence, Washington police have persuaded the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to scale back their late September meeting from a week to just two days.

According to veteran protest organizer Njoki Njehu of the Network for Global Economic Justice, the protesters have specific demands of the IMF and World Bank. "It's not enough that they've cut back their meetings to two days," she said. "If the [third world] debts aren't canceled, if the structural adjustment policies are still being implemented. The meetings are not open to the public and the media. Then nothing has changed. Because it [the demos] aren't about the meetings, it's about the policies and the practices of the institutions."

Ms. Njehu says U.S. trade unions are embracing the call for protests. She says the IMF and World Bank are instruments of dominance by industrial nations. She wants complete debt cancellation for poor countries and dismisses debt relief measures implemented so far as inadequate.

IMF and World Bank officials say they share the goals of the protesters and are tailoring their policies to help developing countries overcome poverty and debt.

But the protest appeal is diverse. The mobilization drive connects with university students and young people by accusing world economic organization of financing huge projects that pollute and disrupt the lives of the poor.

Globalization - the process of freer and expanding trade - is identified as inherently unfair and weighted in favor of rich countries. To try to expand their movement, protest organizers are preparing for a week of seminars that emphasize the need to combat sexism, racism, classism and homophobia.