Organizers of anti-globalization protests planned in Washington during a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank late next month are demanding that the two organizations change the way they do business.
A group calling itself the Mobilization for Global Justice issued four demands to the IMF and World Bank. The demands: cancel the debts of impoverished nations, open IMF and World Bank meetings to the public, end support of privatization and austerity, and halt lending for dams and pipelines that damage the environment.
Protest organizer Liz Butler says the movement is championing poor people who are victims of free trade and globalization. "Folks have a right to health, folks have a right to education, folks have a right to clean drinking water and folks have a right to organize around the world," she said.
Joanne Carter, who is a member of a group fighting hunger and poverty, says the World Bank and IMF do more harm than good. "We're not arguing that economic growth isn't good or important. We're arguing that World Bank and IMF policies have failed to produce economic growth and have actually increased hardship for poor people in the developing world," she said.
The protesters, mostly young, white, and affluent Americans, hope to bring tens of thousands of people to Washington for 10 days at the end of September. The threat of violent protests has already prompted the bank and fund to shorten their usual one-week annual meeting to just two days. Washington police say they will place a tall fence around the conference location and keep most protesters away.
In recent months, anti-globalization protests have marred or disrupted international economic meetings in both Europe and North America. Tim Atwater, the head of a religious group favoring debt cancellation, blames the IMF and World Bank for promoting the free trade objectives of multi-national corporations.
"What we've seen in the World Trade Organization rules and the drafts of the Free Trade Area of the Americas draft is more mercantilist than free market," he said. "It's more micro-management for corporations and against peasant farmers and low-wage earners than it is about classical free trade."
Repeating the slogans of the student protests of the 1960s, the protesters blame the United States for much of the world's economic distress.