The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are considering postponing or canceling their annual meeting, scheduled for later this month in Washington, in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorism attacks. A decision is expected soon.
The World Bank and IMF meetings are scheduled for the weekend of September 29 and 30 at their Washington headquarters. But the IMF says officials of the two lending agencies have been busy consulting U.S. Treasury and security officials, as well as other member states, on whether to hold them as scheduled.
The two institutions had already cut back the length of the sessions from one week to two days at the request of Washington police officials, because of the threat of massive street protests by anti-globalization demonstrators. Such protests have been held at a number of regional and global economic meetings, often leading to clashes with police.
Washington police chief Charles Ramsey said after Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that his agency preferred the meetings not be held because they would pose a huge security risk.
The choices facing World Bank and IMF officials are whether to hold the meetings, delay them, or cancel them. IMF spokesman William Murray say they favor postponement.
"There's essentially agreement in principle between the Fund and the Bank that a postponement is warranted, particularly out of sympathy, in deference to the U.S. authorities [because of] the tragic events that occurred on Tuesday," said Mr. Murray. "But we have to wait and see. A lot of countries have to be consulted. We have 183 member countries. There is the host government. The U.S. government is the host government. It's got very significant things on its mind right now. I can't imagine it's [the meeting] the most significant thing in its mind. I assume we'll get a decision fairly soon."
Tuesday's airline terrorism has also altered the activities of protest groups opposing the two agencies' lending policies to poor countries. While no group has canceled plans to demonstrate if the meetings are held, they have put many activities on hold in the wake of the tragedies.
Many organizations have canceled meetings, and a California-based group called Ruckus canceled a planned training camp near Washington to teach non-violent protest tactics. The group's program director, Han Shan, is uncertain what comes next. "We as activists and organizers focused on globalization, both abroad and at home, are trying to figure out what our role can be as we move forward, in the wake of the tragic events of this past week," he said. "I just don't know what that's going to look like, and I think it's going to take some time for everyone, including ourselves, to figure it out."
The World Bank and IMF sessions are not the only meetings in question. Finance ministers of the so-called Group of Seven industrial countries are also scheduled to meet in Washington at the end of the month, but news reports say there has been no decision on changing arrangements for it.