New Internationalist

Fight Back! Bankbusters

Issue 355

Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] New Internationalist 355[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] April 2003[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.


The boycott of World Bank bonds is spreading,
writes Mihail Dafydd Evans.

Can a bank change? Not without public pressure, say supporters of the World Bank Bonds Boycott. For many countries in the Majority World the Bank is a key source of new funds to support their fragile economies – as well as one of the most powerful forces pushing the dogma of privatization.

But there’s a catch. The Bank’s loans come with a set of rigid conditions commonly known as ‘structural adjustment’. In practice that means poor countries are obliged to make their economies more ‘market friendly’– a euphemism that translates into cuts in healthcare and education, selling off state-owned enterprises, lowering barriers to foreign investors and prioritizing debt repayment over human needs.

The Bank’s spindoctors recently coined the term Poverty Reduction Strategy to replace structural adjustment but little has changed. Indeed, there’s greater pressure now on poor countries to follow the privatization route.

IMF World Bank The World Bank Boycott was created as a way of challenging the Bank’s public image and its main source of financing. Most of its funds (about 80 per cent) are raised by selling bonds in private financial markets. Many of the purchasers are large public institutions like municipalities and universities – or pension funds representing millions of individuals. So there is a tremendous potential for changing Bank policy by convincing people not to buy these bonds. Originally launched in April 2000, the boycott has now spread to more than 30 countries in the South as well as to the US, Canada, Britain and Europe. Groups from Haiti, Senegal, Zimbabwe, India and Thailand provide campaigners in the North with examples of the devastating impact of Bank policies on the ground.

But the campaign is most advanced in the US. Seven cities (including San Francisco, Berkeley and Boulder) and a number of national trade unions and faith communities have passed motions pledging to sell bonds or not to buy them. TIAA-CREF, the largest private pension fund in the country, sold all its Bank bonds last autumn after a grassroots campaign by pension fund holders.

The Bank may not have changed yet. But there are signs it is paying attention. Part of the concern is that the boycott will threaten bond ratings, a crucial factor for investors. A loss of its ‘triple A’ status could dry up the World Bank’s revenue flow. Bank staffers have been parachuted in to lobby council members in advance of recent US municipal votes on boycott motions. Last year in Los Angeles the Bank’s PR machine went into high gear before the boycott even started.

Mihail Dafydd Evans works with World Bank Boycott Europe.
For more information see:

Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.
© Copyright 2003 New Internationalist
Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.

This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on Fight Back! Bankbusters

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Recently in Features

All Features

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 355

New Internationalist Magazine issue 355
Issue 355

More articles from this issue

  • Bad Medicine

    April 1, 2003

    Britain’s vaunted National Health Service is reeling, hammered by lack of funding and government bumbling. But privatizing the system is not the answer, argues Allyson Pollock. GATS Attacks!

  • I shop, therefore I am

    April 1, 2003

    Has the narcissism of the market destroyed our sense of collective identity? Psychiatrist Trevor Turner argues that a preoccupation with self has spawned a new syndrome: malignant self-actualization.

  • Gats Attacks

    April 1, 2003

    Evil invaders from another planet blast our precious public services. Illustration by Polyp.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.