This year, Singapore is the host for the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Wahu Kaara argues that the reason the IMF and the World Bank chose Singapore is because these institutions want to exclude the poor people of the world. Further, she argues that these institutions only exist to serve the wealthy countries, while, simultaneously, undermine the sovereignty of poor countries. “The International Financial Institution (IFI)...read more
This year, Singapore is the host for the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Wahu Kaara argues that the reason the IMF and the World Bank chose Singapore is because these institutions want to exclude the poor people of the world. Further, she argues that these institutions only exist to serve the wealthy countries, while, simultaneously, undermine the sovereignty of poor countries. “The International Financial Institution (IFI) provides loans to poor countries based on conditions that undermine state sovereignty. It is these conditions that precipitate the political and economic breakdown of some African countries.”
This September, the World Bank and IMF hold their annual meetings in Singapore. The intent, more manifest than subtle, is to exclude the poor people of the world from holding them to account. But there is growing recognition that a dominant voice from the commons is clearly underpinning a new counter-planning strategy from below.
Considering that the Global Justice Movement was an unknown feature some twenty years ago, a lot more of its values are gaining credence and acceptability in the mainstream. This is an admission of how far we have come, and where we are headed.
On October 17, a day after my 54th birthday, the world will awake to the International Day of Poverty. It is interesting how organizing around poverty issues has become fashionable in today’s society. It seems as if the goal is to create a multi billion-dollar industry whose legacy we cannot fathom. Or are we in the danger of losing sight of our engagement reasons to a point that now we are gravitating towards what has aptly been referred to as the age of “Billanthropy?”
What is becoming clearer by the day, however, is that the much touted globalization, laden with neo-liberal policies, is not working for the majority of the world population.
In February 2005, Nelson Mandela aptly captured that, “massive poverty and obscene inequality is the scourge of our times.” I must add that we don’t run from a scourge, but tackle it head-on and innovatively create measures and maneuvers to overwhelm it.
The International Financial Institutions (IFIs) provide loans to poor countries based on conditions that undermine state sovereignty. It is these conditions that precipitate the political and economic breakdown of some African countries.
The structural adjustment policies and their enhanced versions have debilitating effects on the ability to enhance growth and reap the benefits thereof. Further, forced and skewed macro-economic changes are supposed to lead to growth as per the neo-liberal fable, but concentrated, short term growth only serves to fuel inequality and inequitable forms of growth that in turn result in a burgeoning economic class and, more often, a political elite that is continuously insensitive to the majority. This is a recipe for insecurity and a breakdown in social solidarity.
The debt crises continue to grind us. As the basis of how the control and domination between the rich and more often powerful North affects the South, this is one issue that we must deal with very clearly and soberly.
The debt crisis is more of a political than economic issue. But the economic mantra becomes an easy sell so as to mystify it and shroud it in secrecy. Debt must be interrogated on the basis of its illegitimacy and odiousness.
A critical awareness is emerging that with the Gleneagles debt deal of 2005, perhaps the creditors have reached the full extent of the concessions that they are prepared to make. The emergent post-Gleneagles thinking that the debtors too must make a clear position on where they stand, becomes acute. Nigeria has blazed the repudiation trail in Africa. This must be embraced and thoroughly interrogated. Both the mid-term and long-term ramifications must be isolated to arrive at a coherent position on the way forward.
We must all embrace the paradigm shift that we are no longer talking about charity but justice, that Africa is alive and the African peoples have refused to die but, in the converse, live for Africa. Tony Blair says that we are a “scar on the conscience of the world.” But that needs to be qualified. Their world. That of excesses, exploitation, control and domination.
Our political leadership may jump into bed with those who perpetuate our misery and penury, but for how long? Even at that level it is all crumbling like the walls of Jericho. The African Union has unequivocally stated that debt cancellation is a must, that investment in public services is critical and that there is a need to develop a social policy on Africa based on rights and entitlements. These are surely groundbreaking dialogues.
The World Social Forum comes to Africa for the first time in January 2007. In Nairobi from January 20-25th, we must showcase to the world the African reality. We must be able to have new dreams. To develop new cosmologies, new metaphors devoid of violence and exploitation.
We must rehabilitate and reconstruct politics. In addition, we must ensure universal and sustainable access to the common goods of humanity and nature. We have to ensure dignity, defend diversity and guarantee expression, eliminating all forms of discrimination. By guaranteeing the rights to food, healthcare, education, housing and work, we will be building a world order based on sovereignty, self-determination and rights of peoples.
In all our different actions and engagements all across the world, this is what we should be working towards and articulating. That “Another World is Possible” but that this world is already in the making. That is the only way to reinforce the paradigm shift from charity to justice. Anything short of that and I concur with the Croatian development critic Ivan Illich: “To hell with good intentions.”
In the meantime, let’s all keep at our concerted efforts to build the collage of our different actions and challenges countering the dominant themes of run-away corporate capital fuelled globalization. While at it, see you all at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, January 20-25th 2007, as we give home to celebrate our diversity and recognition of our dignified commonwealth.
* Wahu Kaara is a Kenyan Social Campaigner, Educationist and Global Social Justice Activist. She has written and spoken extensively on justice, debt and economic matters as they affect Africa and especially Women. She is the Executive Chair of the Kenya Debt Relief Network (KENDREN) and Founder Chair of the Africa Women Economic Justice Network. She is currently immersed in the Mobilization and Planning for the World Social Forum slated for Nairobi, January 20-25th 2007.
*Kiama Kaara, is the Deputy Coordinator and Researcher at the Kenya Debt Relief Network (KENDREN). He is also the Convener of the World Social Forum Organizing Committee Youth Commission.
*Please send comments to or comment online at www.pambazuka.org