A little more than four years ago, an activist
forum, Citizens Against the World Bank, released an open letter to you: “World
Bank Quit India.” Apparently, their
recommendation has gone unheeded, thus explaining your presence in
We realize that in recent years the World Bank has tried to give itself a new image, a ‘face-lift’ complete with new language (“empowerment”, “learning”, “diversity”, “quality”); new areas of operation (“self-help groups”, “gender issues”, “education”); and new modes of implementation (“capacity-building,” “participation”, “decentralization”). Yet despite the new image, it is clear that the goals, attitudes, and processes of the World Bank have fundamentally not changed.
Indeed, far from forsaking the ‘party line’ of its Bretton Woods ancestry, the Bank continues to gravitate towards and reproduce the same old power structures, the same old economic-political-and-social stratification, and the same old dehumanizing System. It has not stopped reinforcing the oppressive, exploitative tactics of its loyal followers (banks, corporations, government elites, other international donors), and therefore it has not stopped condemning the world’s social majorities to lives of poverty, inequity, discrimination, and marginalization. By selling loans to the developing world (or by ‘graciously’ offering us grants), the Bank ensures the growth of the Status Quo and the proliferation of its destructive model of Development/Globalization and its own Hegemony.
Mr. Wolfensohn, we are sure that you are aware of how your paper-based rhetoric has played itself out in concrete realities. However, in case it has slipped your memory, here are a few examples:
Although it is has been well-documented by countless researchers, we
must mention the impact of the World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programs on
The World Bank has infiltrated nearly every sector of human activity
(infrastructure, sanitation, environment, health, education, and ‘self-help’
associations) and thus has spread like a virus in
· Via its policies and programs, the Bank has bred and entrenched a dependency on the State and Market — two institutions so intertwined that it is hard to say where one stops and the other begins. ‘Capacity-building’ has meant eliminating the capacity of people to live interdependently (accomplished by generating inferiority-superiority complexes, breaking down localities and communities, destroying collective-oriented knowledge systems, etc.) and concentrating power, control, and wealth in these two ubiquitous Big Brothers. For example, the focus of the much-touted Women’s Self-Help Groups (on saving money) has fostered competition within communities and increased women’s dependence on the banks and the Market to solve the problems before them. By thus commodifying their relationships, turning them individually into ‘human capital’ and ‘human resources’ and collectively into ‘social capital’, they neither question the roots of these problems, nor do they try to involve their whole communities in nurturing more transformative, meaningful, and self-reliant kinds of approaches to them.
· The World Bank has also succeeded in eliminating local knowledges and wisdoms, by calling upon ‘experts’ to steer the project of Development with their Scientific and Technical know-how. Its apparent ‘about-face’ in the last few years — from demeaning traditional practices to valuing indigenous knowledge — is an even more insidious means to continue this pattern. This time knowledge is being stripped from and thereafter denied to communities, via intellectual property patenting (read: theft) and wide-scale export and marketing (read: selling stolen goods).
Of course, this is not entirely the World Bank’s
fault. Our own elite officials within
the Government of India have ‘begged’ you for money to finance the
We wonder how many letters like this you must
receive on a regular basis. Perhaps they
number in the thousands. Like our predecessors
four years ago, we too must conclude that the World Bank can play no positive
Concerned Citizens of