International NGOs, IMF and World Bank

Amnesty International

As an international movement, Amnesty International (AI) has close to 3 million supporters and other active affiliates located in over 140 countries. The main objective of the organization is to crusade against gross maltreatment of human rights. In addition, Amnesty International is dedicated in making sure that the Declaration of Human Rights as put forward by United Nations is enjoyed by all and sundry. To achieve this mission, AI has made use of its large base of members and activists to push for human rights agenda, for instance through the formation of pressure groups. The main source of funding for AI is the individual supporters of the NGO all over the world (Ierland, Gupta & Kok, 2003). The organization does not accept funding from political groups or government agencies.

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ActionAid

ActionAid is a nongovernmental organization whose key objective is to combat abject poverty on a global scale. The agency has been in operation for well over three decades since its inception in 1972. Moreover, it ha s an international presence in more than 40 countries, serving approximately thirteen million people living in extreme destitution. According to its mission statement, ActionAid directs its effort towards working with the less fortunate and discriminated people in society to exterminate poverty and prejudice. In order to achieve this broad mission, the agency has partnered with local communities, support groups as well as alliances at the national level (Ierland, Gupta & Kok, 2003). This partnership is also the source of funding for the NGO. Furthermore, the need to engage in poverty eradication is the focal point of contact of ActionAid and UN in observer mission.

International Committee of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross is a global NGO with observer status at UN. Having been incepted in 1863, the organization’s main mission is to offer humanitarian assistance to victims ravaged by war in addition to promoting custodian laws for war victims (Dupuy & Vierucci, 2008). Its focal point with UN lies within the Geneva Convention enacted in 1949. It is funded through voluntary handouts from the Red Crescent societies, the Red Cross and governments. The organization achieves its mission by employing a large pool of workers in more than 80 countries in addition to volunteering individuals and organizations.

International Institute for Sustainable Development

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is a Nongovernmental international Organization affiliated to United Nations with the broad mission of advancing sustainable development globally through research and analysis as well as exchanging vital information with like minded partners (Ierland, Gupta & Kok, 2003). The organization has myriad sources of funding which include the Canadian government, local NGOs, United Nations and the private sector. It achieves its mission through advocacy programs, exchanging vital information with partners alongside conducting research and analysis.

League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters is an international political NGO whose mission is to advocate for active and informed political participation in all levels of government. It achieves this mandate through education and promotion of its ideologies by reflecting on the immediate and long term requirements of wider society. Its main source of funding is through the well established Education Fund sub-organization. The League’s democratization ideals are also in line with the UN provisions on the rule of law (Lindblom, 2005).

IMF and World Bank

There are innumerable concerns over the strategies advanced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in executing their roles. These two sister organizations have quite often found themselves in different stages of crises occasioned by skewed policy guidelines on member countries, with beneficiaries largely perceived to be the developed countries. The institutions are becoming even more vulnerable owing to the plummeting esteem and confidence from both the public and private organizations (Hertz, 2004).

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Firstly, the financial turmoil that struck Asia and Russia was greatly complicated by IMF, not to mention the abrupt and unexpected resignation of Michel Camdessus who served in the capacity of Managing Director for a long time. To aggravate the situation, the manner in which both IMF and World Bank have conducted the famous structural adjustment program in poor developing and underdeveloped economies has left a bitter taste in the mouth of the recipients. The credibility of the World Bank has also fallen below par bearing in mind that the institution has persistently supported programs that breach its own objectives, rules and regulations (Sparr & Bruce, 2005). In spite of the Endeavour of its president to reform and revamp the institution, there has been little visible achievement.

It is unfortunate that the officials running IMF and World Bank have fell short of the much needed reforms in these institutions. Worse still, the political alliance that mostly constitutes members from affluent countries are running the organizations without the interest of poor nations. In fact, the so called reforms effected in the recent past are merely cosmetic and the bulk of it is sincerely a system off emotional blackmail meant to maintain the status quo but not change.

As World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Mike Moore once observed, the Breton Woods Institution are the lifeline of poor countries struggling to pull themselves out of abject poverty. It is quite sarcastic for the leadership of these institutions to present themselves as the linchpins of alleviating poverty, while the poor states seem to be approaching the verge of economic collapse unless some tangible action is taken. The argument that continual criticism of IMF and World Bank will lead to social strife of the poor is not justified either. Criticism of any underperforming organization is necessary to stir up growth and development. Sincerely speaking, this is a mortifying deceit of the highest order that can no longer be tolerated in the global arena. Nonetheless, it is imperative to incisively explore the underlying issues surrounding the operation strategies of IMF and World Bank so that we can be in a position to substantiate our claims.

It is evident that the sister institutions have remarkably failed to alleviate poverty albeit their confined and thin definition of the term. The operating guidelines of IMF and World Bank vividly stipulate that easing down poverty levels is top in the priority list (Alexander, 2006). However, the world is left astonished on the current state of poverty which has even skyrocketed especially in poor member countries. More than 20 percent of the total world population is economically stratified, surviving on less than one dollar per day. Moreover, another 1.6 billion people cannot make ends meet since they earn within a range of 1-2 dollars. This is pathetic notwithstanding the global presence of IMF and World Bank whose broad agenda is curtailing poverty.

Besides, the economic globalization policies set down by the two institutions has exacerbated the plight of several economically underprivileged countries. A case in point is the amount of per capita income that has significantly subsided in over eighty countries. This remarkable drop has been witnessed in a span of one decade or so, as a direct impact of unfavorable IMF/World Bank policies. The integration of poor countries into the global economy as per the current policy formulation is quite a disgrace to the already marginalized members. A critical look at Sub-Saharan Africa for example, reveals a 30 percent mark in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in total export volume. Comparatively, this is only about 20 percent of the chief industrialized countries who are members of OECD. In the face of this, the number of people living below poverty line in Sub-Saharan Africa is continually growing.

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Economic globalization has also pulled down poverty indicators such as financial volatility, crime levels, and health care, degradation of the environment as well as employment and security in income. A recent report released by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) notes that the aforementioned poverty pointers have all gotten worse (Mandel, 2006). Though unfortunate, the poor lot continues to bear the greatest brunt and loss.

The Breton Woods agenda is not a surprise either. In revisiting the primary goal behind the formation of IMF and World Bank, poverty alleviation was never a featured agenda. The aims and objectives of these monetary institutions were formulated in 1944 at Bretton Woods with a completely different schema contrary to what is known today by poor countries. The main aim was to create a vibrant and vigorous global economy which would sustain the local US economy by not just relying on domestic markets but also accessing overseas locations for raw materials and additional markets (Kahler, 1992). To be sincere, IMF and World Bank should not have assumed a capitalistic position by taking advantage of poor nations in disguise of poverty alleviation. The best way IMF would have acted as a responsible, accountable and transparent financial monitoring body is by ensuring that developed nations do not engage themselves in trade malpractices during periods of economic meltdown. For instance, the Fund should not promote trade barriers and restrictions such as high tax regimes or devaluating their currencies in order to curtail competition. IMF has been permitting developed economies to protect their domestic industries in times of financial crisis (Focus on the Global South, 2003). As a supervisory body, IMF should be above the board by ensuring the liquidity and stability of currencies as part of promoting trade between the poor and rich nations.

In the same note, the inception of World Bank was initially meant to advance loans to European nations that had been ravaged by war. The post war period called for reconstruction especially in energy and transport. The heavy investments in these areas demanded major funding which was later availed through World Bank. Later on, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was formed to facilitate international trade with focus on developed nations and not poor countries (International Monetary Fund, 2003). Notwithstanding the evolving roles of the Bretton Woods Institutions, their ever-arching purposes did not vanish away; they remained imperialistic and opportunistic leading to heavy losses by poorly established economies.

The long term impression and eventual reality behind the creation of Bretton Woods Institutions was the privilege to set agenda and influence global monetary policies including trade. Consequently, the poor countries have been on the receiving end swallowing the bitter policies prescribed by IMF and World Bank in the pretext of reducing poverty levels.

The physical infrastructure in developing countries is necessary before they can be fully integrated in the global economy. Unless this is perfected, resources will not be optimally exploited. In retrospect, this is one of the major roles of the World Bank but with respect to Northern Corporations. To that point, World Bank was not originally meant to benefit economically weak nations. Hence, World Bank advanced loans for reconstruction of physical facilities such as roads, rails, ports and oil pipelines. Although the significant amount of revenue is generated through foreign direct investments and interests on loans advanced, the proceeds hardly reach the poor lot. In most cases, people are often displaced from their areas of residence; they suffer from the impacts of environmental degradation and are rarely compensated for associated losses.

Conclusion

Finally, the reform on structural adjustment programs proposed by IMF and World Bank is yet another hiccup in developing nations. These two institutions have devised a culture of advancing loans to debt-ridden countries with tough conditions (Skogly, 2001). For instance, poor countries that have no other option to bail themselves out of financial crisis often end up bowing too low and inject reforms in their domestic systems and structures. As a result, the Northern Corporations are in a position to access new markets easily or even import cheap raw materials to the detriment of poor countries. Furthermore, governments in these poor countries often find themselves in the predicament of being manipulated at will, while massive public overheads is used to service foreign debt. This is not only a colonial policy, it is also a strategy of ensuring that developing and underdeveloped countries remain economic slaves of the Northern Corporations courtesy of IMF and World Bank.

References

Alexander, N. (2006). World Bank in Violation of its Own Good Practice Principles for Conditionality. Globalization Challenge Initiative, New York: Princeton University Press.

Focus on the Global South. (2003). what’s In a Name? PRSPs and Structural Adjustment.” In 50 Years Is Enough, Empty Promises: The IMF, the World Bank, and the Planned Failures of Global Capitalism, Washington DC: Anansi Press.

Hertz, N. (2004). The Debt Threat: How Debt Is Destroying the Developing World. HarperCollins.

International Monetary Fund. (2003). Fiscal Adjustment in IMF-Supported Programs.” Washington: Independent Evaluation Office, IMF.

Dupuy, M. and Vierucci, L. (2008). NGOs in international law: efficiency in flexibility? Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Ierland, E.V, Gupta, J. and Kok, M. T. J. (2003). Issues in international climate policy: theory and policy, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Lindblom, A. (2005). Non-governmental organizations in international law, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kahler, M. (1992). External Influence, Conditionality, and the Politics of Adjustment:The Politics of Economic Adjustment: International Constraints, Distributive Conflicts, and the State, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Mandel, S. (2006). Debt Relief As If People Mattered: A rights-based approach to debt sustainability. New Economics Foundation. Web.

Skogly, S. (2001). The human rights obligations of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, London: Cavendish Publishing Limited.

Sparr, P. and Bruce, J. (2005). The Debt Burden: Is an end in sight? Bank Information Center IFI Info Brief. No. 2. Web.

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