September 2001 - VOLUME 22 - NUMBER 9
An Interview with Njoki Njoroge Njehu
Njoki Njoroge Njehu is the director of 50 Years Is Enough, a U.S. network for global economic justice consisting of over 200 U.S. grassroots and policy organizations dedicated to the profound transformation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
|There are a lot of things being planned around the fall protests in Washington, D.C. that are very exciting and that are a show of the kind of creativity that could flourish if we didnt have just one model of development and one economic model, with nothing else allowed.||
Multinational Monitor: Where do you think the IMF and the World
Bank are politically compared to where they were three years ago?
I think they are struggling to come up with new rhetoric. They are not
yet at the point where they want to enact the kind of changes that are
required. They are figuring out new ways of saying, Yes we care
about poverty, look at how much we are doing about poverty. An example
is their outrageous display of a red ribbon on their Washington, D.C.
headquarters for World AIDS Day in 2000.
They are at a point where they need to seriously reexamine their track
record. It is not enough for [World Bank President] James Wolfensohn to
say, Im not embarrassed to say that Cuba has done a lot better
even though they havent followed our advice. The Bank needs
to examine why Cuba and other countries have succeeded in areas like healthcare
and education, and what other countries could do to succeed as well, rather
than continuing with the same orthodoxy.
MM: Do you attribute the Bank and IMFs new posture and the
new rhetoric to the protest movements?
Because of the protests, the IMF and World Bank are more than likely
to be questioned anywhere they go about what they are doing and about
projects they are involved in. For five decades preceding, they had been
perceived as being good for development. With the protests, the institutions
track record has been put on the front pages of newspapers, and on radio
The mass mobilizations are key to maintaining pressure on these institutions,
and to creating the change we are talking about. It is quite impressive
when you get millions of people saying, Cancel the debt. It
is quite impressive when millions of people are saying, Stop structural
adjustment programs, Open your meetings and Stop
environmentally destructive projects. It is quite different than
when you just have a few NGOs who are not necessarily pushing hard. I
think the protests have also done a great deal to move a lot of middle-of-the-road
NGOs into more progressive positions.
MM: To what extent have the rhetorical changes been matched by
actual policy changes?
The institutions claims about fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa are not
matched by reality: if their response is to lend more money, to create
more debt to fight HIV/AIDS, then the rhetoric far outpaces the reality.
Thats where our work is cut out for us.
When we talk about good governance, we dont mean Japan gets a few
percentage points more in voting rights, we mean that the meetings are
open to the public and the media. We mean that project-affected people
are able to get the information they need before projects are approved.
We mean that when civil society participates in the PRSP [Poverty Reduction
Strategy Paper] process, as in the case of Tanzania, people there are
able to get the draft document outlining national economic plans, without
needing to rely on allies in Washington to obtain the documents somehow
and send them to Tanzania documents that were drafted in Tanzania
in the first place. It is not enough to talk about debt relief; what we
are talking about debt cancellation. It shouldnt be about poverty
reduction, but rather poverty eradication.
MM: What are the demands for this falls protest?
The crux of these demands is to say that these are public institutions,
and they should be there for the public good, not for corporate good or
MM: How will this particular round of protests affect the institutions
It is really important that this continues to move forward. In fact,
it is moving forward, and our coalitions are bigger. There is a great
deal of focus and coming together around the demands. It is not just that
people are coming to protest; they are coming united in what they are
demanding from the World Bank and IMF. This is a new phase, and one that
enables us to send a clear and articulate message forward both to the
institutions and to the general public, directly and through the media.
MM: What is the range of activities that will be going on during
and around the protest time?
There are a lot of things being planned that are very exciting and that are a show of the kind of creativity that could flourish if we didnt have just one model of development and one economic model, with nothing else allowed.
|The mass mobilizations are key to maintaining the pressure on the institutions, and to creating change.|