A semi-serious account of the annual Worldbank Group-IMF meeting
It all started with an insignificant looking post on facebook. The Washington Chapter of SID informed its followers about an Oxfam International session that would take place at the upcoming Worldbank-IMF meeting and noted that registration for this conference would close the next day. Curious as I am and intrigued by key words like “Busan Agenda” and “ownership”, I clicked on the link. It’s almost a kind of Pavlov reflex for me, I just can’t seem to resist. As it is so often in the worldwide web, one link led to the next and eventually I found myself filling out a registration-form on the worldbank-webpage. It was a fairly simple process, so that when I later received the confirmation, I was quite surprised that they made it sound as if I had qualified through a highly competitive application-procedure. “We are pleased to inform you that you have been accredited to attend the 2011 Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group” I wonder how much “accrediting” had actually taken place, besides maybe checking that I didn’t put something like Al Qaeda as my affiliated organization. (I had written “UNSA Maastricht”, which seems to be acceptable to the Worldbank).
Insights of the conference were numerous and diverse: “We don’t do aid. We give development assistance” was one of the more memorable quotes by Barbara Lee, Head of the Worldbank Team on Aid Effectiveness, even though it didn’t add much to the discussion of Act!onAid’s new report on aid dependency. More substantive remarks were made by Paul Collier in his presentation of his new book “Plundered Nations”. He argued that developing countries need to get the right deal for the extraction of their resources and suggested a sovereign resilience fund that could help stabilize economic development in African countries. Although he admits that the decision-making chain on the way to the right deal is highly complex, he nevertheless ended on a hopeful note, reminding the audience that once upon a time, Germany’s economy was the worst managed in Europe, but because it was the worst, it is now the best. Looking at the performance of other European economies though, soon this might not mean anything anymore. It’s how they say: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Which by the way was another highly discussed topic during last week’s meeting: The Euro-zone crisis.
In fact, it seemed that so many people had something to say about this, that in the end, it all blended into one unintelligble buzz. And that usually became my sign that it was time to find a quiet spot somewhere next to the gigantic, decorative pool that dominates the lobby of the Worlbank Maincomplex. With loads of free food and drinks, I would spend hours reading through all the materials that were distributed during the sessions. With evaluation-reports on development financing, guidebooks for open development and the latest G20-policy papers, it was hard to decide what to read first.
Besides the ministerial meetings and high-level panel discussions, a lot of hand-on politcs was made, too. The forum was a chance for NGOs and civil society organizations to network and collaborate and I’m sure the flow of business-cards that changed hands would look quite impressive if visualized in a diagram. Of course it remains to be seen what really came out of this meeting, but maybe, maybe the next conference in Busan can build on these stepping stones.