WASHINGTON - April 20 - The World Bank should stop financing projects with negative social and environmental impacts and seek rapid action to disbar companies found guilty of malfeasance, fraud or bribery say a coalition of human rights, environmental, and development advocates. Unfurling a banner that read “World Bank Finances Corporate Corruption,” activists interrupted today’s press conference featuring World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, whose crusade against corruption at the bank has been a flagship of his presidency.
A statement issued today by more than 70 organizations charges that Wolfowitz‘s campaign ignores the corruption that routinely impacts countries that are dependent on World Bank loans. “Fighting corruption in international finance requires that the World Bank accept accountability for its practices. For more than sixty years, the Bank has facilitated the control of public infrastructure and other assets in borrowing countries by U.S. corporate interests and other powerful World Bank shareholders.” said Steve Hellinger of The Development GAP.
The coalition criticized the World Bank for ignoring fundamental causes of corruption and dragging its feet in responding to allegations of corruption in Bank-funded projects. “The World Bank has financed many projects riddled with corruption such as the Enron power plant in Guatemala, the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline and Shell in Nigeria” added Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch, “Many of these corporations are engaged in highly questionable activities, financed by the World Bank, that involve influence payments, human rights abuses, and projects with damaging social and environmental impacts. Who holds the World Bank accountable for continuing to reward corrupt behaviour?”
Critics also responded to Wolfowitz’s recent anti-corruption programs, pointing to the World Bank’s corrupting influence in client countries. “Corruption also occurs when democratic processes are bypassed to influence legislation for private gain – similar to Jack Abramoff’s crimes in the U.S.,” said Sameer Dossani of the 50 Years Is Enough Network, “Economic policies for countries around the world are effectively written by the World Bank and the IMF, disrupting what should be a democratic process, and making governments accountable to foreign entities rather than their own people. Worse, most World Bank- and IMF-imposed policies benefit transnational corporations and local political elites.”
The groups also demanded debt cancellation for impoverished countries which have incurred debts to the World Bank due to the bank’s corrupt lending to illegitimate regimes. “What about the corruption of the past?” asked Debayani Kar of the Jubilee USA Network, “Billions in World Bank loans have gone to prop up corrupt regimes such as Suharto’s in Indonesia and Marcos’ in the Philippines. The U.S. Senate found that as much as $100 billion may have been lost to corruption in Bank projects. Yet today the impoverished citizens of impacted countries must continue to repay these odious and illegitimate debts. We call for the World Bank to take responsibility and cancel these debts.”
Read the statement