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Christian Aid and the World Bank

By Sarah Whittington | 11 February 2011

Christian Aid has a long and interesting history with the World Bank. For years it was the focus of our debt and trade campaigns. Now our climate campaign has brought us back together.

So why has an institution set up to end poverty been a recurring target of our campaigning in the last 15 years?

Repeatedly, and in the face of significant opposition from the very communities affected by its policies, the Bank has persisted with a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach to fighting poverty that's actually been damaging to many poor countries.

One of the Bank's major roles is to make loans to poor countries so that they can pay for their own development.

Yet the Bank has a history of making poor-country governments agree to significant economic policy changes before they could see any money.

Typically, governments would be forced to privatise key industries, open their markets to foreign companies (rather than protecting domestic firms) and export raw materials cheaply.

These were policies that often led to wage cuts, unemployment, higher food prices and reduced health and education services. Yet the Bank stuck to the liberalisation script.

Naturally, over and again, we have had to speak out.

In 1994, to mark the Bank's 50th anniversary, we sent thousands of birthday cards calling for an end to the Bank's conditionality. This led to reform of the World Bank being put on government agendas and eventually helped to change economic policy.

We also helped set up Jubilee 2000 to call for developing country debts to be dropped altogether.

Not only have they been successful, but our brushes with the Bank have produced some landmarks in the fight against poverty.

The Drop the Debt campaign changed western attitudes to poor-country debt forever, while in 2006 our Trade Justice campaign resulted in the UK government withholding £50m of funding from the Bank in protest over its insistence on imposing economic conditions on poor countries' trade.

Today our focus is still on how the World Bank distributes money. But this time it's from a climate change point of view.

The Bank has a damning record of funding fossil fuel projects in poor countries - despite people in poor countries saying that clean, reliable energy offers them a more sustainable route out of poverty.

Now's your chance to join our campaign and demand the World Bank supports low-carbon development and ensure better access to energy for the poor.

Our history of engagement with the World Bank has proven time and again that campaigning works. And we are hopeful that, with your help, in 2011 we'll influence the World Bank again as it reviews its energy policy, and help secure a brighter future for the world's poor.


Take action!

Act now! Email Andrew Mitchell, the development secretary, and urge him to help get the World Bank out of fossil fuels.


Clean up the World Bank!

World Bank fossil fuel loans are paying for poverty. Tell them to stop.

Act now!

 About the author

Sarah Whittington

Sarah Whittington manages Christian Aid's climate change campaign

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