March to Demand World Bank Reform

Hundreds Gather for World Bank/IMF Action Day to Say: For People, For Planet – Decarbonize, Decolonize!

On the 80th anniversary of the Bretton Woods Institutions, hundreds rallied and marched to demand the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund make deep changes to their business as usual in the name of climate, human rights, and economic and global justice.

Washington, DC — Today, at the conclusion of the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, activists gathered at the World Bank headquarters to protest the Bank and Fund’s continued extractivist and market-first approaches. They called on these institutions to carry out true, transformational reforms. These reforms include ending financing to fossil fuels and factory farms, canceling debt, increasing transparency, instituting a strong framework to ensure remedy when projects harm communities, abandoning the investor-state trade dispute system, ending austerity and market-first policy prescriptions, making their governance more equitable, and more. 

Speakers from all corners of the world relayed their demands and the harms experienced by World Bank and IMF financing in their communities. Hundreds of concerned citizens and global activists marched through the streets. A giant wrecking ball symbolized demolishing the harmful results of the Bank and Fund’s traditional policies, with alternatives rising up in their place. 

This event comes shortly after the United Nations Climate Chief called for the World Bank to commit to a “quantum-leap” in climate finance in order to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. It also comes after ten straight months of global heat records. Despite this, Oil Change International recently found that the World Bank directed $1.2 billion per year to fossil fuels between 2020 and 2022. In addition, looking at the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Urgewald conservatively estimated that $3.7 billion went to oil and gas projects in 2022 alone. The funds came in the form of trade finance — a short-term, black-box form of indirect finance where opacity is baked in.

“Transparency is the prerequisite for all of Ajay Banga’s efforts to build a better bank. We demand full disclosure of IFC-supported trade finance transactions. Coal, oil, gas and their related goods must be put on the exclusion list for all forms of World Bank finance, direct and indirect alike,” said Ute Koczy, Senior Advisor and Campaigner at Urgewald.

“The world can’t wait any longer for the top World Bank shareholders and Ajay Banga to get their acts together,” said Andrew Nazdin, director of the Glasgow Actions Team. “We’re marching outside their doors to demand they commit to kick starting climate finance cashflows, and a robust IDA replenishment. Because the World Bank can’t succeed in a burning world.”

“For far too long, the Bretton Woods Institutions –through their unchanged colonial compositions- have been pushing extractivist development models, austerity, debt and private sector-first policy prescriptions,” said Luisa Abbott Galvao, senior international finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S.The world is facing multiple crises of climate, debt and inequality, and the World Bank Group and IMF must answer for their role contributing to these.” 

“The World Bank’s continued support for the global expansion of industrial livestock is exacerbating the climate crisis, especially within peasant and Indigenous communities’ ancestral territories, undermining the SDGs and the bank’s own climate agenda, while also keeping the goals of the Paris Agreement firmly out of reach,” said Erika Xananine Calvillo Ramirez, S3F Youth Ambassador and Indigenous-Ngiwa defender from Mexico.

“Eighty years after its founding, the World Bank claims it is ready to become a ‘bigger, better bank.’ But targeting billions in new lending without centering accountability and phasing out fossil fuels will only accomplish ‘bigger’ — certainly not ‘better,’” stated Carla García Zendejas, Senior Attorney and Program Director at the Center for International Environmental Law. “It is impossible to address the climate crisis if the Bank continues business as usual. Ensuring transparency, meaningful stakeholder participation, and effective remedy for affected communities is an essential prerequisite to a just energy transition. Anything less undermines the World Bank’s mission, to the detriment of those most vulnerable.”

“The world is facing multiple crises and people want solutions. The World Bank’s vision of reducing poverty on a livable planet cannot become reality without tackling the cause of climate change – fossil fuels. The Bank has poured at least 17bn dollars into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement. This is not the way to solve today’s climate and development challenges. The Bank must shift its finance into sustainable, renewables to provide energy access that benefits people and the planet,” said Sophie Richmond, Global Lead at the Big Shift Campaign.

“The World Bank is pushing a green extractivist model, supporting big companies to build mega renewables and mineral extraction projects that displace local communities and damage the environment,” said Alison Doig, Senior Advisor at Recourse. “The new renewable energy system needs to be for people and planet first, before profit. The World Bank should be supporting a green transition that ensures energy access for people, decent jobs and a thriving local economy.”

“Considering the climate crisis, it’s remarkable IFC still is not adhering to its due diligence obligations to prevent harm under its own policies and international human rights law that require it account for and prevent avoidable GHG emissions from the projects it finances,” said Jason Weiner of Bank Climate Advocates (BCA). “The frequency and magnitude of these IFC failures are greatly impacting  global warming and causing severe harm to millions of people all over the world –  BCA’s data documents that just 235 IFC investments from 2012-present, account for over 168,000,000 tons of avoidable GHG emissions per year, which is roughly equivalent to what the Netherlands emits annually and does not even include the significant readily recognizable emissions IFC has negligently failed to quantify.”

Organizers of this event include: Urgewald, Recourse, Big Shift Global, Friends of the Earth US, Glasgow Actions Team, Shutdown DC, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and many more.

Abbie Veitch, [email protected], 631-708-8541
Shaye Skiff, Friends of the Earth U.S., [email protected]
Ognyan Seizov, Urgewald, [email protected], +4930863292261
Madeleine Race, Recourse, [email protected], +31 645 198 654
Lani Furbank, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), [email protected], +001.202.742.5785

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