This briefing aims to shed light on the extent to which the World Bank advances its own policy agenda through loan conditionality. Eurodad – the European Network on Debt and Development – examined the loan conditions attached to Development Policy Operations (DPOs) for 2017. We looked at 53 DPOs in 46 countries, including 30 International Development Assistance (IDA) operations (in 28 countries) and 23 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) operations (in 18 countries). We ‘unbundled’ conditions to identify all conditions including those that refer to more than one policy issue, and we found 506 conditions for 53 DPOs – 9.6 conditions per operation on average. We focused on prior actions, the conditions borrower countries need to fulfill before the loans are disbursed.
The Highest Bidder Takes It All: The World Bank’s Scheme to Privatize the Commons details how the Bank’s prescribes reforms, via a new land indicator in the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project, promotes large-scale land acquisitions and the expansion of agribusinesses in the developing world. This new indicator is now a key element of the larger EBA project, which dictates pro-business reforms that governments should conduct in the agricultural sector. Initiated as a pilot in 38 countries in 2017, the land indicator is expected to be expanded to 80 countries in 2019. The project is funded by the US and UK governments and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Great Ventriloquist Act: The World Bank’s Bad Business in India exposes how India’s one-track focus on improving its DBR has allowed massive environmental, labor, and human rights abuses to take place. Most appalling is the case of Vedanta Resources Plc, a company that benefitted from the removal of environmental safeguards and was able to operate a damaging copper smelter within the city limits of Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu—a mere 8.4 miles away from the ecologically fragile Gulf of Mannar Biosphere reserve. Not only has the smelter been responsible for massive environmental destruction, it was the site of a massacre of 13 activists protesting its expansion in May 2018.
Indonesia: The World Bank’s Failed East Asian Miracle details how Bank-backed policy reforms have led to the displacement, criminalization, and even murder of smallholder farmers and indigenous defenders to make way for mega-agricultural projects. While Indonesia’s rapidly expanding palm oil sector has been heralded as a boon for the economy, its price tag includes massive deforestation, widespread loss of indigenous land, rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and more.
Down On the Seed, the World Bank Enables Corporate Takeover of Seeds, exposes that while the World Bank claims to promote “smart and balanced policies,” its Enabling the Business of Agriculture index blatantly ignores farmer-managed seed systems. Instead, it reinforces the stranglehold of agrochemical companies and Western nations by pushing for intellectual property rights in agriculture, so that private breeders profiteer from the use of their seeds by farmers.
The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa.
In March 2014, the multicontinental campaign Our Land Our Business was launched to demand the end of the World Bank’s Doing Business project and Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (BBA) initiative, recently renamed Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA). Bringing together over 260 NGOs, farmer groups, grassroots organizations, and trade unions, Our Land Our Business condemns the World Bank business indicators, which rank countries on their investment climate for pushing a one-size-fits- all model and facilitating large-scale land grabs in developing countries.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) intervention in developing countries’ national policies, through aid conditionality and austerity programs known as Structural Adjustments Programs (SAPs), triggered a wave of global resistance against the International Financial Institutions (IFIs). in the face of growing criticism that these policies increased poverty, debt, and dependency on rich countries, saps were eventually withdrawn in 2002; however the World Bank, through renewed means, continues to pursue and impose its neoliberal agenda on the developing world.
In its 2013 Growing Africa report, the World Bank argued “wider uptake and more intensive use of improved seed, fertilizer, and other inputs would go a long way to closing the African ‘agricultural performance deficit.’” The report goes on to advocate policy and regulation reforms claiming, “policy and regulatory barriers, including import restrictions and rigid, lengthy processes for releasing new varieties are slowing the adoption of agricultural inputs.” According to the World Bank, growth of the private sector is the best way to bring about agricultural development. Assuch, the Bank’s Doing Business (DB) project “encourages countries to compete towards more efficient regulation,” resulting in deregulation of the sector.
Established in 1944 with the objective of reducing poverty, the World Bank, headquartered in Washington, DC, is an international financial institution that provides financial and technical assistance as well as advisory services to enhance development in poor and transitioning countries.
Despite its praiseworthy goals, the World Bank’s activities and undue influence over policy making in developing countries have come under heavy criticism over the years. Countless protests have denounced the Bank’s neoliberal agenda, which includes unfair conditionality policies, austerity measures that deny people’s right to healthcare or education, support for environmentally destructive projects, and sham debt relief. The Bank’s 1980s structural adjustments programs (SAPs), impoverished millions in developing countries after imposing the withdrawal of state intervention and sweeping liberalization of economies as conditions to receive loans. The SAPs came under heavy attack from all quarters of civil society until they were officially withdrawn in 2002.