Bending Over Again

We bend and we bend… but who appeciates it?

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Title: 22 of 27 CSO representatives are now able to enter Singapore

By: Rita Zahara, Channel NewsAsia

Date: 15 Sep 2006 2109 hrs (GMT + 8hrs)

SINGAPORE: 22 of the 27 Civil Society Organisation (CSO) representatives will now be allowed to enter Singapore for the IMF/World Bank meetings.

The move comes after Singapore reviewed its decision based on input provided by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

However, the remaining five will still be subjected to interviews and may not be let in, if they attempt to enter the country.

In response, the World Bank says it is pleased with the Singapore government’s decision.

It says it is notifying those affected of their change in status.

But it continues to urge Singapore to allow all persons accredited for the meetings to enter the country.

The general mood was one of determination and getting down to serious work.

Some issues included tackling corruption and how civil groups in disaster-hit areas like Jogjakarta can work with government agencies.

“What we have found is that these projects that we actively engage with the CSOs, they tend to have much better development impact than these projects where we simply work with only government officials. They’re the most effective eyes and ears on the ground. They’re the source of our ability to monitor many projects,” said Homi Kharas, Chief Economist, World Bank.

“It requires a very strong presence of CSOs as we’re rebuilding. Having capacity on the ground, being able to deal with the families, dealing with the effects of the devastation, and bringing them from there to the rebuilding,” said Jeffrey S. Gutman, Director, Strategy and Operations, World Bank.

Discussions also included tackling poverty in China.

“The Chinese government has been quite effective at managing this whole process of development in poverty reduction. The Chinese government has a target for bringing clean water to the whole population by the year 2015,” said David Dollar, Chief of Mission, Beijing, World Bank.

One activist hoped to get policy makers more attuned to the needs of youths when drafting policies.

“NGOs can choose whichever way they choose to express themselves. My NGO is more interested in talking directly to decision-makers to get a feel of where they’re coming from. We also want to see what are their challenges and what are their difficulties so that then we can have a meaningful conversation to bridge the gap, where the programmes that are well-intentioned are failing,” said Bernise Ang, Founder, Singapore Int’l Youth Council.

However, others opted for a silent indoor protest, where 30 activists wore surgical masks carrying slogans “NO VOICE” and wore T-shirts with a message against poverty.

The campaigners wish to illustrate how poor countries do not have a say in how the World Bank and IMF are run.

A few campaigners in the group spoke up about their cause after some 15 minutes of silence.

“We need a voice and a bigger voice, given the fact that the majority of the people whose lives are affected by the policies are from poor countries,” said Bishop Akolgo.

At the town hall meeting, the IMF and World Bank chiefs worked to resolve issues and gather feedback from civil groups.

For those who are not able to join the meetings, the 2 leaders had offered an alternative – to communicate via the web.

During the town hall meeting, this suggestion was explored by web-casting the event LIVE.

The IMF and World Bank have said they will continue to check whether there has been any feedback and will take it from there.

The forums continue till 20th September. – CNA /dt

Clarification

Was reading my previous posts when i realised that i may have appeared to be overly defensive of Singapore’s decision to not allow outdoor protests at the IMF Meet, and the govt’s decision to not allow 28 activists onto our sunny shores.  I realised that a lot of media on the Internet are either inaccurate or skewed in their reports of the incidents.  So here’s an article from Channel News Asia on why these nuts were banned.

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Title: Singapore bans 28 from country during IMF/World Bank meetings

By: Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia

Date: 11 Sep 2006 2238 hrs (GMT + 8hrs)

At least 28 activists from eight civil service organisations, including some in Asia, have been barred from entering Singapore during the IMF/World Bank meetings.

Police explained the sort of activities these people had engaged in that put them on the no-entry list.

“Among the people that we have raised objection to, they are characters who were involved in disruptive activities in Seattle in 1999, in Genoa in 2001, in Cancun in 2003,” said Soh Wai Wah, Chief of Staff, Singapore Police Force.

He was referring to violent anti-globalisation protests which have marred the World Trade Organisation and other international meetings in these cities.

He said one of those barred is known to have broken into the World Bank headquarters and stolen confidential documents while another was involved in the takeover of a consulate in San Francisco.

“So we are talking about characters that are of security concern, that are of law and order concern,” he said.

While these individuals had already been accredited by IMF/World Bank, police say it is the Singapore government’s decision whether to let them in or not.

“The World Bank makes the decisions on who to accredit. And the Singapore government makes the decision on who is to be allowed into the country,” said Soh.

For now, the Police are trying to contact these individuals through the World Bank or their embassies in Singapore so that they do not end up making an abortive trip.

Despite these developments, police say discussions are still ongoing between Singapore and the IMF/World Bank and relations remain cordial. They say that although they may not agree on everything, every effort is being made to reconcile differences. – CNA/ir