Bending Over Again

We bend and we bend… but who appeciates it?


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

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September 2006