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With All Due Respect, Mr. Wolfensohn…

As you’ve seen, Haiti has quickly fallen off the priority lists of the international editors at the major media outlets. That probably makes it more important that we continue to try to shed what light we can on the situation here.

« Here » has changed from our last posting. I’m now in Palo Alto, California at the annual gathering known as the Global Philanthropy Forum. The GPF brings together a cross section of international philanthropists, including many of the leaders of this country’s most influential foundations. We at Grassroots suffer no delusions about our relationship to the philanthropic elite, but we feel that we must try to take our message to anyone who will listen to it. This year, the conference theme is, « Building Partnership Across Sectors. »

Last night, World Bank President James Wolfensohn opened the conference with a reflection on the challenges he sees before the international philanthropic community. Not surprisingly, he declined to mention the case of Haiti in his presentation. I had a question ready for the Q & A, but mine was not one of the questions recognized by Mr. Wolfensohn.

So….I’ll use this log to pose the question to you, and I’ll send the question to the Public Relations Unit at the World Bank to see if I can get a reply.

« Mr. Wolfensohn, I wonder if I might get you to supplement your general remarks with a reflection on a specific case, the case of Haiti. Do you think the work of the work of the IFIs in Haiti has contributed to the realization of the Millenium Goals or the struggle for social justice there? With all due respect, I have to say that, as an NGO working in Haiti, we feel that the IFI’s decision to apply a fairly straightforward structural adjustment regime in Haiti is one important element of the crisis there. »

For our purposes, I should affirm that I believe there were other key elements as well, but the role of the IFIs has not gotten much attention in the media over the past few weeks. The IDB did hold up a series of loans to the Haitian government on the basis of the Haitian government’s inability to meet certain fiscal targets, including the servicing of prior loans. If that institution and the other international financial institutions persist in that approach to Haiti, it is difficult to see how the country is governable without systematic repression of political opposition.

Let’s see if Mr. Wolfensohn has anything to say on the topic…

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