News and Update: Independent People’s Tribunal on World Bank gets underway in Delhi, World Bank declines invitation

The four-day Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank, the first of its kind in India, begins today. The Tribunal is an opportunity for impacted commununities and concerned groups to discuss how the World Bank has influenced their lives.

Visit the Tribunal Website and Blog.

Read the Tribunal Press Releases: Day One, Day Two.

Over the past few years, several groups have systematically come together to closely monitor the World Bank’s functioning in India, especially with regard to its Country Assistance Strategy; its review of its social and environmental standards; its proposal of using Country Systems in lowering regulatory standards, etc. As part of this process, it has been considered important to undertake a broad-spectrum enquiry into the World Bank and the functioning of its allies and to review their impacts nationally. This is the origin of the Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India. The purpose behind the Tribunal is to provide a just and unbiased forum for people who have faced the impact of projects and policies funded or promoted by the World Bank Group. It provides an opportunity for them to express their grievances and propose alternatives.

The Tribunal will be a four day event (21-24 September, 2007) made up of presentations and discussions on the various consequences of the World Bank’s involvement in India. The presentations will take the form of legal depositions that will be heard by a panel of distinguished individuals, from both within and outside of India, who have been jointly selected by the convenors, advisors and secretariat. Panelists include three retired Supreme and High Court Indian Judges, prominent academics and activists such as Amit Bhaduri, Bruce Rich and Arundhati Roy, the spiritual leader Sivak Suvaraska and many others.

Independent People’s Tribunal invitation to The World Bank:

To,

Isabel Guerrero
70 Lodi Estate
New Delhi -110003

Dear Isabel Guerrero,

It gives us great pleasure in inviting you to a very crucial public event — an Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank.

You are critically aware of the fact that for the past several decades, there has been growing concern about the role of the World Bank in India, particularly in propagating developmental priorities that have often led to severe social and environmental harm. In many other parts
of the world, public and political pressure has either compelled the Bank to comprehensively review its role or it has been asked to withdraw from those countries.

Over the past year, a large cross-section of researchers, activists and community representatives have been putting together detailed studies of the impacts of Bank-funded programmes and projects in the country. What is being reviewed is not just your role in individual sectors but also in the shaping of our macroeconomic priorities as well as your role in influencing legislative and policy changes.

The Tribunal, supported by the Teacher’s and Student Unions, will meet at JNU from September 21-24. The Jury consists of retired justices of the Supreme and High Courts as well as prominent economists, writers, journalists and researchers.

We invite you to the proceedings of the Tribunal. We have provided space on each day for responses from government and from the Bank.

We are sure that you will see this exercise as an important part of our democratic process and will ensure full participation of senior representatives of your institution.

We are attaching a tentative schedule.

Sincerely yours, Independent People’s Tribunal on The World Bank Group in India

World Bank response to the Independent People’s Tribunal:

Thank you for your email last week, inviting us to participate in the Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank.

As I am sure you would agree, development presents a complex and challenging set of issues, for which there are no standard recipes and one-size does not fit all. This is why it is so important to have an open public debate around an inclusive table. Because of this belief, we want to hear diverse views and learn from a range of development perspectives. I have recently arrived to India and have already learned a great deal from listening to different views from civil society and want to continue this process in the coming years.

Before we respond to your invitation, I would like to get more information about the concept and format of your tribunal. I am keen to understand how this event might contribute to a fair and critical debate that will help identify new development solutions. This, I am sure, is a concern we share.

In this context, I would like to invite your team to a discussion, at a time and place convenient to you so that we can learn more about the proposed event.

Regards,

Isabel M. Guerrero

Country Director
The World Bank
70 Lodi Estate
New Delhi 110003

Source: Bank Information Center, The Independent People’s Tribunal on The World Bank Group in India, World Bank website pages on India.

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