World Council of Churches, IMF and World Bank discuss development

February 19, 2003

World Council of Churches, IMF and World Bank discuss developmentThe World Council of Churches (WCC), noted in the past for its criticism of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, invited officials of the two institutions to its Geneva headquarters to start a discussion on development strategy.

'For both sides it was not self-evident to begin a dialogue,' said WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser in a message read on his behalf February 13 at the opening of a two-day seminar between representatives of the WCC, the IMF and the World Bank. 'The World Council of Churches has been known for having articulated critical views of the international financial system and the policies pursued by the two leading international institutions,' said Raiser.

The seminar was intended to be the first in a series to discuss fundamental matters concerning development and may lead to a meeting between leaders of the three organizations. One of the main objectives, said the WCC in a statement, was to enable participants to review the role their institutions have played in shaping the world's economy and improving the lives of people in poor countries. It dealt with issues such as the creation of wealth, social justice and the privatization of public goods, with special emphasis on the subject of drinking water.

Encounters between the three bodies are expected to question the consequences of the dominant economic system in the world today, while enabling the WCC to have a clearer understanding of development practice as seen by the World Bank and the IMF, noted Rogate Mshana, who coordinates the WCC economic justice program. The next seminar of the three groups is expected towards the end of the year in Washington.

Raiser said in 2000 that the WCC was 'hesitant' about participating in an initiative launched by the World Bank to promote dialogue with religious communities, explaining that he was concerned such dialogue might legitimize World Bank policies, although he did 'not necessarily think that this is an explicit intention' on the part of the bank.