WASHINGTON DC, US, 23 March 2006 – One month ahead of the World Bank’s annual meeting, Friends of the Earth International draws attention to a key study critical of the Bank’s work on trade liberalization.

Friends of the Earth International

The study by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) was released on March 22 and concludes that the World Bank’s strategies on trade did not deliver on employment and poverty reduction. In a press release announcing the new report [1], the IEG comments that the Bank “was overly optimistic about the immediate and universal benefits of more open trade.”

“These findings confirm our daily experience. Policies to open markets have benefited the world’s largest corporations, but have a devastating impact on millions of the world’s poorest people,” says Alberto Villarreal of Friends of the Earth Uruguay.

“World Bank policies have placed serious constraints on the rights of governments and citizens to protect the environment and people at the national level, and on their ability to control the activities of transnational corporations,” said David Waskow of Friends of the Earth in the United States.

Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation, maintains that liberalized international trade is leading to social disruption, environmental damage and even hunger, especially in developing countries. Small-scale farmers are particularly vulnerable to market opening pressures, and often forced from their land when it is converted to plantations or planted with crops for export.[2]

“For decades now, thousands of farmers and fisher folk have been on the streets demanding that their livelihoods and families be protected, but they have been ignored by the World Bank. Instead, this institution has allowed rich countries to pursue their own trade interests at the expense of the poor and the environment,” added Alberto Villarreal of Friends of the Earth Uruguay.

The 270-page report analyzes the World Bank’s trade work from 1987 through 2004, including lending and technical assistance. It concludes that: “Trade-related projects did not adequately attend to the poverty and distributional outcomes.”

“The World Bank should get its act together and draw lessons from this review, which is repeating calls from local communities around the world. The World Bank should stop imposing trade policies that clearly fail to support the poor,” according to Janneke Bruil of Friends of the Earth International.

The evaluation was carried out by the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), an autonomous body reporting directly to the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank that assesses the effectiveness of the Bank’s development efforts.

In Washington DC, USA: David Waskow, + 1 202 492-4660
In Montevideo, Uruguay: Alberto Villarreal, +598 995 24003
In Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Janneke Bruil, +31 20 622 1369

[1] World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group press release on the study is online: http://www.worldbank.org/ieg/trade/docs/press_release_trade_evaluation.pdf
[2] See the report ‘The tyranny of free trade; wasted natural wealth and lost livelihoods’