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International Monetary Fund NGO Seminar in Vienna

PRESS RELEASE , July 11, 2000

Today the International Monetary Fund (IMF) convenes its NGO Seminar in Vienna, for non-governmental organization’s (NGO) from the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region, as it gears up for the much anticipated IMF-World Bank annual general meeting to take place in Prague this September. Meanwhile, many of the same NGOs which are attending the seminar are protesting the IMF’s behavior in the region and are calling for radical reform of the institution. In a working draft statement circulated at the IMF’s NGO Seminar, several CEE and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) NGOs are calling on the IMF to withdraw completely from structural adjustment lending and other long-term loans, and instead to refocus on its original mandate of economic surveillance and short-term lending for countries with immediate balance-of-payments problems. Such lending, the NGOs argue, should not include the type of conditions associated with conventional structural adjustment loans, but should include measures to deal only with the immediate redress of the balance-of-payments crisis. In addition, the CEE and CIS NGOs are calling for greater democratic control over and transparency of the IMF. They are demanding that the IMF’s governing structure be reformed so as to allow for greater representation of borrowing governments and to expand such representation beyond the realm of the finance ministries. CEE and CIS NGOs are also urging the IMF to officially make public a list of key documents, which are currently either confidential or only made available to the public irregularly. In a typical case, NGO representatives from Slovakia released a summary of their experience in attempting to obtain such documents from the IMF, which failed. NGOs are attending the IMF’s Vienna Seminar with the hope of advancing their demands, but they fear that the seminar is nothing more than a public relations ploy by the IMF prior to its annual general meeting in Prague. ”The IMF operates in a similar way as the World Bank. The World Bank recently established a regional NGO working group to facilitate dialogue between the Bank and NGOs, yet at the same time it denied NGOs legitimate consultations in specific country activities. Likewise, the IMF is holding NGO seminars while at the same time denying NGOs access to important and relevant documents.” commented Juraj Zamkovsky of the Center for Environmental Public Advocacy in Slovakia. “With its annual general meeting in Prague less than three months away, the IMF will quickly learn that it takes more than a NGO seminar to quiet the thousands of people who plan to be in Prague to protest the IMF’s policies and activities in the region and around the world,“ he added.