Groups Urge the U.S. to Phase Out the World Bank Business Indicators
Oakland, CA – Though it largely controls the institution, the US Government refuses to take action on World Bank programs that have adverse consequences on human rights, land rights, and social and environmental standards.
Last November, 2014, eleven US-based organizations wrote to the US Alternate Executive Director of the World Bank, Ms. Sara Aviel, urging her to take action in order to phase out the Bank's Doing Business and Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (now called Enabling the Business of Agriculture) projects.
The letter was sent on behalf of Our Land Our Business, a multicontinental campaign endorsed by 260 civil society organizations, trade unions, and farmers groups from around the world, which is demanding the end of these two World Bank projects.
"The US is a key supporter of the Doing Business ranking" said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, "and has chosen to ignore the devastating impact of this race to the bottom it has set in motion to ensure corporate profits...We are joined by the world's poorest and the most marginalized in demanding that this stops NOW," she continued.
The Doing Business report benchmarks and ranks 189 economies and, in 2014, claimed to have inspired over a quarter of the 2,100 reforms registered since its creation. The Oakland Institute's in-depth research of fourteen countries showed that, in order to improve the "ease of doing business," countries have adopted "reforms" which lower labor and environmental standards, taxation of corporations, diminish businesses' contribution to social security, and allow cheap and easy transfers of land to attract investors.
In the Doing Business 2015, six of the ten countries classified as best performers had conducted reforms to ease land transfers. The race to deregulate driven by the World Bank's business indicators creates a structural framework that facilitates land and resource grabbing and threatens millions of livelihoods of communities and smallholder famers.
"Not only does the Bank ignore critics of the Doing Business, but it doubles down on this initiative by creating the new Enabling the Business of Agriculture, directly inspired from the first index," said Aldo Caliari, Director of Rethinking Bretton Woods Project at Center of Concern. "This is a slap in the face of the civil society organizations and will further undermine citizens' ability to determine the policies and regulations they want their governments to adopt," added Caliari.
"Applied to agriculture, such tools can create competition between developing countries to facilitate the importation of patented seeds and expensive artificial fertilizers," said Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank. "The new Enabling the Business of Agriculture will foster dependence of smallholders on costly and environmentally destructive agricultural inputs, which are largely produced by Northern agribusinesses, not by local communities," she added.
Business rankings undermine countries' sovereignty and threaten communities' livelihoods, and this is why the US should take action, to make sure the Bank's primary objective to eliminate poverty is upheld, while respecting human rights and economic, cultural and social rights.
Read the letter addressed to the US Alternate Executive Director of the World Bank.