Christian Aid Welcomes UK Decision to Withhold Funds From World Bank

Christian Aid has welcomed today's decision by the UK government to withhold £50 million of its contribution to the World Bank in protest against the organisation's continued use of economic conditions on loans to poor countries.

The secretary of state for international development Hilary Benn's announcement comes after months of pressure by Christian Aid, which has been the only major development agency to call for the UK to withdraw funds from the bank.

Christian Aid's head of policy, Charles Abugre, said today: "This is a very welcome development and vindicates Christian Aid's long held belief that economic conditions imposed on poor countries by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund can be disastrous for poor countries."

He added "But this only a first step. We now urge Britain to go the extra mile and withhold all its monies. Until these organisations fundamentally reform and allow poor countries space to develop they will remain a busted flush which we must not underwrite."

A delegation from Christian Aid met yesterday with the Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, to discuss the charity's call for the UK government to cut funding to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) until the reform.

The delegation consisted of Charles Abugre, head of global policy and advocacy at Christian Aid, Dereje Alemayheu, east Africa programme manager at Christian Aid, Ibrahim Issah Akalbila, trade policy analyst at ISODEC (Christian Aid partner in Ghana) and Linda Mead from the United Reformed Church.

Christian Aid campaigners and a group of celebrities will march past the Treasury, 14 September, to urge the UK government to cut funds to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The rally will mainly call for the institutions to reform and stop pursuing damaging policies that harm poor people in developing countries.

Musician Ronan Keating and actors Damien Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite and Adjoa Andoh will be speaking at the event, which is timed to coincide with World Bank and IMF meetings in Singapore which will be attended by Gordon Brown.

Ronan and Damien have travelled with Christian Aid to Ghana and Bolivia respectively to see the negative effects that enforced liberalisation have had on the agricultural sector and access to clean water.

Ronan Keating said: "I met Ghanaian chicken farmers who, under pressure from cheap frozen imports from Europe, are struggling.

"The government in Ghana, like governments in many developing countries, is not allowed to help its farmers with subsidies, or protect its own chicken market with higher tariffs on imports.

"When they did try, the IMF put pressure on the government to back down. This is just one example of how institutions like the IMF and World Bank use their muscle to impose policies on poor countries."

One of the successes of the Make Poverty History campaign last year, of which Christian Aid was a leading member, was that Tony Blair announced the UK would no longer force poor countries to implement controversial economic policies in return for aid.

Anna Thomas, policy manager at Christian Aid, said: "The IMF and World Bank are insisting on pursuing anti-poor policies.

"The UK needs to cut funding until they reform. Imagine what life would be like if you had to run every decision you made by your bank manager, and if he or she didn't like it you'd have to change it.

"This is the reality for many poor countries - and they can't just switch accounts. In return for loans they have to surrender the right to decide their own policies. The poor end up paying the price."