[Another delayed posting] Since the last posting here on Class Worrier, two presidents have been selected. With profound clairvoyance, Mugabe got the two thirds majority he thought he would in Zimbabwe, while Wolfowitz passed, unhindered, into a comfy chair on K Street. George Monbiot, incidentally, seems to agree with the Worrier on the utility of Wolf-2 for those opposed to the Bank. Clever boy.
Now, as predicted, bottom-feeding is rife in Washington DC. Here’s the text of an invitation doing the rounds at the moment:
We are writing to invite your organization to be part of the Host Committee for a reception commemorating James D. Wolfensohn’s tenure as President of the Bank. The event, Civil Society and the World Bank, will take place on May 26, 2005 … As Mr. Wolfensohn’s term comes to an end, the Bank Information Center, InterAction, and Oxfam America are organizing a reception to recognize his personal role in creating space for civic engagement. This space has allowed civil society to promote more equitable and sustainable development practices at the Bank. … Invited guests would include civil society leaders; World Bank directors, management, and staff; members of Congress and other US Government officials; diplomatic corps; and senior IMF, IDB, and other IFI officials. The formal program – of about 45 minutes – would include a series of short speeches and an open space for reflection and comment. Mr. Wolfensohn has already agreed to attend and speak at the event. Host Committee members will be invited to attend one or two planning sessions to help with arrangements, offer their logo for the formal invitations, and make a contribution of $500 to help cover the event costs. If the suggested contribution is difficult at this time, please feel free to provide as much as is comfortable.”
Space for civic engagement? This is the guy who set about rebranding the World Bank so that it became a Listening Bank, who listened to the World Commission on Dams, and the Extractive Industry Review, decided that he didn’t like what he was hearing, and told civil society to go fuck itself. And he has created space for civic engagement? This invitation comes from organisations that purport to be among the Bank’s most vigorous critics, and whose websites promote a patina of heartfelt virtue not unlike the Bank’s own shoulder-on-sleeve liberalism.
We’ve enough trouble with ‘fake’ NGOs, ones funded and set up by capital to deflect and baffle criticism from social movements. When the ‘real’ NGOs prove to be such craven fools, it does rather suggest that ‘progressive NGO’ is a contradiction in terms. With the exception of the excellent Focus on the Global South, it’s hard to think of an NGO that isn’t, at some level, deeply reactionary. Sometimes, it’s hard not to want to side with the right, and their swivel-eyed lunacy, such as the delerious NGOWatch.org. At least with the American Enterprise Institute, you know what you’re getting. And with friends like the Bank Information Centre, InterAction and Oxfam America, who needs enemies?
[Update: The Bank Information Centre has decided that it’s probably not a good idea to do this. Sensible move, lads.]