MENA Fem Movement for Economical, Development and Ecological Justice

Marrakech Financial Institutions Summit: a Grab of Feminist Concepts and Incongruence between Words and Actions

Sarra Ben Said, Ahmed Mkaddem and Sonia Ben Miled.
Tunisian feminists.

For the first time in 50 years, the IMF-World Bank annual meetings were held in Africa, precisely in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. The event brought together 14,000 participants from across the globe, including 4500 representatives from 189 official delegations, led by finance ministers and central bank governors. They discussed economic issues, development challenges and financing policies. In parallel, civil society organizations, human rights NGOs, grassroot movements and feminist groups- that all oppose the policies of the World Bank and the IMF- held a counter-summit to express its rejection to austerity policies and the debt policies imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions on the countries of the Global South.

There is no doubt, the IMF and the World Bank both play a decisive role in drawing economic and social policies of the countries of the South. The two institutions serve as instruments for implementing the economic policy agenda, of the G7 under what came to be called “cooperation programs” to achieve economic stability. But in fact, they both act as “instruments of a new colonialism.”

Women of the Global South have long suffered from all sorts of violence rooted in the structure of patriarchal societies. International financial institutions perpetuate this ordeal through their neoliberal social and economic policies that have further impoverished women.

This makes us conclude that most feminist issues are closely related to the economy, whether directly or indirectly. Economic policies play a key role in shaping women’s economic conditions and opportunities and promoting gender justice.

Women Voice acts as a feminist organization promoting women rights and fighting all sorts of discrimination and violence against them in general. Therefore, monitoring financial policies and assessing the level to which it upholds the standards relating to women’s economic rights is our duty. As an association advocating a feminist economy. Our participation in the IMF-WB annual meetings in Marrakech aimed particularly at monitoring and assessing the discourse of the two financial institutions.

In this regard, we noted that most speeches tended to grab human rights and feminist concepts instead of seeking to materialize them. Nothing on the ground showed a commitment to uphold these rights.

Speeches by officials at the event were characterized by contradictions as they cited human rights concepts without matching those with public policies to bring about change on the ground. They instead kept defending the policies of privatization and brutal neoliberalism while completely neglecting public services.

How did this grab of human rights and feminist concepts as well as sham participation in Marrakech meetings came to be a tactic by international financial institutions to pass on privatization policies?

  • Rhetoric congruence: mismatch between use of feminist concepts and actions on the ground

We have for long heard officials using human rights and feminist concepts and slogans. They often say in their speeches or official statements expressions such as “We reaffirm the need to thing seriously about gender dimensions,” or “we are working to achieve gender equality.” However, there is no impact of these words on the policies and programs they put forward. They also fell short of canceling or restructuring foreign debt that suffocate the people of the South.

The IMF also mentions the importance of funding programs and projects that support women rights and improve their economic conditions. This funding remain conditioned on the need to adopt austerity policies, as they are also insufficient and nonconductive to enhancing women’s economic conditions.

  • From incongruence in words to contradictions in deeds: Passing on privatization policies

The IMF and the World bank still believe in neoliberal economic policies that push towards more privatization, although all studies have proven the failure of these policies. It is also known that rich countries and the United States in particular is the only state that has the greatest influence power over the two institutions, as it holds the veto power and more than 16% of voting quota. This explains why the two Bretton Woods institutions fail to represent the interests of the Global South in its modus operandi.

The austerity measures they impose are detrimental to women and vulnerable groups. This has been shown in statistics and data. Moreover, privatization is being advocated as a solution serving women, wherein fact there is a negligence of the social and cultural dimensions of women empowerment. This could lead to ignoring the negative impact on women and worsen discrimination against them within society.

  • Façade involvement of the civil society

This remarks shows a key aspect in the relation between the IMF and the World Bank on the one hand and the civil society, on the other hand. This relationship represents a key element of interactions between the two institutions and civil society organizations, which includes dialogue and partnership.

Partnership is supposed to be a concept that reflects the relationship between two parties or more, based on dialogue, interaction and listening. But, we found during the annual meetings in Marrakech that most questions asked byy the civil society were left unanswered or lacked clear and frank responses. We also noticed a downsized participation by the IMF and the World Bank at the civil society forum. The two institutions were almost absent which shows the lack of preparedness to effectively involve the civil society. Both the IMF and the World Bank tended to give priority to imposing their policies at the expense of serious consultations with the civil society, leading to the marginalization and disregard of proposals by civil society groups.

This shows that the IMF and the World Bank are involved in a façade partnership with the civil society aimed at deluding international organizations and the media to believe in “fake negotiations”. These discussions between the Bretton Woods institutions and civil society organizations remain a façade to show off cooperation with no follow up of proposals on the ground.

The question that should be answered following Marrakech meetings is the following:

Do we need an economic model adapted to reality or do we need to adapt reality to economic models?