NGOs call on EU bank to mend its ways

To coincide with the first European Investment Bank (EIB) annual meeting following EU enlargement, an international coalition of civil society groups has published a strong wake-up call to the EIB, the least transparent, least accountable and least democratically controlled of European Union and international finance institutions.

Public Funds for Public Benefit: Making the European Investment Bank Support People and the Environment sets out a clear vision for reforming the EIB into a positive European source of public finance. The launch of this document sees the EIB campaign coalition stepping up its public awareness raising and advocacy efforts to ensure that key reform steps are accepted and implemented by the EIB.

With support from almost sixty of international and national organizations and networks, including Friends of the Earth International, WWF Europe, and CEE Bankwatch, Public Funds for Public Benefit calls on the EIB to deliver the following:

1) transparency and access to information,

2) a development mandate based on sound safeguard policies for lending outside the EU,

3) environmentally sound sectoral policies for lending,

4) the creation of a complaints mechanism for affected citizens,

5) effective measures to combat corruption and money laundering,

6) a socially and politically sustainable private sector lending strategy.

 "The EIB completely fails to meet the transparency, governance and environmental standards expected of a modern day public finance institution," said Magda Stoczkiewicz, leading the EIB reform campaign for CEE Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth International. "Profound changes are long overdue and we believe that this first meeting of the enlarged Board of Governors should be a starting point in this process. Our proposals are an ideal guide on how to clean up the mess at the EIB."

The full text of Public Funds for Public Benefit: Making the European Investment Bank support people and the environment is available here

When the meeting got under way in Luxembourg on June 2nd, Bankwatch activists were waiting to greet the delegates. Civil society activists from across Europe issued brooms to EIB Governors arriving for the Bank's Annual Meeting in Luxembourg. The Governors, the finance ministers of the 25 EU member states, were invited to clean up the mess at the EIB and to start the reform of a powerful but secretive European institution. Luxembourg's Governor to the EIB, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, responded positively to a demonstrator's demands that the EIB should base its operations on sustainable criteria. "I agree with you," he said. Whether he will do anything about this agreement, or be able to persuade any of his colleagues of the justness of the reform demands, remains to be seen.


The annual meeting, the first since EU enlargement, welcomed the ten new members of the EU as new shareholders of the EIB. Magda Stoczkiewicz commented, "Power combined with secretiveness is completely out of tune with modern institutional practice. The EIB needs to urgently clean up its act and the arrival of Governors from the new member states provides an ideal opportunity for meaningful reform to take place. On institutional transparency, access to information and other areas we are making realistic recommendations that can only improve how the EIB operates."

Meanwhile, in Bonn, Germany, environmentalists and development advocates lobbying a meeting of the World Bank ridiculed the Bank’s announcement of support for renewable energy. Stating that the proposed increase is marginal at best and does nothing to address the Bank’s ongoing bias towards fossil fuels, Friends of the Earth, WWF and other groups called on the Bank to adopt the recommendations of its own studies and phase out support for coal and oil while dramatically increasing its support for renewable energy.



“Marginally increasing the funding for renewables is not enough because the World Bank’s own numbers show that lending for polluting fuels is growing even faster.” said Stephan Singer of WWF International.



The targets were announced as the first public Bank response to its Extractive Industries Review (EIR), which was initiated in 2000 by Bank President James Wolfensohn. The EIR was formed to evaluate whether or not Bank support for Big Oil and King Coal contributes to the Bank’s mission of poverty alleviation. The answer, after two years of consultation and study, was that they do not. The EIR recommended phase-outs of Bank support for coal and oil, and a phase-in of renewables by increasing lending by 20% of the total energy lending portfolio each year.



The new targets announced by the World Bank this week fall far short of these recommendations, bringing investment in renewables up to only about 1% of the total energy portfolio.

 

“While we welcome the World Bank at least setting a target here in Bonn, the money is not enough and to be credible the Bank must phase out support for fossil fuels by 2008” said Daniel Mittler of Greenpeace International.



“The $200 million that the Bank is pledging for renewables is roughly the cost of their contribution to just one of the many fossil fuel projects they support annually” added Petr Hlobil of CEE Bankwatch.



Moreover, “renewables” includes support for large dams, which are widely criticized for their high costs and social and environmental impacts. “The World Bank Group includes in its

renewables portfolio some of its most controversial large hydropower projects. If it continues to perversely define large hydropower as renewable, this could consume the bulk of the Bank’s pledged increase in renewables support” said Patrick McCully, of the International Rivers

Network



Governing parties across EU to be hit in European elections















Most governing parties are set to do badly in the European elections in just under two weeks time, according to a new survey on EU citizens' voting intentions. Read all about it here


EP elections and racism: leaflet available

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has produced an information leaflet on racial equality and the forthcoming European elections. It can be downloaded here

  Japanese Communists forge closer ties with Czech counterparts

John Manning writes:  The Japanese Communist Party, which distinguished itself in 1968 by its firm stand against the Soviet "Warsaw Pact" takeover of Czechoslovakia, brought a strongly congratulatory message to the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, (CPBM), May 15 and 16.  The KSCM, successor to the Czechoslovak Communist Party,  now ranks second  in the polls.  The JCP,  which  has held for democracy, people's sovereignty, and non-interference in the affairs of other countries, applauded the Czech party's defence of the peoples living standards and rights, as well as democracy and the struggle for peace.

  The CPBM, which has consistently  polled ahead of the ruling Social Democrats in recent months, re-elected Miroslav Grebenicek as its president, and basically strengthened its developing program as it prepares for the coming elections, including those for the European Parliament in just over a week's time.  The JCP, which  is also preparing for elections this year, was represented by Hikaru Nishiguchi, Director of the JCP International Bureau, whose message to the  Czech Party congratulated it for being "in the complicated situation that emerged in the aftermath of the collapse of the former regime in 1989... consistent in trying to win popular support and understanding, while clarifying the problem of Soviet interference and your party's responses to it. The CPBM," the message continued,  "while making clear that its long-term goal is to achieve socialism, has proposed policies aimed at achieving economic development in the interests of the people and building a peaceful country. These activities have drawn our attention in faraway Japan. Your success in the 2002 election for the Chamber of Deputies has greatly inspired us. We wish you even greater success in your future work."

Further congratulating the CPBM for "criticizing the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq and the ensuing unjustifiable military occupation which is increasingly antagonizing the Iraqi people's wish for independence and democracy",  the JCP declared its solidarity with the opposition to an " international order that the United States manipulates with its preemptive attack strategy; we are making every effort to establish an international order for peace based on the U.N. Charter.

"We are glad that friendly relations are steadily developing between the CPBM and the JCP," the message concluded, and "hope that mutual understanding will be further deepened between our two parties on many issues including outlooks on socialism and world peace. We also hope that our cooperation will be strengthened on common tasks, including criticism of the U.S. policy of hegemony, opposition to the dispatch of troops to Iraq, dissolution of military alliances, and respect for the UN Charter. "

  World Bank funnels taxpayer funds for poverty reduction to Halliburton, Big Oil

The Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies has released a report that shows that most oil projects supported by the World Bank supply industrialized country consumption - not developing countries' energy needs - and almost all benefit large corporations based in those countries. Halliburton leads the pack of companies benefiting from World Bank energy lending.

The Energy Tug-of-War: Winners and Losers in World Bank Fossil Fuel Finance  exposes the leading beneficiaries of 133 financial packages, worth over $10.7 billion, approved by the World Bank Group since 1992. The report was written by the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (SEEN), a project of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies.

The World Bank-commissioned Extractive Industries Review (EIR) recently recommended that "The World Bank Group should phase out investments in oil production by 2008." yet, although the Bank is reportedly considering many of the recommendations, the oil phase-out, in particular, has been met with stiff resistance from Bank management and Northern governments.

"World Bank staff contend that they must keep supporting Big Oil to provide energy for the poor and alleviate poverty" said Steve Kretzmann of the Institute for Policy Studies and a co-author of the report. "This new study shows that Halliburton, not the poor, stands to lose the most if World Bank support for oil is eliminated."

Among the study's key findings regarding World Bank fossil fuel finance since 1992:

* No company has benefited more than Halliburton. IPS research identified thirteen projects, supported by over $2.5 billion of World Bank finance, in which Halliburton is involved, as a contractor, developer or investor.

* Six of the top 12 beneficiaries are U.S. corporations: Halliburton, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Bechtel, Unocal, and Enron. The United States government is the largest World Bank shareholder.

* Most of the oil feeds the global North's growing demand, and does nothing to provide energy for poor nations. The IPS examination of the Bank's portfolio finds that 82 percent of these projects are export-oriented.

"World Bank oil finance is consistent with long established Washington-driven goals for energy lending: to diversify oil supplies for Northern consumption, and to open developing country oil fields to Northern companies. In this regard, the World Bank has carried out its mission with precision and success," said Jim Vallette of the Institute for Policy Studies and the report's co-author.

The report can be downloaded here

Bundeswehr: "a state of continual preparedness for military operations"

The Inspector-General of German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) has called for a state of continual preparedness for military operations. German soldiers must be available for call-up world-wide ,,with quick availability, without a long preparation period, for frequent operations of long duration". Reservists should be better ,,caught" in order to use their capabilities in these wars, said General Schneiderhan. His call to arms came shortly before the meeting of the German parliament which dealt with the continuing occupation of Kosovo.  Read the rest here

European Convention on Human Rights does not give right to kill wild animals for fun

Campaigners against hunting wild mammals with dogs today welcomed the decision by the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh to turn down an appeal that claimed the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The law that bans hunting with dogs in Scotland came into effect two years ago, and bans fox hunting, mink hunting and hare hunting and coursing. Months were spent debating the Bill, and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Law Officers subsequently certified that the Act was compatible with the European Convention.

Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports said "This confirmation sets a clear example for the House of Commons. There are no human rights grounds to prevent a ban.  The Government's Hunting Bill should be reintroduced as soon as possible so that England and Wales can play 'catch up' with Scotland."

Ross Minett, Director of Advocates for Animals said "We believe that hunting is cruel and unnecessary and Members of the Scottish Parliament were fully justified in following their constituents' wish to ban it. The will of the Scottish Parliament was always clear on this issue, and this has been reflected by the judge's decision today. We look forward to the continued and thorough enforcement of the law."

A poll conducted by MORI Scotland in September 2000 showed that approximately 7 out of 10 Scots are opposed to hunting with dogs. Overall the poll found that 67% of those polled were opposed to hunting with dogs compared to 10% in favour of hunting with dogs.

The ECHR is not an instrument of the European Union, but all EU member states are signatories to it.

The court's decision can be viewed here

or more information go here

Korean activists set up anti-WEF and anti-war websites

In relation to the anti-WEF activities that will take place in Seoul Korea, June 12-15, the Korean Organizing Committee for Joint Action against WEF East Asia Summit has opened a website with an English page.  The English page is a freeboard, which is open to anyone that wants to post messages and upload files. Go here and click "English" In addition, a group of peace movement activists has established a site dedicated to the problems of maintaining peace in the peninsula and beyond.  First batch of articles includes a look at the  transfer of US troops from Korea to Iraq and an essay, "Less Military Means More Peace", which argues that the cut in US troop numbers is an opportunity for peninsular disarmament. For this and more, go here

New website on land reform

On 25 May the Land Research Action Network (LRAN) will officially launch their new website, here, a website devoted to land reform struggles throughout the world.

This new website provides easy access to the latest news articles, research papers and periodic updates on past and current struggles for genuinely progressive land reform. The site is in three languages: English, Portuguese and Spanish. Coverage includes topics on land reform such as land titling for women, violence against land reform activists, agribusiness, the World Bank and grassroots land reform movements.

LRAN also offers an email member list, accessed through the website, that will provide subscribers with occasional bulletins and updates on human rights abuses, land policy and grassroots struggles. To sign-up, visit here

LRAN is a network of researchers and social movements committed to the promotion and advancement for the right to land and equitable access to the resources necessary for a life of human dignity and respect.



India's elections: "end of a dark phase"

In an interesting analysis of the Indian elections, Praful Bidwai says that India must return to Non-Alignment and emphasise a non-hegemonic, multi-polar, peaceful and rule-based world order. Similarly, its security policy must be freed of BJP-style jingoism. “This is a wonderful opportunity to turn the people's aspirations into radical policies. The Indian people have sent the National Democratic Alliance packing and ended a dark phase in India's evolution, when communalism, chauvinism and anti-poor elitism ruled. This is a historic chance to impart a forward-looking, progressive, transformatory momentum to Indian democracy", writes Bidwai. Read Praful Bidwai's two articles in full here and here

Assessing the Latin American Left: Conference reports on-line

The dissatisfaction with the disastrous neo-liberal policies in Latin America and the failure of democratic reforms have pushed people to rethink their political strategies and the new wave of Left governments and movements has spread throughout the region. Representatives of movements and parties from ten Latin American countries gathered recently at the conference "The New Latin American Left: Origins and Future Trajectory", organised by TNI and the Haven's Center at the University of Wisconsin. Patrick Bond reports here

Americas Social Forum: Deadline extended for registering organisations and delegates



The deadline for registering organisations and delegates for the Americas Social Forum (Quito 25th to 30 of July) has been extended until June 30. Registration forms are available here under Registration: New organisation or Delegates. For more information about the ASF go here

Bush's Draconian Anti-Cuba Measures

Bush's new anti-Cuba policies are influenced by a small group of determined Cuban exiles, who have made the embargo and travel ban twin pillars of their financial and political power base. Read the rest of Saul Landau's analysis here

Morning Star now on-line

The ever-improving British socialist daily The Morning Star is now available on-line here  Full access can be had for only £60 a year, and it's well worth the price to escape the increasingly surreal and irrelevant world of the mainstream press. Sections of the site are accessible for free, or you can pay a pound for 24 hour access to see whether it's for you.

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras'  out now

The approaching fiasco of the sham handing over of power to unelected leaders (for which read "collaborators"), the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the handover of Falluja to the same 'insurgents' that US Marines had fought only the day before, the on-again off-again battle against Iraqi militias in the south of the country, and growing discontent and disillusionment among US and other soldiers occupying Iraq, these are the factors which have conspired to keep Iraq in the news over the last few weeks.

It is thus timely that the US magazine War Times/Tiempo de Guerras'  summer issue has just appeared.  War Times/Tiempo de Guerras is designed above all to help US residents to spread what it describes as "the peace and justice message". In addition to following up on the news of US wars, this issue includes analytical writing on the racism and sexism of the Bush "War on Terror," samples of which have appeared in recent updates of spectrezine.

War Times contacted Spectre so that we would let our US readers know that if they would like to distribute this issue, it would be helpful to get in touch before June 7. You will then receive your papers during the week of June 21. The papers are free, and distributed in multiples of 25, so please don't order more (or less!) than you can use. Although the papers are free, they obviously cost money to print and distribute, so if you can afford it, please send a donation of $7.50 or more. Those who donate more than this suggested amount help to pay for those who cannot send anything. Almost all of War Times' support comes from individual donors like you. Visit the paper at www.war-times.org to get more information or make an on-line donation.

Postal address is:

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, 1230 Market St., PMB 409, San Francisco, CA  94102

What Next? No.28 now available 

The latest edition of the Marxist discussion journal What Next? features Martin Sullivan on the Respect Coalition, Barry Buitekant on Lindsey German and crime, articles on Marxism and Anarchism, the United Front, and George Orwell, plus Ian Birchall's review of Dave Renton's Dissident Marxism, Mike Rooke on Raya Dunayevskaya.  Go here

The Children of NAFTA

Some time Spectre contributor David Bacon has produced a book, The Children of NAFTA, which deals with the consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the mentality it represents, for the people on the receiving end. As Bacon says, "Much of the material foundation of our everyday lives (in the US) is produced along the US/Mexico border in a largely hidden world." Based on firsthand accounts, this book investigates NAFTA's  impact on those who labour in the fields and factories on the border. It paints a powerful portrait of poverty, repression, and struggle, offering a devastating critique of NAFTA in the most pointed and in-depth examination of border workers published to date.  Writing in the Monthly Review, Bill Fletcher, Jr called it "An exceptionally well-written, compelling story of struggle and of hope. This book is to be applauded, as are the companeros and companeras--on both sides of the border--who, often in the face of overwhelming opposition, tyranny, and tragedy, have not and will not forget the class struggle."

Sarah Anderson, Director, Global Economy Project, Institute for Policy Studies said "David Bacon brings to life the heroes and villains on the front lines of the battle for human dignity under NAFTA--the world's most extreme experiment in free market fundamentalism.", while prize-winning author Mike Davies said "Built from vivid, firsthand accounts, this is an extraordinary mural portrait of a border that few North Americans know anything about: of a working class fighting for survival on the unequal playing ground of NAFTA, where labour rights are almost always dishonoured and where activists often end up blacklisted, jailed, or even desparecido.”

To read more, go here

Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign mobilises against CAFTA

The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign is joining trade unions and social organisations   across the western hemisphere in mobilising against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), signed recently by the governments of the US and Central America at a ceremony in Washington DC.

Explaining their hostility to the agreement, a spokesperson for the Campaign said, “As a movement of poor people, unemployed, landless and homeless families, small farmers and farmworkers across the United States, we have lived first-hand the devastation that NAFTA has wreaked on our lives and communities. We know that the deadly conditions caused by mass downsizing, privatization of health care, loss of land rights and social services, that we and our Canadian and Mexican brothers and sisters have suffered over the last ten years, will be made more severe by the introduction of CAFTA and the proposed FTAA. Our lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters, the poor of Central America, are literally in danger as a result of these agreements.”



A series of actions of various kinds is planned, but the Campaign is beginning by going through channels: US citizens are urged to write immediately to their Congressional Representative to urge them to vote against the deal. To find out more, go here

Anti-racists put US politicians on the spot

2004 Racism Watch encourages local activists in the US to take the initiative to bring issues related to racial justice into the political debates that are taking place and will intensify as  the election season approaches.  A spokesperson for the group said that "Candidates for office who make racist statements or positions, or put out racist ads, must be challenged. And we need to challenge all candidates from all parties to take clear positions on issues like affirmative action, the 'war on drugs,' racial profiling, immigrant rights, the death penalty and our right to fair elections.

To help local activists, 2004 Racism Watch has put together an initial list of 10 questions, with backup short analyses, that can be used as a resource. Go here

Green Left Weekly, issue #584, June 2, 2004 on-line now

This week GLW, Australia’s socialist newspaper, looks at climate change and asks, topically,  “what will really happen the day after tomorrow? Hollywood's latest blockbuster, The Day After Tomorrow, has triggered the release of vast amounts of hot air from fossil-fuel industry funded `greenhouse skeptics' who fear the film will focus people’s political concern on the very real dangers posed by increasing industry-induced global warming. They also fear that the extent to which their paymasters and rich-country governments are responsible for the crisis will be exposed. To read the full article, go here To check what’s in the rest of GLW’s excellent coverage of Australian, regional and international affairs, go here