VOICE is a rights-based, activist organization working mainly on the issues of food sovereignty, aid effectiveness, economic justice, and the right to information and communication, both in Bangladesh and on a global scale. By building a broader constituency of alternative voices to the ‘mainstream development discourse’ through research and public education, VOICE is taking a stand against unjust and undemocratic practices.
Conference on "The Changing Face of Global Development Finance"
Ahmed Swapan writes from Ottawa, Canada, February 2, 2008
A conference on "The Changing Face of Global Development Finance - Impacts and Implications for aid, development, the South and the Bretton Woods Institutions" has been held in Ottawa on February 1 and 2, 2008. The conference was co-organized by the Halifax Initiative and co-hosted by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, The North-South Institute, and The Reality of Aid Network. Civil society organizations from the North and the South attended the two day conference that dealt with a number of sessions concerning the Bretton Woods Institutions.
The conference provided an overview of the current international financial system and its institutions, identified the shifts that are currently taking place, looked into the potential challenges, and examined the alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
A Seminar was held today (January 30, 2008) at the Women’s Voluntary Association auditorium in Dhaka titled “Reclaiming People’s Rights to Public Services and Natural Resources,” as part of the programs scheduled for the 2008 Global Economic Justice Forum currently taking place.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE, moderated the seminar, which began with a presentation on Access to Natural Resources by Rubayat Ahsan, Research fellow, VOICE. Sardar Arif Uddin, Team Leader of Action Aid Bangladesh, Ms. Aude Leroux-Levesque, VOICE Communications Intern, Dr. Piash Karim, Professor of Economics and Sociology at BRAC University, also presented speeches in the seminar.
Dr. Piash Karim protested against the privatization of major industries like jute and water. He warned against the privatization of WASA as it will turn an essential service into a business for profit, just like what happened in many African countries. He said that it is possible to reclaim ownership over the land and forests with a democratic government that is participatory and accountable. The struggle for rights to public services is a global struggle, he said, citing many examples from the past 100 years of similar injustices.
A Press Conference was held on January 24, 2008 at the Dhaka Reporters Unity titled ’From Paris 2005 to Accra 2008: Will Aid Become More Accountable and Effective?’ in the context of the Paris Declaration and the upcoming High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana in September 2008. The conference was organized by the Aid Accountability Group, a newly-formed group of civil society organizations.
A Press Statement was read out by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE and coordinator of the Aid Accountability Group, examining the perspectives of civil society regarding Aid Effectiveness and the High-Level Forum. Dr. Piash Karim, Professor of Economics and Sociology at BRAC University, Omar Tareq Choudhury, Director of Proshika, Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of Nagarik Uddyog, and Saiful Huq, General Secretary of the Workers Party of Bangladesh also presented speeches in the press conference.
Breaking the Cycle of Neo-Liberal Economy: How the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund Stand Against the People
SUMMARY - The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, for the past few
decades, have provided third-world countries with loans and grants in
the name of such lofty pretexts as ‘poverty reduction’ and
‘international development’. These loans inevitably come tied with
conditions which hinder the country’s growth, a case of stepping on
someone’s chest even as they are being helped up.
The detrimental effects these conditions have had on Bangladesh are
immeasurable, but that does not mean they should pass unnoticed. VOICE
has published this report, a combination of media articles, two
insightful essays, and the summary of a seminar conducted by VOICE on
the eve of the WB-IMF Annual General Meeting held in Washington DC in
2007 on the subject of the subjugation of Bangladesh to World Bank and
This report will examine the neo-liberal hegemony currently
ensnaring the country from different perspectives, and also stand as a
historical analysis of the role of IFIs in Bangladesh thus far.
SUMMARY - A Policy Support Instrument (PSI) is a policy consisting of abstract
terms and conditions.
Usually, high profile IMF and government
officials discuss such policies. Academics, researchers, and analysts
working on policy issues understand the salient points, but it is
extremely difficult for the general public to understand the logic and
loopholes of such a deal.
During the recent visit of the IMF delegation to Bangladesh, there
were significant discussions and debates around their PSI offer.
Different stakeholders emerged, voicing their concern about the issue
through the media and other outlets. Civil society members, activists,
business groups and the media in Bangladesh once again proved
themselves active in the resistance against IMF impositions. The news
media published reports, opinion, comments, and analysis on the issue,
raising awareness all around the country.
This report is as much a commentary as a compilation of
formerly scattered information about PSI, and has attempted to
demystify PSI going from the definition to the analysis. Different
reports and views of newspapers also help to shed light on the issue
and to document what happened with respect to the PSI agreement.
SUMMARY - A battle is currently being raged in the global marketplace between
global and local economies. However, with the force of millions of
dollars of global capital supporting it, and a powerful influence over
the local governments and policymakers, the global side is definitely
not playing fair.
The World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have
been lending money to Bangladesh for many years, ostensibly under the
banner of ‘aid’. These loans inevitably come tied with conditions,
which hinder the country’s growth and keep down its people.
IMF-sanctioned policies, such as privatization of public services,
reduction of trade tariffs, supplanting local industries with cash-crop
oriented export industries, and many more, have left Bangladesh and its
people at the mercy of a free market economy which has no qualms with
profiting from the poverty of others.
The World Association of Community Radio broadcasters (AMARC) activities were held from December 11 to 13, 2007, at the third Global Knowledge Conference GK3 Event on the Future, in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. One of our VOICE staff, Ms Farjana Akter, joined the AMARC-GK3 programme. As a member of AMARC-WIN delegation, Farjana Akter joined a seminar organized by AMARC on the `Role of Women Broadcasters vis-à-vis Good Governance'. The main objective of this seminar was to empower rural women to promote good governance through community media. The seminar was attended by various community radio broadcasters, NGO activists, and women groups from different regions of the world.
During the seminar, panelists said that Community radio can be used by rural women to empower themselves in their daily life, and that it should be a priority on the agenda because it can help increasing the participatory practice in a society, which leads to the people's governance. Community radio can facilitate the people's access to information and promote their participation on the local level decision-making process, which ultimately results in a greater participatory governance and a more democratic society.
VOICE conducted a critical and analytical review on the state of the water system in Bangladesh entitled ‘Water Crisis : Strategies for Bangladesh Water Future’ in 2006. The objectives of the study were to critically analyze the overall water situation and build up linkages between the policies and projects based on the theory and practices on the ground. The analysis dealt with the perspective of Bangladesh and identified the problems of the sector, and prepared a set of recommendations for future strategies to further work on the issue.
The study revealed the impacts of water projects and dams, irrigation, and also looked into the issues around water and national policy conflicts, poor people’s access to water, and the crisis people in general are facing. While people’s resistance movements are growing, we must demand safer water and a better system of water management to ensure access to water through a rights based approach.
The study has identified some of the major aspects in the water sector and analyzed where and why water issues become prevalent. It also analyzed the Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project with a view to giving a voice to the local stakeholders in the whole cycle of the project.