Last month, I attended the World Bank’s and the International Monetary Fund’s “Civil Society Meetings” held in correlation with their 2011 Spring Meetings. Topics ranged from global economic recovery, food price volatility and climate change. Originally, I was pretty hesitant to partake in this conference out of disapproval for some of their policies. I have learned it never hurts to listen to everybody, even those you do not agree with. Although, I still opposed some policies, I found hope in the two events that I attended. It was reassuring to see international teamwork and acknowledgment of our common interest to help others.
The first panel I attended was entitled, “Cash and Clarity: Filling the Black between Aid and Budget Transparency”. The panel consisted three organizations, “Publish what you Fund”, “International Budget Partnership” and the “World Bank”. They discussed transparency and accountability in foreign aid. Although, in every country, governments’ functions vary, on the ground, at the local level, there are a lot of similarities in the use of aid. By understanding the parallel in constructing a school in Kenya and Honduras, aid can be given directly to the most effective institutions. The panelists were working together to track where funds from multinational organizations and large donor countries are going and where they are being utilized the best. They are also trying to track the process from when a government receives aid to when it is used on the local level. Tracing the money from point A to point B, limit the chance for corruption from within the recipient government. It also ensures money is given to solution based organizations. It sounds like a very complicated situation but if successful, aid and loans could make a bigger impact.
The second event was a round table discussion on “Social Protection for Climate-Induced Migration.” The discussion was facilitated by a Bangladeshi non-government organization, Hazrat Mohammad. They explained their efforts to address the influx of climate migration to the Bangladeshi capitol of Dhaka. In the southern region of Bangladesh, people are suffering what was once a fifty year flood now every five years. As flooding introduces sea water to the soil, the salt has killed off all agriculture. At the same time, the northern part of the country is currently facing a severe drought. The rural farmers from all over the country are moving in record numbers to the capitol looking for work. The shanty-towns around the capitol have no electricity, sanitation or social infrastructure. Children have no access to an education and have since turned to petty crime, begging or become victims of human trafficking and child prostitution. Women, with no job opportunities often sell their bodies for money to feed their families.
So often, we might not think of the interconnectedness of our world. Our action here in the United States for the better or worse, can impact someone half way around the world. First, when a country or organizations invest in local projects in developing nation, there can be dramatic change and benefit to the people. A few thousand dollars can change an entire community with a school or medical clinic. On the same note, our lack of actions can also have a negative outcome. Our irresponsible uses of fossil fuels indirectly lead to the increase in poverty and exploitation of small farmers in Bangladesh. Everyday our actions and decisions we make an effect other all around the world. Deciding to walk and not drive, when possible, is doing your part to not add to the plight of Bangladesh. Drinking only fair trade coffee and ecologically safe products ensures your helping to preserve the people and nature in foreign countries. Ignorance is not an excuse and we are responsible for what we have done and what we have failed to do and how that impacts others.