Arab Sisters Forum affirms right to access financial info [Archives:2007/1101/Local News]

November 8 2007

By: Abdul-Wadood
For The Yemen Times

SANA'A, Nov. 5 ) The Bank Information Center, or BIC, has announced that Yemen's indebtedness to international financial corporations totaled $3.5 billion at the end of August.

At a seminar organized with the Arab Sisters Forum for Human Rights, BIC reported that Yemen's indebtedness is distributed as follows: $2.5 million to the International Development Association (IDA), $165 million to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), $205 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and $360 million to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

In a statement published by Kuwait News Agency, BIC stated that international evaluations on the failure of previous programs of the International Bank in Yemen are true, as it depends on oil as its only source. It also noted that Yemen suffers continuing unemployment problems.

The Arab Sisters Forum organized a workshop Monday in Sana'a on international finance corporations and civil society's role in monitoring and interrogation. Nikki Reisch, BIC's official in Washington, and Amy Ekdawi, its Middle East and North Africa director, attended.

Attendees discussed the outcomes of World Bank and IMF programs regarding the economic system, as well as pressures formed at the societal level.

They also discussed the effects of locally implemented loans and development programs and how they can be done to realize prospective targets in order to eradicate poverty and unemployment and lift subsidies on basic necessities.

Additionally, the event shed light on civil society's role in monitoring development funds and ways to monitor spending, interrogation and transparency in those programs.

At the workshop, Arab Sisters Forum Chairwoman Amel Al-Basha stressed the importance of discussing and dialoguing about the tasks of financial corporations in Yemen, highlighting the nature of such and the importance of addressing international financial corporations' role and Yemen's relationship with them.

She also pointed out that activists and journalists lack information in this regard, stressing the necessity of obtaining information and knowledge in order to establish transparency.

Reisch considered the workshop a chance for civil society organizations and international finance corporations, as well as citizens, to begin serious dialogue in Yemen.

She focused on BIC's information and its role in ensuring access to information about corporations and their applied policies. Reisch concentrated on citizens' right to obtain correct information about what's happening at the World Bank and the IMF and enabling citizens' voices to gain access to these authorities regarding their complaints and demands in an attempt to interrogate such authorities.

As Ekdawi further explained, “The Bank Information Center isn't a bank. It neither belongs to the World Bank, nor is it a source of funds, as stipulated in its message and objectives. Rather, it's simply an associate partner of civil society in developing countries, actively working together to influence the World Bank and international finance corporations in order to achieve social, economic and environmental justice. It maintains solidarity through protecting rights, transparent participation and general interrogation in the administration and work of the World Bank, as well as regional developmental banks.”

Ekdawi summarized BIC's primary activities as establishing and spreading awareness, delivering information services, establishing coalitions and a communication network, monitoring projects and policies and advocating institutional reforms, as well as reforming policies of international financial corporations.

She noted that international financial corporations active in Yemen are: the World Bank Group; the International Development Association, which joined in 1996 and has loaned Yemen approximately $2.5 billion thus far; the International Finance Corporation, which joined the World Bank Group in 1970 and has loaned Yemen $165 million, in addition to the Multi-Investment Corporation Agency (MICA), as well as the IMF, to which Yemen owed $205 million as of August.

The Islamic Development Bank also is active in Yemen, which has received approximately $630 million over the past three decades, thus indicating that the bank is likely to increase funds to Yemen.

Ekdawi stressed the role of civil society organizations to influence international financial corporations, noting, “We must work with international financial corporations for important reasons, including adherence leading to funding policy and investment reforms, as an information source to pressure governments and companies and access international adherence networks and media outlets. Banks owned by the government, in addition to societal and media mobilization, will influence such corporations.”

She further emphasized citizens' right to access BIC's information and educated individuals using its instruments as tools, as well as obtaining modern documents on countries and policies, analytical work, strategic support, analyzing policies and advocacy.