Thursday, March 17, 2005

Why Paul Wolfowitz is bad news for Africa

I meant to post this last night, but time got a way from me. Yesterday's bad news came in the form of this announcement- Paul Wolfowitz has been nominated to become the president of the World Bank.

I don't necessarily have anything against Paul Wolfowitz, but I am very concerned that a neo-conservative and architect of the Iraq War has been chosen to do a job that requires multi-lateralism. One of the main jobs of the World Bank is to alleviate poverty around the world. While its track record hasn't been the greatest, under the current president, James Wolfensohn had made some progess on the forgiveness of debts. Wolfensohn, a Clinton leftover, apparently had no support in the current administration even though he wanted to stay on.

All kinds of outrage and concern have been expressed here, here, here, and here about Wolfowitz's (how wierd is it that two men with "wolf" in their last name would succeed each other in this job) nomination. I think there is many a good reason to be worried, but my biggest concern is how this might effect the campaign that I promote so much.

Knowing Wolfowitz's background and general disdain for multinational institutions, I am surprised he had decided to take this job. He has focused most of his energy about fighting terrorism in Africa and I've seen little on record from him about the general dangers of poverty and the moral obligation of those to whom much has been given. One goal of MakePovertyHistory is to drop the debt. From MPH, "International institutions like the IMF and World Bank must stop asking poor countries to jump through hoops in order to qualify for debt relief. Poor countries should no longer have to privatise basic services or liberalise their economies as a condition for getting the debt relief they so desperately need." Won't Wolfowitz's general disdain for multi-lateralism and conviction in exporting democracy mean withholding vital debt cancellation from those that need it the most? Isn't this nomination just the Bush administration saying to Europe and Africa, we don't care what is important to you?

I am worried that Wolfowitz is going to want to push America's agenda at the expense of some of the most desperate and helpless nations in our world. I'm not the only one...
“As well as lacking any relevant experience, he is a deeply divisive figure who is unlikely to move the bank toward a more pro-poor agenda,” said Patrick Watt, policy officer at British charity Action Aid.
“We are deeply concerned,'’ said Neil Watkins, national coordinator of the Washington-based Jubilee USA Network, an aid group that advocates debt relief. “We fear his nomination signals a move toward an even stronger push for harmful economic policies and large projects.'’
“Wolfowitz has been seen as a symbol of the go-it-alone approach of the Bush administration,” said Devesh Kapur, a Harvard political scientist and co-author of the official history of the World Bank. “Along with the nomination of Bolton, the US is putting the biggest sceptics of multilateralism in charge.”

Maybe I'll be wrong. Both Bull Moose and Wonkette have nice things to say about this man. Starting tonight, I'm praying that I am.