"The Voice of the Turtle is Heard in Our Land"

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—What They Do

Just at the close of World War II, a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire created the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the monster that eventually morphed into the more binding World Trade Organization (WTO).

The World Bank is the largest lender in the world to poor countries, supported in part by almost a billion dollars a year of U.S. tax dollars. The type of development funded is often disastrous: megaprojects such as dams that flood habitats, villages and fertile valleys, huge deforestation schemes, and the conversion of grasslands to trampled cattle farms. When countries cannot meet their payments on the World Bank loans, they borrow from the IMF. The IMF is very willing to make the payments if, and only if, the countries are willing to take its "advice" on how to "improve" their economies. This advice comes in the form of "SAP's," short for Structural Adjustment Programs, in exchange for helping meet their payments. Thus the IMF is able to dictate the economic policies of the debtor countries. Its influence is vast and draconian. If the debtor countries refuse to go along, all international sources of money dry up.

Once in the debt cycle, very few countries are ever able to pay off their debts. Almost two-thirds of the recipients have become more dependent. From 1984 to 1990 alone, the cash flow from third world countries to commercial banks was over 178 billion dollars, prompting one former World Bank official to say: "Not since the Conquistadors plundered Latin America has the world experienced a flow in the direction we see today."

The World Bank and the IMF and Wildlife

This is where animal suffering comes in. Beside the damage wreaked by the megaprojects funded by the World Bank, the "austerity measures" imposed by SAP's continue the pain. The IMF conditions are oriented to opening up the country to foreign investment and development, converting farmland from subsistence agriculture to export crops and cashing in any "resource" available that can earn money on the global market. These "expendable resources" include ancient forests, fisheries and wildlife for the exotic food and pet trade.

The World Bank funded Livestock 1, 2 and 3 to encourage the construction of new cattle farms in Botswana. To sell the meat to the European market it had to be certified as free of hoof-and-mouth disease. Over 900 miles of fencing were strung across Botswana to separate the cattle from indigenous fauna. Tens of thousands of wildebeest died of thirst along the fences trying to reach their traditional watering places.

The World Bank is currently funding construction of an oil pipeline between Chad and Cameroon, through pristine elephant and gorilla forest habitat. To comply with IMF pressure to raise export revenue, Indonesia clearcut and burnt millions of acres of ancient forests to convert into farmland for palm oil and other export crops. Great expanses of forest that the orangutans depend upon have been destroyed.

The World Bank funded construction of a fishing jetty and prawn culture area in the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary, home of the largest population of Olive Ridley sea turtles in India and refuge for sea eagles, and smooth-coated Indian otters.

The shocking result of this World Bank largesse was reported by Reuters, February 18, 2000, as a "Major Endangered Turtle Die Off." The article states that hundreds of endangered Olive Ridley turtles mysteriously died after crawling onto East Indian beaches to nest.

Why We Marched as Turtles

At the WTO meeting in Seattle, AWI helped lead 240 people dressed as sea turtles in protest against the WTO's rejection of U.S. law requiring turtle excluder devices on boats of any country wishing to export shrimp to America.  Several countries refused employing these inexpensive devices, insisting that our law unfairly restricted trade. The WTO struck down our law.

Turtles are also globally imperiled by rapacious development and fishing policies promoted by the IMF and World Bank.  So, the turtle demonstrators resurfaced for a protest in D.C. against these institutions.  The turtles have been a tremendous hit—symbolically protesting the WTO's usurpation of American sovereignty, including enforcement of our animal protection laws, and the ecological destruction wrought by the World Bank and IMF.