Wednesday, August 23, 2006

World Bank wants Singapore to Allow Protests at Annual Meet

One can only wonder what really goes on in these deliberations between the World Bank and Singapore authorities compared to what’s known publicly. Well, we shall know soon enough….

World Bank press reviews

Aug 22, 2006

“The World Bank said Tuesday Singapore should allow outdoor protests by accredited groups during the Bank’s joint meetings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) there next month. ‘The Bank’s preference for these meetings and all others has been to seek space for civil society to protest peacefully outside. That remains our preferred position,’ World Bank representative Peter Stephens said in an e-mailed statement. ‘We are aware of Singapore’s laws and announcements on this subject. We have been having discussions with the government at various levels to see if a compromise position can be reached. Those discussions continue.’

Stephens said the World Bank looked forward ‘to a substantial and fruitful series of engagements with civil society organizations during and after the annual meetings, recognizing their important role in achieving development outcomes.’ [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

A World Bank statement said that as of August 17, about 200 representatives of civil society organizations from around the world had been accredited, and another 200 were in the process of requesting accreditation to participate in the meetings. They represent ‘a wide array of organizations from 45 countries,’ including non-government organizations, community and faith-based groups, labor unions, foundations and research centers. ‘This is the largest number ever of civil society organizations participating in the annual meetings and demonstrates the heightened civil society interest in the event,’ the statement said. [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

Bloomberg adds that Stephens said in an interview ‘the Bank’s preference is that civil society groups should be able to peacefully express their views outside of the conference facility in a way that doesn’t cause disruption.’ The news agency notes that “Singapore forbids the public assembly of more than four people without police permits and is unused to the mass rallies associated with global trade and finance summits. Singapore police last month said groups accredited by the World Bank and IMF would be allowed to hold demonstrations in a designated area of the downtown convention center hosting the Sept. 12-20 meetings. All other protests will need police permission.”

Other news reports meanwhile note that “Singapore police stood firm Tuesday against public demonstrations. ‘We are unable to waive the current rules which prohibit outdoor demonstrations and processions, so as not to compromise the high level of security that will be in place during the conference,’ police said in a statement to the news agency. ‘The World Bank has suggested some alternatives for consideration and we will examine the practicality of these.’” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

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