Belgian NGOs organised a protest on the occasion of the World Bank’s annual conference on land and poverty which is taking place in Washington, DC this week. The action in front of the financial centre building in Brussels lasted from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesday and was part of an international campaign called “Our land our business”. Protesters dressed up as farmers, symbolically poured soil on a desk representing the World Bank. “Our work in the fields is making you rich. . We are pouring our fields on your money,” chanted the actors in this role-play. The Oxfam-supported movement was organised by CNCD 11.11.11 (national centre for development cooperation), FIAN (Foodfirst Information and Action Network), AEFJN (Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network), Quinoa, SOS Hunger, and CADTM (committee for the abolition of third world debt).
The NGOs criticise the involvement of the World Bank in the land grabbing movement currently depriving small landowners in favour of large agricultural businesses (agribusiness). “The role of the World Bank is to help finance development,” Stephane Desgain, in charge of agricultural research at CNCD 11.11.11, reminded everyone. “The World Bank is old-fashioned. It is not moving with the times. It still supports development policies based on an industrialisation of the agricultural sector, which is less productive than a system of family farms because it generates fewer jobs and results in poverty in non-industrialised areas and because it implies terrible deforestation and soil destruction.”
While the World Bank conference is taking place, social and farmers unions are holding their own World social forum in Tunis from Tuesday to Saturday. Participants will debate how to synchronize fights to protect access to land and to water.