EUROPE/US – An international campaign to boycott World Bank bonds is to be targeted at European pension funds this summer.
The campaign, co-ordinated by the Amsterdam based international social and environment group, A SEED Europe. will mainly target institutional investors, pension funds, trade unions, religious groups and mutual funds, says the group.

“We want to bring all the groups into a strategy meeting in Genova this July, Actually there are groups in Europe that would like to start this campaign earlier but what Europe lacks at the moment is a group of people like the US campaign. They are professionals, economists, researchers and activists. But they don’t know the party system of Europe, and the finance of pension funds and so on,” says Vanja Bucan at A SEED Europe.

The international campaign, launched in 2000, by various social and environmental movements from 35 countries, demands an end to structural adjustment and full debt cancellation at the World Bank.
It is targeting the sale of the bank’s bonds, which comprise 80% of its income.
So far, the campaign has been joined by several US socially responsible investment companies, including Calvert Group, Citizens Funds, Progressive Assets Management, Trillium Assets Management, Pax World Fund Family, Lowell, Blake and Associates, and Parnassus Investments.

Large US pension funds and trade unions have also signed resolutions in tandem with the campaign.
The huge trade union, Communication Workers of America, with around 740,000 members, and city councils of Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco are among the largest institutions in the movement. Most recently, the New York State University union, United University Professions, the largest public higher education group in the world, with 24,000 members, signed a resolution to boycott the bonds.
According to Neil Watkins, the co-ordinator of the US campaign, a further 6-8 large institutions will join the boycott by the end of April.

The European campaign will be different from the American one. “We want to try to find a European way to run this campaign, because investment in Europe works differently than in the US; maybe in the end we will find a more radical way for the campaign. We might start national campaigns, and try to persuade local investors by giving them good alternatives,” says Bucan at A SEED Europe.

Justifying the boycott, the United University Professions resolution says: “Of particular concern to us as faculty and professionals at institutions of higher education, World Bank lending policies for education have led to a collapse in many African educational systems. Fewer students in poor countries have access to tertiary education now than before the imposition of IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs in the 1980's.”