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April 21, 2024

The time is up for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to continue with perpetuating a colonial rule, says ActionAid as the institutions concluded their Spring meetings in Washington DC this week. 

ActionAid says for the 80 years the IMF and World Bank have been in existence, not much has changed. Instead, global South countries have been pushed further into debt and are reeling from the impacts of IMF-imposed austerity measures. 

In its 2023 report Fifty Years of Failure, ActionAid found that despite following the IMF’s advice for decades, many African countries are in debt distress or facing a high risk of debt distress. Austerity measures have blocked the recruitment of teachers, doctors and nurses, even in countries with severe shortages, and has squeezed public sector salaries at a time of a rising cost of living.

Niranjali Amerasinghe, Country Director of ActionAid USA, says: 

“Kristalina Georgieva’s appointment is a continuation of the colonial era ‘gentleman’s agreement’, where rich western powers have the most say.  It is unacceptable that 80 years later we are still having to call this out. The IMF must change its leadership selection process, its decision-making model, and the harmful practices that keep developing countries in a cycle of crisis.  

As the climate crisis wreaks havoc, global South countries are so deep in debt that they cannot adapt to these impacts. We are calling for debt cancellation and tax justice to help these countries free up the finances needed to build resilience to climate impacts.  

We need to see an overhaul of the international financial architecture with a proper debt workout mechanism, a UN tax convention, to ensure global South governments have a say over policies impacting them disproportionately.” 

Roos Saalbrink, Global Lead on Economic Justice and Public Services at ActionAid International, says: 

“Countries in the global South have since the structural adjustment progammes been in perpetual austerity, eroding public health and education. At a time of unprecedented climate crisis and debt crisis in the global South, the Bretton Woods Institutions continue to oil the wheels of colonial exploitation and extraction. At the same time global South governments have very little say in the policies coming from these institutions at the center of the international financial architecture. 80 years is enough.” 

ActionAid is also concerned about a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which has ensured that the IMF managing director has for 80 years been European and the World Bank president a US national. 


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  • Niranjali Amerasinghe, Country Director, ActionAid USA 
  • Roos Saalbrink, Global Lead on Economic Justice and Public Services 
  • Moussa Sarr, youth activist, ActionAid Senegal 

About ActionAid     

ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and eradicate poverty.   

Notes to editor 

  • ActionAid’s report Fifty Years of Failure, launched during the 2023 annual meetings in Marrakech, found that despite following the IMF’s advice for decades, many African countries are in debt distress or facing a high risk of debt distress.   
  • In a collective political statement on the eve of the meetings in Marrakech, ActionAid Directors across Africa challenged the IMF and World Bank for imposing ‘a neo-colonial model of economic development based on exploitation and extraction from the Global South – which has given rise to regular debt and economic crises. 
  • A report by ActionAid and partners, Transforming Education Financing in Africa: A Strategic Agenda for the African Union Year of Education, analyses the negative impact of regressive taxation policies, debt, and austerity on education funding in Africa. 

Let’s hold banks accountable

It's time to step up and make a difference in the world of climate finance! Citibank, Barclays, and HSBC are pouring tons of money into industries that are driving our planet towards climate catastrophe. They're investing in fossil fuels and industrial agriculture, which are the top two contributors to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. What's worse, their investments are wrecking the environment and abusing human rights.