Beliefnet
GENEVA, June 28 (AP)--Eighty church and grass-roots groups on Wednesday accused the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund of causing poverty and criticized the U.N. secretary-general for being sucked into a ``propaganda exercise'' with the financial institutions.

The coalition of groups said they were ``outraged'' by a report on poverty that was issued jointly by the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank and IMF.

``This report was received with great astonishment, disappointment and even anger,'' said Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The report was released Monday at the start of a U.N. General Assembly special session on poverty reduction. It presented poverty-cutting goals, including enrollment of all children in primary school and a two-thirds cut in child mortality by 2015. The report marked the first time the four international organizations had worked together on social issues.

Raiser, whose group represents Protestant and Orthodox Christian churches around the world, described the study as ``a propaganda exercise for international finance institutions whose policies are widely held to be at the root of many of the most grave social problems facing the poor.''

The IMF and World Bank have attracted criticism for failing to alleviate global poverty with their efforts on debt relief and other matters. Anti-globalization activists believe the operating rules of the World Trade Organization, the IMF and the World Bank are rigged in favor of wealthy multinational corporations at the expense of poor people, labor unions and the environment.

Annan's office defended the United Nations' role in the report, saying it had brought a commitment from the financial organizations to social goals and poverty reduction. ``This means that these institutions are promising to make a serious effort toward these goals,'' Annan's senior executive officer, Georg Kell, said.

He said the United Nations will ``continue to pressure'' the institutions to work for the goals.

Mamphela Ramphele, managing director of the World Bank, rejected the coalition's criticism, insisting the bank is sensitive to the problems of the poor. ``There is much that one can say about the need for the World Bank and the IMF to continue to improve their engagement with development issues, but it is also fair to acknowledge the changes that have happened at the World Bank,'' said Ramphele, a South African former anti-apartheid activist.

``It didn't invent poverty. It is engaged with the poorest of the poor. We are learning from the mistakes we made to do things better.''

The weeklong U.N. meeting, convened to issue a declaration on how to tackle poverty over the next years, is a follow-up to a 1995 U.N. summit in Copenhagen that failed to deliver any real help to the world's poor. Wednesday's sessions heard proposals for a scheme aimed at eliminating child labor and getting all children into school in five African countries.

Cristovam Buarque, the former governor of the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, presented a plan to pay families what the child could earn from working provided the child goes to school instead. The scheme has already put up to 100,000 Brazilian children and 5 million Mexican children into school, Buarque said.

To do the same for 9.5 million children in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda would cost $765 million--about 70 percent of the services the five countries currently pay on their external debt. Buarque said he hopes creditor countries will be prepared to transfer the debt to the new scheme. ``There are some advantages for the rich countries,'' Buarque told The Associated Press.

``From an ethical point of view there is a value in it, to finish the shame the wealthy people have today. This project will also reduce immigration from poor countries to rich countries.''

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