Engendering Economic Policies in a Globalizing World: A Closer Look at International Financial Institutions

HBF Summer School 2007

Engendering Economic Policies in a Globalizing World: A Closer Look at International Financial Institutions

DATE: July 27th (arrival) to August 4th (departure), 2007
LOCATION: Washington, DC; United States of America

The Summer School 2007 of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the fifth one on “Engendering Economic Policies in a Globalizing World”, will take place from July 27th (arrival) to August 4th, 2007 (departure). It is being organized jointly by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin and the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America in Washington, DC. The Summer School 2007 will focus on the importance of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in the current multilateral system and their role – and the role of national member governments – in shaping the economic policy advice they give to developing countries with often adverse effects on the world’s poor people, a majority of whom are women.

Over the course of the past quarter century, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the so-called Bretton Woods Institutions, have imposed strict structural economic reform programs (structural adjustment programs, SAPs) on poor developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, but also more recently on Central and Eastern European countries after the fall of the Iron Curtain. These structural adjustment programs have focused largely on a set of neoliberal economic policies, commonly summarized under the concept of the “Washington Consensus.” They included the tightening of government social expenditures, low inflation targeting, privatization and liberalization of public services and domestic financial institutions, the introduction of user fees for health, water and sometimes education services, and a focus of the national economy on exports and export revenues and the dismantling of tariff barriers – all of which have gender-differentiated impacts and disproportionately disadvantage women in many developing countries. While there has been a “reformulation” of the “Washington Consensus” in the last few years, the basic premises of the original consensus are still at work in determining global financial, monetary and trade policies, all of which are enacted as if they were gender-neutral.

The Summer School 2007 aims at building a basic understanding for and a realistic assessment of the political and economic role of the international financial institutions in the era of globalization as well as provide participants with some capacity to understand the impact of macroeconomic policies advocated or mandated by the IFIs for countries and their societies. It will focus especially on the relevance of the two Bretton Wood Institutions, IMF and World Bank, and their decision makers, both on the national and international level, for influencing the development path a country can choose. More importantly, it will highlight the obvious gender-unawareness of the IFIs in the pursuit of their macroeconomic policies and dispel the myth of the supposed gender neutrality of these policies. It will analyze the linkages between macroeconomic policies and microeconomic structures, in particular women’s livelihoods using the concepts and tools of feminist economics. In addition, one of the main goals of the Summer School 2007 is to encourage the discussion and development of advocacy strategies on behalf of more gender-inclusive and pro-poor macroeconomic policies at the IFIs. Participants should be enabled to direct such future advocacy both directly at the institutions and at national governments. Further, the program is to provide networking tools and opportunities regionally and globally among civil society activists concerned with the policies of the IFIs.


Economic policies are no longer made within national contexts. Globalization implies that financial, monetary and trade policies are shaped and increasingly formulated in international institutions (World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Multilateral Development Banks) with far-reaching consequences for regional and local governments and for civil society. The neoliberal forms of globalization invoke new governance mechanisms that have differential impacts across the social spectrum, i.e., relative to class formation as well as gender relations. Partly at issue therefore is the degree to which the competitive pressures of the new global market order tend to fragment human communities, increase social inequality and intensify human insecurities.

Globalization has impacted upon gender relations in complex and contradictory ways, and gender inequalities are fundamentally shaping the global political economy. The world market is based on an increasing international division of labor, but also on the gendered division of labor. Women are specifically affected by economic and other crisis situations, since they are the main care providers in the households and communities while they lack livelihood rights, even as the gender bias in the allocation of resources persists. The liberalization of trade relations has also increased the “feminization of the labor force”, such that more women are income earners but at the same time more jobs are precarious, informal and without social protection. Likewise, the economic reforms of Structural Adjustment Programs of the past 20 years have forced women to take on the added social caring burden that resulted from cutting social expenditures and programs by many highly indebted poor countries as mandated by the IMF and the World Bank.
Women have been active in campaigning for global economic justice and gender equality. They have taken the initiative in exploring new theoretical and empirical ways of engendering macroeconomic and international trade and finance policies, and have analyzed the implications for specific macroeconomic policy questions within democratic governance frameworks. Despite this work and engagement, a large gap continues to exist between government commitments of the Beijing Platform of Action, which was ratified by 189 governments at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, and the “silencing” of gender issues in the agendas of the WTO, the World Bank and IMF, which these same countries set as members, raising the question of a lack of policy coherence on gender-equity.

Focus on the International Financial Institutions
In 1944, an international UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire (USA) established – in large part at the political urging of the United States of America – a system of international monetary management, which was to set the rules of commercial and financial interactions and relations among independent nation-states. Central to this system, which was to prevent global economic downturns such as during the Great Depression of the late 1920s and help in post-war reconstruction with an initial focus on war-torn Europe, was the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These organizations, the so called Bretton Woods Institutions, became operational in 1946 after a sufficient number of countries had ratified the agreement.
Founded originally as part of the United Nations system and which their focus on financial and monetary stability (IMF) and poverty alleviation (World Bank) respectively, these institutions over the course of the past 60 years have grown to be the most powerful public creditors in the world, taking on a gatekeeper and signaling function for all development-related aid and support, be it bilateral, private sector or multilateral. Especially the poorest countries of the world depend on the IMF and World Bank for financial liquidity (to offset balance-of-payment problems and to repay or renegotiate debts). Low-income borrowing countries since the early 1980s have been required to follow a formulaistic set of neoliberal economic reform policies, initially known as structural adjustment programs (SAPs). These policies, which came to be known as “The Washington Consensus” mandated tight macroeconomic and fiscal policy reforms including decreased government spending, tightening of money supply to curb inflation, a reduced public sector, privatization of state-owned enterprises and liberaled trade, thus greatly restricting and limiting the policy space of developing countries in formulating their individual path to development. While somewhat reformulated and adjusted over the past several years, the basic premises of these policy mandates are still at the core of the policy advise and capacity building in trade, public sector management (including health care and education), institutional governance, tax and fiscal policy that the IMF and World Bank staff provide on a daily basis.
Critics maintain that contrary to the stated aim of reducing poverty and increasing stability through economic growth, the economic policy mandates of IMF and World Bank policies have largely harmed and further impoverished hundreds of million of people around the world, most of them women – while failing to deliver the economic growth (especially in Sub-Sahara Africa and Latin America) needed to alleviate poverty and growing inequalities worldwide. Although the Asian continent is usually cast as a success story of IMF and World Bank reform policies, many observers are convinced that strong economic growth there over the past two decades resulted from a willful ignorance rather than faithful acceptance of IMF and World Bank mandates by strong governments following their own path to development and carefully sequencing needed reforms at their own speed.
Despite being usually cast in gender-neutral and beneficial terms, standard World Bank and IMF policy mandates for the poor developing countries impact the poorest people the most, although men and women differently. Since the neoliberal economic model on which the IFIs growth projections and policy mandates are based does not recognize women’s unpaid, yet substantial labor in the home, the agricultural and the informal sector, many IMF and World Bank policies have actually increased and worsened gender inequality – and the feminization of poverty - in developing countries.
The burden of public health expenditure cutbacks in developing countries is overwhelmingly borne by women who have to care at home for sick family members and thus reduce their time available for paid work; this is especially a burden in many developing countries ravaged by HIV/Aids. At the same time, the introduction of “user fees” prices health services out of the reach of many poor people. Public sector and enterprise restructuring, as for example mandated by the IMF and the World Bank after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the former Sowjet Union and in Eastern Europe, eliminates many jobs and benefits with women being often the first to be fired and the last to be rehired because they are assumed to be only secondary breadwinners. Unreciprocated developing country import tariff reductions, so-called “autonomous liberalization”, threaten the livelihood of manufacturing sector workers in the poorest countries –many of whom are women, especially in sectors such as electronics or garments. In the agriculture sector, where the majority of women in developing countries still work as subsistence farmers, export-oriented agricultural production, as mandated through structural adjustment programs, and subsidized agricultural dumping by the industrialized countries threaten food security and local markets. Likewise, the introduction of value-added-tax or consumption taxes in many developing countries as mandated by the IFIs affects poor consumers, a majority of them women, disproportionately. T hese are just some of the examples that indicate how macroeconomic structures and policies, perpetuated and promoted by the IFIs, have an effect on microeconomic conditions and gendered rights, access to resources, labor and livelihoods.
While most critical observers of the IFIs from civil society organizations worldwide have long concluded that the IFI-approach to development is not delivering the hoped-for benefits, those critics – and the international movement of IFI-watchers – are split on the remedies. Some, including many groups in the Global South, have given up hope that the IMF and the World Bank can be satisfactorily reformed and are calling for an abolition of the Bretton Woods Institutions. Others are still optimistic that reform of the IFIs is possible and see incremental change happening through continued and consistent civil society engagement with the institutions. Finally, after many critical observers have addressed their demand for change directly with the institutions in the past decades, more recently campaigns all over the world are focusing on national governments, particularly in the North, as the real decision-makers behind misguided IFI policies.
The main focus of all this criticism – whether directed at the institutions, the national member governments, the broader world opinion or affected communities on the ground – is ultimately what these advocates see as a misdirected development-approach of the IFIs that focuses on narrowly defined economic growth to the detriment of a wider concept of sustainable human development. They demand a human development approach that puts human rights –to livelihood, access to resources and also gender equity– at the core of the IFI loans, projects and policy recommendations and would force the institutions to be more accountable and transparent.
Since the 1970s, pioneering feminist economists have highlighted the contributions of women’s unpaid labor to the economy. They highlighted how unequal power relations and the gender division of labor translate into different impacts of development and reforms on women and men. More recent work by feminist economists has focused on macroeconomic policies and the effects of globalization on income distribution and gender inequality, including IMF and World Bank mandated structural adjustment policies. They are among the critics of the so-called gender neutral neo-classical economic models of the IFIs and have conceptualized gender-sensitive macroeconomic models. The Summer School will take a closer look at these approaches and models and will analyze and discuss what IFI policies and projects that follow these gender-aware theoretical foundations will have to look like. It will also discuss and analyze how effective the concept of gendermainstreaming can be at the IFIs in the current economic thinking. Ultimately, the hope is that a broader knowledge and understanding of new economic gender-sensitive macroeconomic concepts can help in influencing not only institutional operations but also member countries’ policies and policy contributions on the Bretton Woods Institutions – especially by the industrialized countries which hold the largest influence and voting power in the IMF and the World Bank.

Objectives of the Summer School 2007 on International Financial Institutions

1) Capacity building on the policies and projects of the International Financial Institutions, their importance in the current global governance system, and the effects of their macroeconomic policy advice and mandates from a gender perspective,
2) Understanding of linkages between macroeconomic and microeconomic systems, between international monetary, financial and trade policies as set and overseen by the International Financial Institutions, and national policies and the livelihoods, labor and resource rights of women, using feminist economic concepts,
3) Envisioning a feminist concept of macroeconomic policy which links sustainable economic growth, a country’s right to its own path of development, social equity and gender justice toward an alternative to the neoliberal model of fiscal austerity and export- and foreign investment-led growth and which breaks the dominance of the IFIs in determining the “right” development path for emerging market and developing countries
4) Enhancing global and regional alliances and networking between HBF-partners, feminist economists, experts, like-minded policy makers, and grassroot activists in their struggle to reform the IFIs toward greater democratic accountability, greater social justice and gender awareness.
5) Enhancing the capacity of these alliances and networks, as well as of the individual participants to intervene with and lobby the governments of individual member countries of the IFIs on behalf of more gender-inclusive and pro-poor alternative macroeconomic policies at the national level so as to inform these countries’ contribution in IFI decision making.
6) Bridging the gap between economic theory and political practice with regard to macroeconomics and financial, monetary and trade policies, as well as with respect to incorporating and considering gender justice and gender democracy through an effort at coordinating strategies directed at the global, regional, national and local level.


The program consists mainly of lectures and panel presentations and workshops, organized on a regional or sector basis. Some off-site visits (to the World Bank and the IMF, possibly to the US Department of Treasury with sets American policy-priorities for the IFIs) are planned. Participants will be connected to civil society representatives from the Washington area currently critically engaging the IFIs. The lectures and panel discussions will provide a general introduction to the IFIs and their global role, a short introduction to the basic vision of a gender-aware macroeconomic theory, contrast the vision with the actual outcomes of the macroeconomic neoliberal model the IFIs employ (which negatively and disproportionately affect women in developing countries), and will look for ways how to make the IFIs and their policies more gender-aware and publicly (and legally) gender-accountable through advocacy and campaigning by civil society.

Where useful, and in order to strengthen, supplement and practically apply information learned in the plenary, workshops will be offered. They will serve to exchange information on the effects of IFI policies and projects in respective regions and sectors, will provide space for participants to assess and connect their prior knowledge on IFIs and their impact on their country to other regional experiences and will give them room to network and strategize for possible joint and/or follow-up activities.

The Summer School 2007 will take place during a one-week period from July 27th (arrival) to August 4th (departure) with around 45 participants from different regions of the world.

Program Issues/Foci

• Back to Basics I: (FIRST DAY)
Introduction to the International Financial Institutions (IFIs)
The institutions’ importance in an age of globalization, their structure, mission, work, challenges they currently face, and some of the basic problems with their policy mandates and projects
o World Bank (with IDA, IFC, MIGA)
o International Monetary Fund
o Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and their regionally focused activities
 African Development Bank
 Inter-American Development Bank
 Asian Development Bank
 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

• Back to Basics II: (SECOND DAY)
Why should the Economy Care? An Appeal for Gender-Aware (Macro)Economics
o Introduction to Gender-Aware Economics
o Introduction to Macroeconomics with a Gender Vision

• A Closer Look at the Effects of Un-Engendered Policies at the IFIs
o Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) – What are they? Why is a Gender Perspective so important? Is it the Norm or the Exception?
o Structural Adjustment Policies/Economic Reform Mandates by IMF and World Bank for Developing Countries – what Gender Implications do they have?
o Sector-specific effects of IFI-mandated policies (water, energy, infrastructure, health, education)
 Case Study: An engendered look at an energy infrastructure project
o The Impact of IMF/WB policy mandates on efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals – an Engendered View
o Trade-Finance Linkages – trade liberalization as IFIs main instrument for poverty alleviation and economic growth

• The Neoliberal Economic Model of the IFIs – The Need for A Gender Review
o Shortcomings of the model (and the underlying modeling) to deliver equitable growth
o Gender, Finance and Monetary Policy (e.g. reform of inflation targeting and employment assumptions)
o A gendered approach to international and national fiscal and tax policy
(hbf supported work by the Cartagena Feministas)
 Country Studies: Argentina, Columbia
o Looking Beyond Maternal Health and Education – What Real Gender-Mainstreaming Would Mean for IMF/WB economic policy reform

• A Citizen’s Guide to Gender and the IFIs
(hbf supported CIEL/GenderAction Project)
o What’s out there: The Good, the Bad and the Missing – Comparing Gender Policies at the various IFIs
 Gender Mainstreaming Efforts at the World Bank
 A Missing Gender Unit at the IMF
 MDBs with baby steps in implementing gender policies
o Accountability of the IFIs - How to hold them to their own policy-mandates?
 Internal and independent review mechanisms
• Inspection Panel (World Bank)
• Independent Evaluation Office (IMF)
o How can activists use existing accountability mechanisms for the implementation of gender mandates at the IFIs?

• How to Advocate for More Gender-Aware Policies at the IFIs? (LAST DAY)
o Reform or abolish? How limited are the IFIs in their capacity to learn and change? Some civil society assessments and presentations of ongoing campaigns with practical advise on how to join and participate
o Models of success: what has worked? What could/should be replicated?
o Learning by reviewing: A look at previous campaigns / watchdog efforts of gender and women groups on lessons learned in dealing with the IFIs
o A pep talk on how to campaign, find new allies, utilize resources, information and funds available for work related to IFIs
o Discussion on how/whether or to what extend to interact with the IFIs
o Importance of national/regional activities (in regional workshops)
NOTE: includes regional workshops in which follow-up activities, linkages to own projects as well as possibly a regional strategy are to be discussed

Possible Site Visits/Thematic Excursions

• Visit of World Bank, Meeting with Head of the Gender Unit and/or the World Bank Inspection Panel
• Meeting with the IMF Independent Evaluation Office
• Meeting with IMF/World Bank staff working on poverty and social impact assessment of IFI projects and policies
• Film screening on negative effects of IMF/WB/MDB policies in the developing world
• Networking Reception with Representatives from NGOs working in the Washington area on IFIs
Participation in the Summer School 2007

Participants are expected to come from different regions of the world, with different political and academic backgrounds, and various work experiences, including from NGOs, universities, or public institutions. Interested participants, women and men, will be selected according to geographic regions, their capacity to act as a multiplier of knowledge in their respective country and region, and some prior knowledge of or at a minimum proved interest in macroeconomic policy issues (specifically trade and financial global issues) and/or sector policies as they relate to the IFIs (e.g. privatization policies, water, energy, infrastructure, health and education policies, and gender dimensions of these policies).

Participants will be expected to each pay a course fee of US$ 150 to offset some of the costs for the organization of the Summer School. The Summer School and its teaching sessions and side visits, the materials for the Summer School, accommodation (in double-bed rooms), as well as food, local transportation and a basic health insurance valid for the stay in the United States will be covered by HBF. Participants are generally expected to pay for their own travel to the United States. However, some fellowships to cover travel expenses and visa fees are available on special requests.

Conference language will be English only. All teaching materials and preparatory documents will likewise be in English only. No translation will be provided.

Applicants – Some Selection Criteria to Be Used

Conceptually, the program will reach out to and hopes to appeal to two different groups of applicants, each fulfilling the following criteria laid out further below:

Group A: Needing capacity-building in incorporating gender-awareness in work on development/poverty reduction as related to macroeconomic policy issues

Group B: Needing capacity-building on the importance of macroeconomics (trade and finance) and international financial institutions for gender and feminist advocacy on development/poverty reduction


1. some experience in development and poverty reduction issues, either on a grassroot level (project work with affected groups), or through involvement in policy work (advocacy), or teaching or academic work (research, education);
2. some background, at least interest in economics/ political economy with an intellectual openness to macroeconomic policy issues (globalization, trade, investment, finance);
3. openness to the concepts of gender equity and gender democracy and cognizant of the need for gender-awareness and gender-sensitivity in public policy and advocacy work, even if not necessarily incorporated or given priority in prior own work.
4. selected participants should have the capacity and interest to act as a multiplier of acquired knowledge and to pass on information in his/her respective work context, thus helping to shape and/or inform a future debate on gender and macroeconomics, particularly in his/her country or region.


If you fulfill the criteria for participation in this program and feel that you and your organization will profit from capacity-building on these issues, please submit your application, including the filled-out attached application form. Please use the attached application form and send it – together with a detailed CV - by email as soon as possible to summerschool@boell.de. Deadline for the applications is February 28, 2007. Please note that we will only consider complete applications received in due time.

The final decision on participants selected rests with the organizing Heinrich Böll Foundations in Berlin and Washington, DC, but will take into account recommendations and endorsements by the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s regional offices. However, no prior contact to the Heinrich Böll Foundation or its offices worldwide is required in order to apply.

The Summer School Coordinators will decide on the applications by March 31, 2007. All applicants will be informed individually by email of the outcome of the selection process as soon as possible. Successful applicants will be asked to confirm their participation within 14 days after receiving the notification of acceptance for the program; otherwise they will forfeit their place in the program which will then be offered to other applicants on a waiting list..


Please address your request for further information or any Summer School related inquiries to the following email address ONLY: summerschool@boell.de

The Summer School 2007 is jointly organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin and its office in Washington, DC under the auspices of Liane Schalatek, Associate Director, Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, in Washington, DC.

In Germany:
Heinrich Böll Foundation,
Rosenthaler Str. 40/ 41
10178 Berlin
Fax: 0049-30-28534-302

In the United States:
Heinrich Böll Foundation North America
1638 R Street, NW, Suite 120
Washington, DC 2009
Fax: 001-202-462-5230

Application Form

Please send your filled-out application together with a detailed Curriculum Vitae (CV) by e-mail to summerschool@boell.de.
Deadline for submission of applications is February 28th, 2007.

NOTE: Only completely filled out application forms accompanied by a CV will be considered. The CV should detail current and previous positions, your educational background, and international travel or work experiences


Postal Address
Postal Code / City

NGO/ Description

Fields of Work, Political Action or Research with regard to (and/or)
• Development and Poverty Reduction
• Macroeconomic Policy Issues (Globalization, Trade, Investment, Finance)
• Gender

Experiences and Political Background with regard to Development and Poverty Reduction, Macroeconomic Policy Issues and Gender

Special Interests and Motivation to Attend the Summer School

How do you envision using the knowledge, insights, experiences and contacts gained through the Summer School for your future work?

What Level of Personal Contribution are you and/or your organization able/willing to make?

I would like to attend, even if I had to pay for my own travel to Washington, DC

I can only attend the Summer School, if my travel expenses are completely paid for